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As Tall as Lions - You Can't Take It With You Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 9
Musicianship 8.75
Lyrics 8.25
Production 8.5
Creativity 9.25
Lasting Value 8.25
Reviewer Tilt 8.25
Final Verdict: 86%
Member Ratings
Vocals 8.82
Musicianship 8.69
Lyrics 8.31
Production 8.54
Creativity 8.67
Lasting Value 8.1
Reviewer Tilt 8.51
Average: 85%
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As Tall as Lions - You Can't Take It With You

Reviewed by: Gregory Robson (08/11/09)
As Tall as Lions - You Can't Take It With You
Record Label: Triple Crown Records/Independent Label Group
Release Date: Aug. 18, 2009


The maturation process of musicians is always an interesting and engaging concept. Watching bands grow from disc to disc is always compelling and trying to discern what went on in between the lines is always an interesting ordeal. For Long Island's As Tall As Lions the steps towards third release You Can't Take It With You were craggy and steep, as the band shifted producers at least twice and scrambled at various points to get their ducks in a row. When the dust settled and the stars aligned, happenstance took its course and the end result is a spacey, multi-layered amalgamation of 12 wholly different songs. Equal parts quirky and impressive, You Can't Take It With You is a daring exercise in stretching the creative limits and redefining artistic expression. Each song is heavily nuanced, painstakingly rhythmic and consummately cathartic.

Opening track "Circles," is a swirly, celestial maze that swoops and ducks, cascading around a hushed vocal from Nigro, staccato handclaps and a dreamy guitar line. From the opening verses to the song's middle half its readily apparent this isn't the As Tall as Lions most are familiar with. This is no lush pop anthem, instead its a concentric ring overlapping into one intoxicating opener. The brief "Sixes and Sevens" begins with a gang choir vocal intro before giving way to Nigro's falsetto, which get a bit yelpy at times. As Tall as Lions....Yelpy? Say it ain't so. That adjustment is but the first of many on this ever eccentric adventure. As a song "Sixes and Sevens" has a definite psychedelic bent that seems fixated more on the feel and mood and not so much a hooky chorus. This very tactic paints much of the rest of the disc. The band seemed to focus more on atmosphere and improvisation this time around, perhaps in an effort to challenge themselves but also to step away from their prior selves.

This is most evident on title track "You Can't Take It With You," in which bassist Julio Tavarez takes his turn at the mic and pushes his way through an ethereal glove that features a spectacular chorus but seems to drag and crawl at a point in which a disc probably shouldn't. Stylistically there are few reasons to dismiss it, and it's as close to a ten as the band has ever done. But its placement in the track listing seems a bit puzzling. Something this pensive so soon? Thankfully, the quintet finds their familiar groove on fourth track "Go Easy," which begins gently, as Nigro sounds haggard and beat, eventually conceding, "Nothing goes the way you planned." For the first time in three songs, ATAL sounds like themselves again and its inspired, graceful and constantly moving forward. Ahh, this is what ATAL does best.

Tavarez returns again on the heart-stopping "Duremete," which begins with bare piano, hushed brushes and another tortured sentiment. Aided by a searing guitar line, this may easily be one of the band's finest moments. The airy atmosphere gives way to a trumpet, and an inspired outro, as Tavarez sings "I know better days will come." Unfortunately the last two minutes are superfluous and more or less alienate the listening experience. Thankfully Nigro returns on lead single "In Case of Rapture." Punchy, emotive and spitting with passion, "Rapture" finds the band, hitting their stride and blazing forward with their best chorus to date. Built around a wall of sound that seems destined for arenas and amphitheaters, "Rapture, " is lyrically solid, melodically masterful and rhythmically rich. For all intents and purposes, it's a veritable homerun.

As with most highs, a low is soon to follow and exactly that happens. On "We's Been Waitin'," the bottom drops out rather quickly as Dan's megaphone vocals are backed by a tinkling piano, children cooing, staccato vocals and a drug-induced haze. The piano-fueled "Is This Tomorrow?" has all the right intentions and the trademark ATAL sound but its placement is a bit off-putting. Why couldn't this have been the second track? Why did this have to come so late after the eight-minute "Duermete" has already left us exhausted. Even with a funky bass line, a gigantic chorus and the refrain, "You don't need to see something, to know it needs a change," the song is still not salvageable. While it's a step up from "We's Been Waitin'," it feels lost and misplaced at this point in the album.

Guitarist Saen Fitzgerald marks his ATAL vocal debut on the stark "Sleepyhead," a bleary-eyed meditation set to the soundtrack of a beeping hospital heart-rate monitor. For all its charms, it comes across as dusty filler and feels incredibly out of place. On the trumpet-fueled "The Narrows," ATAL mixes hand claps, sultry vocals and an organ outro to finish the disc with a flourish. The album's last hurrah is the soul throwback "Lost My Mind," which for all intents and purposes is a vessel for Nigro to showcase his powerhouse vocals. A bonus track of Australian singer/songwriter Kimbra stumbles along a few minutes later but it's too brief and too lo-fi to really make any lasting contribution.

One certainly can't fault the band for taking risks and pushing their sonic palette to new limits, after all they had hinted at this on EP Into the Flood, but when nearly half the album is composed of ambient, experimental numbers, accessibility and relativity seem to have taken a backseat. While You Cant Take It With You has quite a few highs ("Go Easy," "In Case of Rapture," "Circles," the first five minutes of "Duermete" and "Lost My Mind") there's still quite a few odd choices that make this somewhat underwhelming. Even in its eccentric moments, the music is still the band's most advanced and most sophisticated and its hard to deny that this is not a step forward. The biggest problem is the lasting impression. Whereas the self-titled had at least eight indelible songs, You Can't Take It With You has quite a few less. So while the strength of songs like "Rapture," may propel the band to even greater heights, there's a twinge of disappointment clouding up the liner notes.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 71.
05:22 AM on 08/11/09
#2
Kbm600
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I already pre-ordered this album, I'm really hoping this doesn't turn out to be a disappointment. (I haven't heard any of the songs when I pre-ordered, I wanted to be surprised.) This review doesn't help my worries.

Besides that, fantastic review. Well written.
05:25 AM on 08/11/09
#3
Gregory Robson
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I already pre-ordered this album, I'm really hoping this doesn't turn out to be a disappointment. (I haven't heard any of the songs when I pre-ordered, I wanted to be surprised.) This review doesn't help my worries.

Besides that, fantastic review. Well written.
It's not a major letdown by any stretch. There are some incredible songs on this record. The disappointment is only slight. I assure you, you will enjoy this record. It can be exhausting though.
05:32 AM on 08/11/09
#4
Keagan Ilvonen
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I preordered as well. One of my highly anticipated 09 releases. Again you have me excited.
05:33 AM on 08/11/09
#5
Inaction
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Out of the four songs I've heard, only "Circles" has been able to hold my attention. Considering how much I loved the last, I probably don't need to explain how much of a disappointment that is. There's something missing and I don't quite know what it is. I'm hoping that by the time this is released over here I'll feel differently but it's not looking likely.

It's a shame really. There's no other way to put it.
05:34 AM on 08/11/09
#6
Keagan Ilvonen
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Oh I forgot to mention, great job Greg!
05:36 AM on 08/11/09
#7
CIMA
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Really looking forward to this album. This is a really great review and just makes me want it all the more.
05:37 AM on 08/11/09
#8
patpratt
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good review.

this band seems so arrogant...
05:39 AM on 08/11/09
#9
Gregory Robson
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good review.

this band seems so arrogant...
Not even close. Far from arrogant.
05:43 AM on 08/11/09
Steve Henderson
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good review.

this band seems so arrogant...
How do you figure? They work hard, make amazing music, have a flawless live show, and are really nice guys. Can't ask for much more than that.
05:44 AM on 08/11/09
Keagan Ilvonen
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good review.

this band seems so arrogant...
lol how?
06:11 AM on 08/11/09
patpratt
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i guess i'm wrong. never met the guys, so i guess i couldn't say. thanks for setting the record straight
06:33 AM on 08/11/09
nwani
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excellent review...however after reading it i feel like the score you gave it seems a bit high. most of the review is dedicated to the odd choices the band made on the record. i dont want to read into the score too much, because i know that your write-up is really what's important, but do the stand-out tracks really make up for the missteps enough for the album to warrant an 86%?
06:42 AM on 08/11/09
cereal4life
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Nice review, Greg. An engaging piece! From your criticisms, it doesn't seem to agree with a score of 86. Score isn't really an issue for me, so whatever.

I am anticipating this album but I'm not sure if the change in sound will agree with me; I'm a big fan of the self-titled. We shall see!
06:56 AM on 08/11/09
mmitrick
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really solid review greg..I cannot wait to hear this album
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