Review: Thompson Crowley – In Tongues EP

When I loaded Thompson Crowley’s In Tongues EP into iTunes, I got a message that said “Unknown Genre.”

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Fair enough, I suppose, as Crowley’s music defies easy categorization the same way most great recordings do. One of the big touchstones I’m hearing is The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, itself an album that’s difficult to fit into an obvious genre, but I’m also hearing hints of Bowie — particularly in some of the vocals — a pinch of Led Zeppelin and Robert Plant’s Eastern influences, and something approaching Harry Nilsson and Jens Lekman. I even picked up some Smiley-Smile era Beach Boys in a couple of places. Yet even as the EP drifts almost dreamily between rock, pop, folk, and world music, it hangs together beautifully as a coherent whole — clearly a labor of love recorded less as an exercise in pleasing the masses than as a heartfelt and skillful artistic statement.

A Soft-Rock Gem: Lovers and Poets II

Does it help that the first song I heard from the new Lovers and Poets album is a cover of one of my all-time favorite David Bowie songs? Yes, it most definitely does. Their cover of “Ashes to Ashes” is slow and moody with a lush, trippy backing track, and it captures the chill mood of the rest of the album. Highlights include album’s opening track, “You + Me in the Summer,” a soft-rock gem that isn’t hard to imagine spinning on an L.A. turntable circa 1979. (I don’t know what that means, exactly, but something about the track put that phrase in my head.) “That’s the Way It Goes” opens with a piano riff that would be right at home on Carole King’s Tapestry album, but as the song progresses, the funky clavs and synths take us into Buck Rogers territory (in the best way possible), and the rest of the album follows suit with a blend of rootsy singer-songwriter funk-and-disco-influenced rock and silky chillwave synths. “Here Comes the Morning” and a cover of “I Am Barely Breathing” have a distinct 90s vibe that’s underscored by vocal reminiscent of Sarah McLachlan, and the album’s closer, “Beautiful World” comes off as a prayer to the world we’re all capable of making if we only put our hearts to it.

In short, Lovers + Poets II = Carole King + Beach House + Sarah McLachlan. The album is available on BandCamp for $9.99 (US). Individual songs are $1. Definitely check out their version of “Ashes to Ashes.”

David Bowie

I can remember hearing David Bowie on the radio the summer I turned ten and thinking he sounded really cool—like, literally, cool, as if he were made of ice. I loved the “And if you say run…” bridge on “Let’s Dance” (“And tremble like a…………… FLOWER!”) and the manic cry of “I’ll give you a man who wants to rule the world” on “China Girl” (though at the time I thought the line was “I’ll give you man o’wars to rule the world”).

Even then, I identified with the opening line of “Modern Love”: “I don’t want to go out, I just want to stay in and get things done.” And the idea of standing in the rain and never saying bye-bye? Ten-year-old me was like, “Yeah, man. That’s life.”

And that was before I found out about Ziggy Stardust.