Zachary Cole Smith has overcome a multitude of problems to make this intensely powerful album
This album is a tribute to the sounds that influenced him. Focusing on the years 1991 to 2001, it encompasses the obvious influences (Aphex Twin, Tortoise) with the less expected (Smashing Pumpkins), and the big names (The Breeders, PJ Harvey) with the more obscure (Bedhead, Lisa Germano). This is an idiosyncratic, softer take on the decade than the usual ‘Nevermind’/‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’/‘OK Computer’/‘Is This It’ narrative. The personal atmosphere of the album is undoubtedly made even cosier by the fact Adem plays everything himself, building up careful layers of elicate instrumentation, plus all manner of found sounds.
High points are many: slowcore heroes Bedhead’s ‘Bedside Table’ arranges gently loping acoustic guitar over an obscure fuzzy vocal low in the mix, before segueing into a coda of the same band’s ‘The Rest Of The Day’; Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Starla’ becomes lazy, hazy shoegaze folk, with layers of bells, chiming acoustic, and odd rattling noises. Better still are a luminous version of Björk’s ‘Unravel’, which shows off Adem’s warm voice, some furious acoustic fingerwork on Tortoise’s ‘Gamera’ and a beautiful melding of the vocal refrain from Aphex Twin’s ‘To Cure A Weakling Child’ over the music to his ‘Girl/Boy Song’.
If there’s a criticism to be made it’s that the album’s perhaps a little one-note. The songs are absorbed into Adem’s own world of sweetness and heartbreak, so that the deranged lust of PJ Harvey’s dirty, grungy ‘Oh My Lover’ ends up in pretty much the same place as the aching beauty of Yo La Tengo’s ‘Tears Are In Your Eyes’. That said, when that place is so beautiful, you’ll hear few complaints. Here’s to putting the love back into covering.
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