Chris Robley & the Fear of Heights
Movie Theatre Haiku (A Masque of Backwards Ballads, a Picturesque Burlesque)
I love Chris Robley. His debut album The Drunken Dance of Modern Man in Love was an indie-pop dream. So how did Robley improve on that dream? Well, on his second album Movie Theatre Haiku Robley has added a band, The Fear of Heights, more ambitious and dense arrangements… and a kazoo chorus?
The opener “A Memory Lost at Sea” takes his trademark dark folk and adds an orchestral arrangement that would be right at home on either a horror movie or a suspenseful thriller like The Last House on the Left. Add in lines like “I’m all alone in the cold, shaking my bones/ Nobody knows where is my boy,” and you have an anthem for tragedy.
Each one of Robley’s songs tells a tiny story, but the one that tells the shortest story lyrically is also the most uplifting musically. “Solipsist in Love” is a five line song where Robley reminisces about moving on. Musically, the electronic tribal beat mixed with the low-end of the piano instantly make you bob your head. Just as you are getting into it, he switches it up with the kick of the bass drum and the sound of dozens of kazoos. Yeah, kazoos. Although it catches you completely off-guard, it sounds perfectly normal.
That’s Robley’s musical genius in full effect. His songs are perfect pop gems on their own, but he adds little things like kazoos, whistling (on “My Life in Film Festivals (haiku #1)”) and other odd instruments and none of it sounds out of place. And lyrically, the stories that he tells suck you in like a black hole, even if the story is how he felt the album needed a waltz even though he hates Â¾ time in “Waltz for Angelika Dittrich.”
So what does Movie Theatre Haiku stand for? Well, the subtitle “A Masque of Backwards Ballad, A Picturesque Burlesque” doesn’t really help. But according to Robley, it’s about measuring “distances between old lovers, between the living and the dead, between your ambitions and your limitations, between the world you wish for and the world that is, between a performer and her audience, between God and mankind, between here and home.” And he was able to fit that all in 12 tracks and 45 minutes. If you have not heard Chris Robley, pick up this album now and put it on repeat. Not only will it blow you away the first time, but you will catch something different with each subsequent listen. Just to reiterate, I love Chris Robley. And I guarantee after just one listen, you will too.
Chris Robley: www.chrisrobley.com