All Smiles

All Smiles

All Smiles

Oh for the Getting and not Letting Go

Since the next album from All Smiles – a side project of guitarist Jim Fairchild (formerly of Grandaddy and recently of Modest Mouse) is due to drop in a few weeks, I figured I’d better quit procrastinating and crank out this review of the band’s second album, Oh for the Getting and not Letting Go, and the subsequent EP, Fall Never Fell.

First of all, where does Fairchild find the time to record such wonderful, pristine music in-between touring gigs with Modest Mouse? Not to mention getting picked to write music for a project at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Prolific doesn’t begin to describe this musician-songwriter’s output. On top of which, the music is all consistently high-quality, original, and engaging.

Take the fourth track off the EP, “The Way that I Come and Go.” Fairchild sings over a hurdy-gurdy organ with a circus beat, evoking some earlier era of Gothic Americana, while the title track is a more stripped-down acoustic-and-snare-drum number that propels along in a more typical alt-indie manner. The opening track, “Dolly Don’t Complain,” with its toy drum box beat and acoustic picking reminds one of an amphetamized version of the Velvet Underground’s “Candy Says.”

The album starts off with organ and bell, with acoustic guitar drifting in from the left side of the stereo on “Maps to the Homes of Former Stars.” Fairchild sing-speaks softly and slowly, almost chanting, and it’s an interesting way to start off an album that seems introspective and wistful. Fairchild’s songcraft comes through strong and loud once the distortion-drenched electric guitars come in on the “la-la” refrain.

The balance of soft and hard is throughout, with one song segueing into the next seamlessly. The distortion guitars dominate on “I Was Never the One,” a more poppy and upbeat number followed by the full-on feedback and squall of “Foxes in the Furnace.” After 38 seconds of noise, a solo acoustic piano breaks the tension and the singing begins.

“The Ones I Want to Live” comes closest to sounding like a Modest Mouse song, with its opening synth-drum bloops, and dark lyrics contemplating which friends and relatives the singer wants to live. “All You Are Is a Human, Sir,” could also mesh with a Modest playlist, with its banjo-tom-synth intro.

One minor criticism is that Fairchild’s singing doesn’t vary much, unlike his Modest bandmate Isaac Brock.

This album is more shimmering indie-pop from a great songwriter and while he’s on tour with Modest Mouse this summer, Fairchild is giving the album away free. There’s nothing wrong with that.

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