The Proper Ornaments

Wooden Head

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The Proper Ornaments' debut full-length, Wooden Head, is the kind of album it's very easy to get lost inside of, losing track of time, getting swept up by the overwhelmingly gentle and cocooned sound of the guitars and vocals. Even when the tempos accelerate or some distortion creeps in, it happens so organically and almost tenderly that the bewitching spell the band casts is never broken. As directed by Veronica Falls guitarist James Hoare and Max Claps, the group builds on a solid foundation of '60s psych and folk haziness, mid-'80s college rock six- and 12-string jangle, late-'80s melancholy noise, early-'90s shoegaze atmosphere, and some up-to-date lo-fi neo-psych production, while adding its own sleepy charm and a knack for writing songs with hooks that aren't super-sharp to begin with, but slowly work their way deep into the bloodstream. As such, there are no obvious hits on the album. The steady-rocking "Magazine" and the murky "Now I Understand" come close, while the uptempo "Stereolab" would brighten up any mixtape and the peacefully sad "Summer's Gone" is the perfect antidote to brightness. The album works best as a complete entity, listened to from beginning to end. Hoare and Claps construct it perfectly, mixing and matching tempos, moods, and feelings just right, while making subtle adjustments to the arrangements and instrumentation of each song that help each one to stand out a little while fitting into the overall puzzle. Through it all, the two guitarist/vocalists blend their instruments and vocals together into a fuzzily comforting, richly melodic (and narcotic) web of sound that's as hard to get out of as it is easy to fall into. Not to forget the bass and drums, which provide wonderfully sympathetic and unobtrusive backing. The band does everything right on Wooden Head, from songs to sound, and while Hoare probably shouldn't quit his day job, if he and Claps keep making records as good as this he might seriously consider it.

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