Mark Hutchins

Sleepy Furnace

Oh, snap. Hold up, I gotta put my headphones on. (Looks in kitchen.) I should probably do those dishes too. Okay, that’s better. Pushing play right now, turning up, ready to rock. (Looks at liner notes.) Mark Hutchins, huh? Hmm. Is this that guy from that band with the cool name? The same guy who all my songwriter friends love to death and few others know about? I thought his name was Hutchington? I wonder if talking to myself like this is getting out of hand. Meh. (Suddenly excited.) Hey, I wonder if I can hide those dishes and forget about them. Hmm.

This Yankee Hotel Foxtrot intro thing (titled “Ropes”) better end soon. I mean, I love it and the Epic Intro haircut it’s wearing very much (seriously, it’s fantastic), but I wanna know if this is the Hutchington guy I think it is, the ’ol BMX pro. The one from that band … uhh … Vandolah. Vandoler when playing shows in Boston, I’d bet. Beautifully orchestrated and produced noise collage that this “Ropes” track is, I can’t be certain …

Okay, yep, that’s the dude. There’s the unmistakable voice and those obscure yet poetic lyrics I love to waste hours trying to decipher. Ahh, Vandoler. Guess this means those dishes aren’t getting done. (Laughs to self, hides dishes, opens beer.) But where are those other two dudes … Kyle and what’s-his-face … Dan. I like those guys! This better be good. Wait, what’s this song called? “Exploding Radio Star.” That sounds made up. Oh, that’s right, it is made up. Dang, this one really starts things off right! I wonder if those Shins guys would retire into the Portland food-cart circuit if they heard this. Dang. So good. Maybe the best Vandoler song ever. Okay, maybe not, but right up there.

(Excited, opens second beer, chugs, turns up volume.) So here I am, beer number two and only track number three. Must slow down. Must decipher lyrics. Wow, this song (titled “Old Rodeo Frontman”), has a bit of twang to it. Sounds kind of like The Pernice Brothers if I actually liked The Pernice Brothers! Wait, I do like The Pernice Brothers. I guess this means I like Furnace enough that it’s making me not like The Pernice Brothers. Maybe I should get a Sleepy Furnace tattoo. I wonder what people would think of that. These lyrics are amazing; I think I even know what some of them mean. Maybe a lyric tat.

Wow, track five (titled “Lost Lake”) already? Good songs pass fast. Hutchington is really letting his voice shine on this song. “Save a good seat for the new pale overcasts” … is that what he said? I guess that has something to do with Huntington’s other band, New Pale Swimmers. Only Mark would know. Mmm, mystery. Gotta love sweet, sweet mysterious lyrics to make your own. Sometimes listening to Mark’s lyrics reminds me of reading through the headlines in my e-mail’s spam box. But more clever. And prettier.

Okay, track six, the title track. Best song ever. (Goes and grabs rest of six pack, puts song on repeat, sits with jaw dropped.) Wow. Subtle, that’s how I’d describe it. Subtle in a huge, huge way. The first time this song played it felt very simple. Now, after a dozen or more listens, I’m still picking up on the little details. This Vandoler guy (who was good, nay, great, to begin with) has really grown since his last album. And is that Kev the Moose Hambrick singing? Gotta be. Damn. If I hear at least one other song this good all year I might have to get a “2010” tattoo. (Finishes off last beer.)

“First Off the Moon.” Another major standout. Love these lyrics. I bet this is about an astronaut. Maybe this is about Buzz Aldrin. I wonder if Hutchington knows that Aldrin was the first man to urinate on the moon. I bet he’d like to know that; maybe he could write a sequel. Maybe I should call him up and suggest this. And I would, too, but a song called “Better Late than Never” just came on, so now I’m kind of dancing and kicking the air and stuff. This reminds me of getting drunk at The Rail while watching the New Pale Swimmers, sans the dancing. Diverse record.

(Looks at clock, late now.) So I’ve heard this album four straight times now and, even though I’ve gone on and on about a number of great songs already, I think my favorite track (burps, burps again) has to be track 11, “Last to Leave,” one of the best indie rock compositions I’ve heard in a good long while. Thousands of beers ago. Kind of like the title track, “Last to Leave” gets better – and deeper – every time I hear it. I’m fairly certain that’s the Moose from The Orange Opera singing backups again, but it could also maybe be a children’s choir. Wow. Just wow. Mark has a lot of great, great songs, but I think this one has to be his best yet. Guess I gotta get one of those tattoos. Maybe I’ll make an appointment. Hmm … phone’s way over there … I’m way over here. Maybe tomorrow.

But if I were to go get the phone I’d probably call my friend Bill who loves R.E.M. I’d call him because this album kind of reminds me of New Adventures in Hi-Fi. Doesn’t really sound like that album, but both records are longish, diverse and stuffed with full-blown masterpieces. And I suppose they sound at least a little bit alike. Hmm … that song “Rusted Shut” might bum him out. Screw it, that dude loves to feel bummed. Or maybe I’ll call my friend James who loves everything Sub Pop used to release. He’d love this record. Maybe I could talk him into getting a Vandoler tattoo over his dated Sub Pop tat. Hmm …

Actually, I’d better hide this album from all these damn sensitive songwriter friends of mine. Yeah, I’ll put the songs on my iPod, then hide the disc away with the dishes. I don’t want anyone hearing this and going over the edge. (Hides disc while iPod plays.) Oh, wait, it’s not over? My goodness … what is this … a freaking bonus track?! Is this 1998? Are you kidding me? Post-obviousness meant as precious obscurity? I’m not an angry drunk or anything, but usually a bonus track would get the bit chomping. But this is good. Maybe I need more drinks. Maybe I need more bonus tracks! Maybe I should stop talking to myself and go tell friends about this record. Good luck topping this one, 2010. Sleepy Furnace for president. (Greg W. Locke) 

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