Album Reviews: Barzin’s My Life in Rooms and Unwed Sailor’s The White Ox

My Life in Roomsir?t=identitytheor 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B000ICM6EI&camp=217145&creative=399349
(Montreme Records)

Even though Canadian songwriter Barzin Hosseini has been writing sleepy, introspective music for over a decade, making another record of slow-tempoed, country-tinged rock remains a risky proposition simply because so many artists—Low, Ida, and Mazzy Star to name a few—have trod this ground before. Barzin, however, seems aware of the dangers. On the leadoff track, “Let’s Go Driving” he unintentionally comments on the pitfalls of his mimetic contemporaries: “Taking notes/for myself/of all the things to not become.” Nevertheless, plodding beats, languid tempos, pedal-steel guitar, and repetitive four-note progressions are so pervasive and familiar on the Canadian quartet’s second full-length that pigeonholing them as a low-fi version of Mojave 3 would certainly be justified. But, surprisingly, pilfering from other bands doesn’t tarnish the album’s overall appeal. The saccharine strings and glockenspiel of “Acoustic Guitar Phase” serve as a shining example: it’s derivative but strangely satisfying nevertheless. -JOEL HANSON

Unwed Sailor
The White Oxir?t=identitytheor 20&l=as2&o=1&a=B000ICM6FM&camp=217145&creative=399349
(Burnt Toast Vinyl)

Unwed Sailor has been making reflective, acoustic-guitar-based instrumentals ever since bassist Jonathan Ford abandoned rock trio Roadside Monument for more serene sonic seas. “Shadows,” the album opener, characterizes the ensemble’s mathematical, image-inducing intent as cymbal swells, a bucolic guitar line, pizzicato strings, and swelling keyboards unfold as slowly and meticulously as a classical chamber piece. Too bad the rest of the album fails to match its earnest intensity. Without the unifying narrative themes underlying past projects—Chris Bennett’s 2001 film Stateless and Jamie Hunt’s fairy tale, 2003’s The Marionette and the Music Box—the group loses its compositional focus and musical direction. And Ford’s timorous whispers seem as distracting as the maudlin missives of Clogs’ Padma Newsome. Even if these protracted pieces represent a slight sonic departure from the group’s previous work, The White Ox is nevertheless a disappointingly weak collection of incongruent songs. -JOEL HANSON

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