Yellow vinyl? Hello sailor. This limited-edition release from Chicago's Joan of Arc, out of Joyful Noise, is a sidestep from the indie band's usual output, complete with almost-a capella performances from vocalist Melina Ausikaitis. Backed up with sparse instrumentation, Ausikaitis' Midwest twang swings from soft and gentle to a fearsome roar. A great listen.
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For SEO purposes we’re not allowed to swear in our reviews, but… when will he fuck off? When will Tim Kinsella retire from all musical projects? When will we have peace? Please. Thanks. With Joan of Arc’s most recent line-up, the smugly offensive stand-up comedian of emo music has continued down the same road with ‘He’s Got The Whole This Land Is Your Land In His Hands’, which offered the self-sabotaging joke routine of old with uninteresting noise rock etcetera and so on. And yet on ‘1984’, it sounds like he might be halfway trying to make something of himself, and by offering less of himself, no less, through droney, twanging, often audible experiments that centre the a cappella performances of vocalist Melina Ausikatis.
It starts pretty, actually, with the surprisingly tender “Tiny Baby” suggesting that being able to see and hear less of the Kinsella in Joan of Arc makes them a whole lot more enjoyable. As the record goes on, it becomes a slog, but a melodic one, a pretty one, even a catchy one. Ausikatis' voice is layered to sound like misinformation on “Vertigo”, nauseating and contradicting, bouncing off random walls into nothing; but she also becomes the focus of a record that can be gorgeous, with “Psy-fi/Fantasy” embracing a psych folk sound that’s hard not to bliss out with. With less Kinsella, there’s more of a band here, one that likes indie pop and has certain sound preferences and can concentrate on something pertaining to music.
The record’s slow and measured, but not in one place: it veers into straight up poetry on “Maine Guy”, centering on Ausikatis’ half-singing while offering bitty noise supplements that remind me of Tim Darcy’s sardonic spoken-noise tape with AJ Cornell. The music, when its sparse, can be beautiful, offering respite from the usual and weirdly twee tomfoolery of Joan of Arc. It might be better as an album of songs than in the moments it becomes a stark a capella experiment trying to put on its gimmick hat: it suggests, really, that Tim should just give the keys to this band over and let them sound this nice forever.
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