Piñataland

Songs for the Forgotten Future, Vol. 1

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Piñataland has a gimmick that's so all-pervasive that one's opinion of their music will rely almost entirely on whether or not one thinks the gimmick's a good one. Dave Wechsler and Doug Stone (who for most purposes are Piñataland, although three other musicians fill out their sound on this full-length debut) are devoted to the forgotten history of the United States, particularly their adopted home of New York City during the pre-World War II era that's now best-seen in old photographs, early talkies, Cotton Club-era jazz records, and Rex Stout's early novels. Songs for the Forgotten Future, Vol. 1 doesn't try to re-create that era musically, instead favoring an artsy blend of ornate chamber pop orchestrations (including accordion, violin, and tuba), the woozy bohemian ambience of early Tom Waits, just a teensy hint of They Might Be Giants (either Wechsler or Stone -- the liner notes don't tell us who sings what -- is a vocal dead ringer for John Linnell), and found-sound spoken-word interludes. The lyrics concern nearly forgotten bits of 20th century Americana, from the 1939 World Fair to the destruction of the East Tremont neighborhood for the Cross-Bronx expressway in the '50s to the Cold War footnote of Mathius Rust's 1987 solo flight from West Germany to Moscow's Red Square. Simple nostalgia mingles with something darker in these songs, giving the album an uneasy quality that's hard to shake, but repeated listenings reveal a remarkable lyrical and musical depth. Songs for the Forgotten Future, Vol. 1 is not for everyone, but the adventurous listener will find it fascinating.

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