Review: Clogs - The Creatures In the Garden of Lady Walton

For whatever reason, the music of today's youth (as proclaimed by the blogosphere, at least), is categorically steeped in escapism. The political and social angst that sharpened the edges of independent music for the past four decades has all but disappeared, leaving behind a post-romantic generation much too cynical to believe in the world-changing power of music.

How else can we explain the incoherent impressionistic lyrics that pervade the music scene today? Pastoral scenes are abundant: Animal Collective's adobe slats; Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest island; any Joanna Newsom song, ever.

The independent music of the past half decade has been consistently drawing itself away from the political world and finding comfort in simple, natural landscapes. This movement may in itself be a protest against the seemingly ineffective quagmire of today's politics.

In many ways this new musical escapism has been captured in the work of Clogs, a quartet of classically trained indie-rockers (including two members of The National) that compose a complex hybrid of folk and classical music that is drawn from improvised jam sessions. The band's last album, Lantern (2006), introduced a dimension of accessibility that was absent from their earlier albums. They continue this movement with The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton, a sprawling yet compact album that introduces vocal structures to the band's instrumental landscapes.

From the very first track this realignment becomes obvious. A round of choral vocals introduces the "creatures" of the album; the listener is transported to a medieval realm at the sound of these minstrel harmonies and one could argue we never leave.

The strongest song on the record is "On the Edge" sung by My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden. Her vibrant melodies are complimented with a delicate arrangement of guitar, strings, bassoon, and percussion that elevate the song, along with her celtic-classical vocal style, beyond indie-folk into the previously mentioned pastoral scenery.

With The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton, Clogs has successfully drawn a structural boundary around their wandering style that utilizes strong vocal performances from a variety of indie musicians (Sufjan Stevens, Matt Berninger, Shara Worden). The end product is an otherworldly work of paradox that is strange and vast yet is consistent and contained within its own predetermined space. 

8.4 / 10

The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton is released today, March 2 on Brassland 
Purchase the album

mp3: Clogs - On the Edge 


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