With Move, Blanket Music’s biggest surprise is how deep and immense their sound is, without ever raising the volume or overwhelming the listener. Combining elements of lounge, Motown soul, bossa nova, and traces of electronica, and all filtered through a delicate, quiet pop lens, it’s amazing how effortless they make it all sound. These songs simply glide, so confident in themselves that they feel no need to announce themselves or proclaim their beauty.
The title track gets things, well, moving, with a jazzy rhythm, gurgling electronics, and a guitar and bass progression reminiscent of Tortoise’s “TNT” album. But Blanket Music easily pushes aside any cold, calculating post-rock labels with “Sway,” a gentle, Caribbean-tinged ballad that culminates in a gorgeous chorus beseeching you to just “shut up and sway your hips.” It’s a request easy to accomodate with the track’s undulating percussion and melody, similar in sound to Patrick Phelan’s gorgeous work on “Parlor” (though a bit more upbeat and a good deal less introspective and mopey).
“Get Togetha” starts off with a gentle soul-like intro, as vocalist Chad Crouch sets the mood (“Right about now I think it’s clear that we just aren’t communicating/We need to get togetha and have ourselves a little rap session”), spreading the love before the music deepens with vibes and sparse guitar melodies. “Karaoke” feels, quite fittingly, at home in some late night cabana on the strip. One can almost imagine the band in powder blue tuxes and evening gowns as they sing the dreams and sordid tales of those engaged in that most popular of lounge activities (“She loves to sing the saddest ballads and jazz standards of Bille Holliday/From the stage there is a caterwaul/This guy can barely follow the dot on the wall”). The only thing is that they do it without a hint of sarcasm.
“Costa Del Sol” takes us back to warmer climates, a ballad that pays homage to all of those places we love to go when it’s January. Crouch’s velvet voice is perfectly languid here, like a smoother Matt Wignall, as he sings over lazy acoustic guitars and shuffling percussion that sound like they were composed on some warm Havana beach. Or if not, they should’ve been. If nothing else, it goes great with that little cocktail umbrella that’s part of the packaging.
“Itchy Popcorn” is the band’s ode to IDM, but rather than blast the listener with damaged programming and torrential beats, it’s the band’s chance to delve into funky rhythms and more swooning vocal harmonies. At one point, electronics do begin to take over the song, but it never loses its gentle, unassuming nature. And the album closes on a reprise of Move, this one weaving in more electronics, and sounding even more like Tortoise with a heavy tropicalia influence.
But the music is only one part of what makes this album so enjoyable. At the core of these songs is a velvet wit, resulting in clever lyrics that never resort to smart aleck attempts to impress you with their smarm. For example, “Sway” takes a little swipe at pop culture pundits with lines like “Although he doesn’t mean to condescend/Sometimes he just seems mean/He likes to point out flaws/To demonstrate his intellect.” But rather than try to take the guy down a peg or two with devastating mockery, Crouch and Co. make a simple appeal to that most basic of human responses to music — “Shut up and sway your hips.”
“Tap The Beat” finds two lovers proclaiming their devotion to eachother with imagery that at first seems bizarre, but soon becomes touching — “And if I lost my arms/And if I lost my legs/I would put you on my back/And I would grab things off the shelf for you.” It’s a funny picture, but Crouch’s interplay with his female cohort gives it that right amount of heartwarming.
“Hot Designers” takes another swipe at pop culture know-it-alls; “He scours his wardrobe for something that says ‘I’m unpredictable’/That black, zippy jacket, it was cool but now it’s wack/He’s talking to the mirror/He says, ‘I think white is the new black’.” We all know people like this, people so intent on being cool that they’ll say the sun sets in the east just to be different; Blanket Music nails the image perfectly. And thankfully, it’s done without an acerbic word in the bunch.
I just love albums like this (but they’re also so darned frustrating to write about at times). I get as much enjoyment picking apart the music, with all of its subtleties (hence some of the frustrations), as I do the lyrics. But when I just sit back and listen to the CD, everything flows together so nicely that it’s like I’m listening to it for the 1st time, rather than the 50th.
Even after listening to this album so many times, its simple appeal to just “shut up and sway your hips” rings as true now as when I first heard it. Perhaps better than any other Hush release, it illustrates the label’s “anti-rock” stance. This isn’t a release that will smack you upside the head or announce itself for your attention. It waits patiently to be found, and when it is, it lavishes its beauty — not to mention wit and soul — on the listener.