Jim Noir

Tower of Love

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On his debut album, Tower of Love, Jim Noir proves himself to be a first-class mix-and-match master, blending the cheesy drum machines and bubbling synths of indie electronic, the lo-fi guitars and adult-child vocals of indie pop, and the full-bodied and harmony-drenched arrangements of chamber pop into a swirling, soothing, and truly lovely Technicolor pop confection. Noir also proves himself to be an able student of great outsider pop of the '60s, '70s, and 2000s. There are echoes of British eccentrics like XTC, Kevin Ayers, and ELO to be found in the grooves of Tower. There is the pronounced influence of those renowned American nutters, the mid-'70s edition of the Beach Boys and their Love You album. There are comparisons to be made to the anything-goes spirit and sound of contemporary explorers like Super Furry Animals and the Beta Band. Best of all, if you happen to have never heard of any of those bands and just love a good melody played and sung sweetly by a likeable singer, you will love the record just as much as someone who can train-spot all the influences. There really isn't a weak song to be had, and the album flows past like a gentle stream winding its way through a summer meadow. Noir's crack hand at arranging provides many moments of pleasure: the lovely stacked vocal harmonies on the thrillingly peaceful "How to Be So Real," the smooth and EZ keys that decorate "Tower of Love," the loose-limbed and nearly funky bassline of "Key of C," and the twangy guitars that crop up unexpectedly in the absurdly peppy "A Quiet Man" are the work of someone with a firm grip on what it takes to make song burst into life. His songwriting is equal to his arranging skills, as catchy and richly constructed tunes like "Turbulent Weather," "I Me You I'm Yours," and "Turn Your Frown into a Smile" would make fellow Brits like Ray Davies or Rod Argent proud. The lyrics are light and breezy throughout, not liable to give Davies any pause but still quite likable, especially the songs about stealing footballs ("Eanie Meany") or the lighthearted threats. They help to bolster the childlike sense of wonder that the album is bathed in. You will be hard-pressed to keep from walking around all day grinning like a fish once you give the album an airing. In fact, doctors should prescribe a spin of Tower of Love to chase the blues away. The only problem with the record is that it paints Noir into a corner, as it will be hard to top. Chances are the effort will be worth hearing though, and if it is half as good as Tower of Love, you will want it in heavy rotation. Along with the Boy Least Likely To's similarly wonderful debut, this is the sound of perfect pop music in the mid-2000s.

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