December 6, 2012
Plaxton & the Void inhabit a space in the musical spectrum where vulnerable, earnest vocals float along rusty, acoustic strums and distant echoes of noise. It’s gentle, but not twee. It’s twangy, but not country. Listening to their new long player Ides one hears the whispered promises of My Morning Jacket, the quieter moments of Wilco’s Being There and even later Bright Eyes. Hell, if you listen really hard, you can even hear a little Sigur Ros on Ides’ opening track “Mistakes.” Speaking of “Mistakes,” that’s an ironic name for a song that is anything but a mistake. If you’re gonna lead an album off with a song, “Mistakes” a great way to start.Plaxton & the Void hail from the vacuum known as Warsaw, a town not well known as a bastion of Midwest indie music. In fact, unless you want to hop in the car and head to Rex’s Rendezvous, Bill’s Pickle Spear & Tavern or any of the other fine watering holes in Warsaw to hear some of your favorite late 70s FM hits or 80s hair metal covered to a tee, your best bet is to head east or west on Highway 30. Ides, if anything, proves that there are some guys and gals in the Lake City trying to up the ante a bit.
After the stunning opener, the album becomes decidedly breezy for a bit. “All Along” and “Coming Home” are acoustic breezes very reminiscent of Sea Change-era Beck. There’s some great country-inflected guitar scratching going on within this album, but Joel Squires’ vocals keep things decidedly on the acoustic indie side. “Foolishness” continues the light ‘n’ breezy manifesto before “Don’t Go” comes in with heart-on-sleeve honesty and lost-love, bleary-eyed confessions. “Sun Will Shine” brings back that Sea Change vibe with some great harmonies by Squires and bandmate Joshua Jacoby. “Like Jericho” has a Coldplay vibe in the chorus, with some reverb-y jangle guitar that adds a bit of gruffness to the band’s sound that was somewhat lacking previously. This sound suits Plaxton & the Void well.
If Ides has a downfall it would be that at times some tracks get that same-y vibe throughout. Plaxton & the Void tend to rely heavily on sparse instrumentation. And while it suits them, it tends to make 50 minutes of music seem much longer. If they take tracks like “Mistakes,” “Don’t Go,” “Like Jericho” and “Sentence Bound” and use those as jumping off points for the next album, Plaxton & the Void may have a real stunner on their hands. Maybe add some piano or synths to the mix for texture. I could see this band going in a very cinematic direction if they filled their sound out just a bit more.
Having said that, Ides is still a great album, rich with meaningful, heartfelt songwriting, great playing and a spiritedness that seems to be lacking in the overwrought with irony world of indie music. Check them out at plaxtonandthevoid.bandcamp.com and on Facebook.
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