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

Barzin
My Life in Rooms
(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 Ox
(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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