The Push Kings
I have to admit: I get pretty jaded, sitting here amidst a never-ending flow of new music. It’s not so much the quantity of music that does it, but the generic, bland nature of the majority of it — 99% of it either seems to be based on some current hit-making formula, or a rehash of an old hit-making formula, or a half-hearted attempt to create some new hit-making formula. The only thing that keeps me from hurling all CDs into a dusty corner in disgust is the possibility that one of them, one out of a hundred or perhaps a thousand, will be as good as Far Places. These are albums whose residence in my CD player is marked in months and years, not days. Albums that become so close to my heart that I can sit down and review them completely and thoroughly, without the benefit of the record to listen to or the liner notes to read.
Incredibly enough, the Push Kings are the only band in my ten years of music reviewing that have put out two such albums. Far Places continues to showcase the band’s exceptional songwriting talents, which combine sparkling melodies, insightful and unusual lyrics, clever arrangements and perfectly restrained playing into songs that can only be labeled “masterpieces.” Their eponymous debut proved conclusively that out of the gate, the band was pretty much at the pinnacle of their songwriting skills, to the point that I dreaded the band’s sophomore effort. The Push Kings had cursed themselves; no band could ever top an album as flawless as Push Kings. Fortunately, I was wrong.
Far Places is another collection of perfect pop songs, twelve to be exact. From a songwriting standpoint, all tracks here are as good as those on Push Kings — there really isn’t much the band can do to improve on that. Listening to the record is like sitting on a tacklebox — you’ll be digging hooks out for weeks. Even better, the production manages to lift the band to new heights. Produced by the Dambuilders’ Eric Masunaga (who also did their first album), and featuring a grand cast of additional musicians on a variety of instruments, Far Places features deliciously fleeting glimpses of electronic and hip-hop moments, things like a barely discernible human beat-box in the intro to “3012,” pleasantly disconcerting amongst the slow gospel organ and harmonies; or a couple bars of breakbeat in the midst of “Lonely Times;” or the scratching that introduces the hauntingly heart-breaking “Shadows of San Francisco.”
Maybe it’s just me. It could very well be that the Push Kings speak to me, and me alone, at the level which they do. I’d like to think that this isn’t the case, that music of this caliber is globally appreciated, and the band hasn’t gone quintuple platinum simply because not enough people have heard of them yet. The release of this album is perfect timing, as I can’t think of something more suited to summer than the music on here — warm, bright and exciting. If you can appreciate a melody, if you miss bands with a knack for writing a Song (instead of a Hit), you will not be disappointed in Far Places. Sealed Fate, P.O. Box 9183 #120, Cambridge, MA 02139