Edmonton Sun Review
HOBOTRON Shuyler Jansen Indie 5 out of five
SEVEN YEARS The Maykings Indie 4 out of five
These are two fine local albums; there's no doubt about that. Old Reliable's Shuyler Jansen is striking out here in a truly weird new direction, adding the sound of robots making out everywhere atop his already solid, rural, haggard songwriting. The Maykings, meanwhile, switch off between Brent Oliver and Tim Balash's hillbilly ethics in a tonally diverse celebration of everything from Bob Wills to the Jayhawks to ... well, another beer, please.
But what I find tremendously interesting is something you can see before you on this page. Their album covers are strikingly similar, unintentionally, I can only assume.
Both feature the placement of a lone, tragic figure, following the photographic rule of thirds, placing the man on the right. In each case, this transient's back is to us, walking away with long shadows pouring out of his feet. They are both images of farewell, with action in the air above them and a silver image pressed onto the CD itself (the Maykings chose a beer; Jansen a stag).
I know I should talk about the music more, but I find it truly fascinating that there's so much in common between the art of these post-radio-country bands. The idea of wandering loneliness amid a field of white embraced by both bands actually speaks volumes about the music. These assembled players not only exist on the periphery of mainstream by choosing to play country, but also, because of the sort of classic country they share as skeletons, don't exactly get played a lot at Cook County, either (that's the bar's loss).
Jansen in particular has gone the Wilco route, as it were - abandoning all expectations. It's like his entire album is thrown through a conceptual distortion pedal, which on songs like Beverly Ave. results in some true beauts, tasty all over with evocative organs and sweet vocal visits by Oh Susanna, Swifty and Kris Schindel. As fun as the Old Reliable records are, it's great to hear Jansen unchained by worrying whether or not the rhythm section is going to call him self-indulgent. Keep being self-indulgent, man!
The Maykings, on the other hand, keep it incredibly real. What I mean by this is they sing close to the wound, playing a more standard country sound, but one that hits a wider base, including on an individual level. Best song title: It's Hard to Get Up and Look for Work (When You Don't Get Up Till Noon).
Go buy both of these tremendous local discs. You'll be happy, even if you need a bright light to figure out which disc goes where after the party.
- Fish Griwkowski