Music Reviews

Over The Rhine

Films For Radio

Back Porch

What do you see when you’re alone in the dark, looking back at your life and loves, and wondering what might lie ahead? That’s not exactly what Over The Rhine’s new album is about, but it’s probably not too far off the mark. Like the downtrodden Cincinnati neighborhood from which the group takes its name, a lot of the songs on Films For Radio have a haunted and melancholy feel, a dislocated feeling of searching for something, but not knowing what it is.

All but one of the songs on Films were written by one or both of the husband-and-wife team that forms the group’s core, Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler. Karin does all the singing in her incredibly husky, sad, strong yet fragile voice that you fall in love with almost immediately. There’s country-sounding lap steel, and rock and blues guitar and bass too; keyboards upright and electronic, and live and programmed drums. Over The Rhine has been touring with The Cowboy Junkies over the past couple of years, and a lot of people think their sounds are pretty similar.

I found most of the songs on Films quite compelling, both musically and lyrically. “If Nothing Else” had some of my favorite lines: “for the night sky is an ocean/black distant sea/washing up to my window” and “words in my head/like misfits after midnight/begging for a light.” The opening track, “The World Can Wait,” may be the best on the album; Karin’s singing on it is amazing, and the muffled beats and shimmering e-bow guitar paint a ghostly backdrop to the tune. “Goodbye (This Is Not Goodbye)” pairs enigmatic lyrics about a relationship that is or isn’t ending with lovely upright piano and singing at the start, and some Beatles-esque guitar riffs later on. And “The Body is a Stairway of Skin,” in addition to having an awesome name, has incredible singing that just grabs you and never lets go; the heavily muffled, spooky programming and scratchy beats are very cool, but kept far enough in back to let Karin’s voice shine through. Well worth a listen.

Back Porch Records/Virgin, 4650 N. Port Washington Rd., Milwaukee, WI, 53212; http://www.backporchrecords.com, http://www.overtherhine.com


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