Album Review


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Wise Blood: Id
Wise Blood
Id
3 out of 5 star3-0

Nicknamed by his late grandfather after Flannery O'Connor's 1952 novel of the same name, Wise Blood, born Christopher Laufman, is barely in his twenties, but is already building a reputation as a purveyor of intrigue with his brand of sample-driven pop songs. Over the course of his two EPs, + and These Wings, Laufman blended blues, gospel, rock, electro, and hip-hop, and tied the disparate elements together with his contorting voice. With his debut full-length, Id, Laufman's music continues to brim with lofty ambition, but steps back from the poignancy and raw energy of his prior efforts.

Id often moves at a laidback, playful pace, but is still filled with innovative multi-genre match-ups: "Consumed" couples angsty Prince-style vocals with a choir backdrop and offbeat tribal drums, while "8 P.M. - 10 P.M." is a tweaky instrumental that mixes soothing sax, plucked strings, and ringing drones to create an unsettling but strangely satisfying atmosphere. It all works due to Laufman's meticulous arrangements and clear emphasis on placing melody at the heart of each bustling soundscape. Indeed, Laufman's underlying pop sensibilities, which have always been present, are rewardingly on display on songs like "Target," a short burst of Scissor Sisters-esque swagger backed by a happy-clappy piano groove.

Lyrically, Id is full of odd lines that roll off the tongue ("I hang out with feral cats and spiders when I can/They've got that it factor I look for in my friends") and retains Laufman's dark humor ("I had a dog but he died, kissed a wire and fried"), all delivered in a nonchalant, almost buoyant manner. Disappointedly, the glut of sampled soundbites, from an engine starting to gurgled vocals, tend to grate, distracting from the flow of the album, which also sadly lacks a standout track of the magnitude featured on previous Wise Blood releases. Nevertheless, Id is a fascinating exploration of pushing the boundaries of music by splicing contrasting genres into something fresh and harmonious, and it ultimately proves that Laufman's real talent lies not in the appropriation of samples, but his commitment to melody.

Label: Dovecote Release date: June 25, 2013

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