The Inner Banks - Songs From Disko Bay
Record Label: DAG Records
Release Date: Sept. 15, 2009
The 8-song sophomore LP Songs From Disko Bay from Brooklyn's The Inner Banks is a celestial cornucopia of breathy vocals, swirling orchestration and stirring aural landscapes. Fronted by singer Caroline Schulz, the band consists of her husband David Gould, and a cast of rotating session musicians. For all intents and purposes though this is Schulz's band and each one of the eight songs elucidates that.
Disko Bay starts with "Lemon Tree," which begins as a placid, stark and celestial meditation. Halfway through though the song picks up and the last two minutes carry it home. It's followed by "Pyramids," which features breathy, hushed vocals that are gauzy and limp. Truth be told, the song doesn't exactly move all that much, until the latter half when a harpsichord jumps into the fray and makes this a total winner. Third song , "Come Back" features desperate yearning from Schulz and the song's last 90 seconds are a true delight. Aside from "Lemon Tree," "Come Back" is the most straightforward and accessible song on the disc and the pleading and aching in Schulz's vocals is breathtaking. And yet, for all its amiability, the first half of the album is a bit of a letdown.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing though because the disc's second half is nothing short of astonishing. Buttressed by a chamber orchestra, the last four songs are laden with some of the more gorgeous string arrangements on a record in quite some time. Flush with large, grand-scale, cinematic swirls, songs like "Tournament of Wives" and "Big Bang," are replete with waves of crescendos and dreamy outros. The album's last two tracks, the gorgeous instrumental "Blame," and "Coda," the instrumental version of album opener "Lemon Tree," close out the album in a rather awkward but incredibly pleasant fashion. The instrumental ending is significant though because the band's debut featured far less vocal contributions. That being said, their transition to lyrical-based songs never falters once during its 30-plus minute run time. Even when her vocal limits are tested, Schulz, aided mostly by her husband's deft musical abilities, manages to bring each one of the eight songs home.
Disko Bay is not to be overlooked for a few reasons. For starters, the lyrical content traverses the globe, traveling from Iceland to Nepal, and even Mexico City, inspired mostly from the couple's travel to said locales. Additionally, the sonic palette is diverse and layered, including everything from field recordings at Coney Island to tape loops, said harpsichord, autoharp, piano, glockenspiel, 12-string guitar, lap steel and even some banjo.
That the album is this good is really no surprise. Even though it took four years to make and was stalled by Caroline's pregnancy, the tandem are musical dynamos. Schulz, the former singer/songwriter of the band Folksongs of the Afterlife, is a third-generation singer who carries a legacy passed by her Broadway actress grandmother. Gould, who joined Folksongs of the Afterlife in 2000, had a brief but accomplished career in the band The Bootleg Remedy, has a master's degree in ethnomusicology and is owner of Brooklyn's DAG! Records. Together, they bridge their collective musical experiences into a seamless, cohesive piece. That partnership churns out an album like Songs From Disko Bay, which possesses some of the most lush and eclectic songs released this year.