Brent Arnold / Brent Arnold & The Spheres

Last Boat

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Brent Arnold leads a bit of a musical double life. He splits his time between playing cello and creating lush arrangements for Northwestern indie rockers like Modest Mouse, Mike Johnson, and Sleater-Kinney and playing with avant jazzers like Andrew Drury and Eyvind Kang. On his first album under his own name, he has chosen the former path. Last Boat is a intricately arranged, emotionally charged indie rock record that nimbly straddles the line between Northwest moroseness and chamber pop good cheer. Arnold has a simple, unprepossessing voice that hovers below the intertwining guitars and sawing strings. The band he has assembled is suitably restrained, and their vocal harmonies abet Arnold's cause winningly. The best tracks on the record, like the heartbroken "I Broke the Seal" (which sports an exhilarating middle section that takes flight unexpectedly), the Beatles-inspired "Mayfly," or the perky "A Letter," sound like what Eric Matthews might have whipped up if he collaborated with Doug Martsch. Only a few times does Arnold stumble; the overcooked "Last Boat" and the dirge-y "Fate" are less than wonderful. Otherwise, this is a fine debut by an underrated talent. In a rare twist to the old cliché, he should quit his day job.

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