CD Reviews

THE LESSER BIRDS OF PARADISE, A Suitable Frame (Loose Thread) Any day now, the skies are going to go gray and clouds and fog will obscure just about everything. The warm summer sun will be a distant memory. You'll begin to believe that you dreamed the whole thing. Come fall, nothing will blanket your bleak heart like this Chicago band's fine debut album. A Suitable Frame is familiar enough (singer/guitarist Mark Janka's voice recalls Dean Wareham's, and the isolated, ringing guitar effects and stark drum beat are comparable to Wareham's Luna) to be wholeheartedly invited in, and beguiling and mysterious enough that you will undoubtedly ask it to stay. The warm echo of notes expertly picked on electric guitar, lyrics that demand attention, stories that incite introspection, accordion noise, the singing saw; these can be your companions as the days become shorter. "Row of Lights" has Janka deconstructing the characters in a Steinbeck story. The song begins innocently enough with tapped dulcimer strings, a clarinet hum, and a rambling guitar. But as he softly sings, "I've been left for dead/I'm out of ammunition/All my nightmares end in nocturnal emission" you find yourself oddly affected by that guilty admission, and you don't give a damn if it's Janka's, Steinbeck's protagonist's, or yours. When Janka sings, "An ocean's just an ocean without you" over a sea of cackling, insane seagulls in "Me or Scurvy," anyone who's ever been lonely in Seattle in the dead of winter will find themselves thinking of him as their very own Cyrano. Burrow under the blankets and draw the blinds. You are not alone. (Loose Thread, PO Box 220180, Chicago, IL 60622,—Laura Learmonth

Listen to The Lesser Birds of Paradise's "Me or Scurvy" from the album A Suitable Frame.

TRISTEZA, Dream Signals in Full Circles (Tiger Style) Now comes the time to tell the tale of a band called Tristeza, an instrumental outfit from San Diego that doesn't drown their arrangements in "noise" or "art." They just have their poem-y name, they make the music they make, and it's all pretty-sounding when they do it. Five regular guys don't just get together and make music like this, though. You get five regular guys together to go hunting or ice fishing or some mess like that. This is different; it's like chasing a red balloon through What Dreams May Come or something. For five guys to make sturdy security-blanket rock like this, they must have eyes that could stare clean through the soul of Judas Iscariot! Arms as thick as redwood trees! Bellowing voices that make the mountains quiver! You don't hear the voices, though (prob'ly make yer head explode!). What you get is a view of the relaxing, much-needed cooldown from a long day of hard rocking. It's air conditioning for your brain that plays the bookish Junior to most of rock's brash Foghorn Leghorn. With Dream Signals in Full Circles, Tristeza will make your bed extra comfy and learn you how to make a proper paper airplane.—Gregory Parks

Tristeza play the Paradox Theater Tuesday, September 19.

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