The JangleBox

Indie, Noise, Shoegaze… Music

Big Troubles: Romantic Comedy (2011)

Este año desgraciadamente no puedo hacer el mismo anuncio que realicé el año pasado con el primer disco de Big Troubles.  Por entonces, los de New Jersey se alzaban con el primer puesto en mi lista de preferencias personales del 2010.
Romantic Comedy, sin ser en absoluto un mal disco, no es Worry (2010). Big Troubles han querido darle un giro a su sonido, alcanzando un grado de madurez que todavía no les pertenecía. Personalmente, hubiera soñado porque su sonido sucio de guitarras continuase al menos durante un disco más, porque su furia afilada hubiera surcado las ondas de los temas de Romantic Comedy, pero no ha sido así.
Como digo, este segundo álbum no es un mal disco, en absoluto, y es muchísimo mejor que bastante de la producción Noise-Pop de este año, pero echo mucho de menos la distorsión, la urgencia, el nervio de aquel. Romantic Comedy convierte a Big Troubles en algo así como los nuevos Teenage Fanclub, pero a los TFC de  Grand Prix, y no a los de los comienzos. A golpe de producción, toda aquella distorsión, todo aquel Fuzz-Lo-Fi da paso a distorsiones más que contenidas, a golpes de batería engrandecidos gracias a los efectos de la mesa de mezclas, a voces mucho más limpias. A un trabajo de limpieza en el estudio, en definitiva. Y que conste, reitero, que el resultado final es notable, pero no sobresaliente, como en Worry.
Uno de los grandes responsables de este giro copernicano en su sonido ha sido el productor Mitch Easter (Rem, Pavement, Let´s Active), aunque intuyo que no el único. Las huestes de Alex Craig e Ian Drennan han limpiado absolutamente de distorsión todo su sonido, dándole un nuevo lustre a sus canciones, quedando un disco muy coqueto con bastantes arreglitos, aunque los temas ya tienen carácter propio para mantener en pie un gran disco. En un álbum donde nos encontramos con cortes como She smiles for pictures, Misery, Make it worse, Minor keys, Bad girls, Softer than science, Time bomb o Engine, evidentemente nunca vamos a salir defraudados. Tan sólo con escuchar los primeros acordes de She smiles for pictures, el tema más Teenagefanclubiano de todo el disco, ya nos conformamos.
El problema es que al estar tan alto el nivel con Worry, esperábamos un poco más de este nuevo disco de Alex e Ian. Con todo, el resultado es de notable. Y estará en nuestra lista de favoritos.

Big Troubles – Romantic Comedy (2011)

“There’s a great bit in Patton Oswalt‘s latest special that begins with him auditioning for the role of “gay best friend” and ends with a monkey explosively defecating on camera. Obviously, he got from Point A to Point B explaining how romantic comedy isn’t even really an artistic genre so much as a strict format whose monetary success is predicated on telling people what they’re getting and then giving them exactly what they want. While Romantic Comedy is too scrappy and bummed-out for usage in cute montages anytime soon, Big Troubles’ sophomore LP and first for Slumberland is still every bit as beholden to an overt sense of values: If 1990s indie revivalism gets you going like seeing Jennifer Aniston and some other dude find true love does, it’s easy to imagine a tagline saying “from the people who brought you the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and the producers from Brighten the Corners…” doing its risk-free aspirations justice.
Those familiar with last year’s super-lo-fi Worry will certainly be taken aback by Big Troubles’ spruced-up presentation, but it’s hardly surprising: It’s not like they could go much further into the red than they did on their self-produced fuzzbomb of a debut. For the most part, they err on the bookish side of the Slumberland sound, dabbling in both U.S. and UK varietals of mope-pop while producer Mitch Easter (Murmur, Let’s Active) shows a steady hand letting the ringing guitar leads and Alex Craig and Ian Drennan’s hushed vocals exist in a soft and appealing glow.
But while I don’t blame Big Troubles for reaching out to Easter, together they overshoot the mark and ultimately Romantic Comedy often feels like it’s uncomfortable using language and volume more suitable for the library. Single “Misery” is certainly the pluckiest of the bunch and has inspired a few mentions of the Smashing Pumpkins, which is on point if you can find me the pre-Adore singles without the searing guitar work, cathartic lyrics, studio polish, or Jimmy Chamberlin on the drums. A nice major-thirds riff complementing a boyish, breathy vocal only gets you to the point of Silversun Pickups.
It’s a rare record of this sort that makes you think, “If only they raged as hard as Belong does,” but Romantic Comedy innocuously charms instead of breaking hearts or breaking anything really– even the feedback-laced, vaguely glammy “Time Bomb” can’t achieve the kind of escape velocity required to get them out of sounding like a rock band that doesn’t actually rock. Still, they’re precocious songwriters who know from a good hook: If you can get past its title rhyming with “bad world,” “Sad Girls” is a exceedingly catchy Britpop genre exercise, though the big key change sounds like them pressing too hard for extra credit. Likewise, “Softer Than Science” and “Never Mine” have a gorgeous shimmer and propulsion that similarly gets over some remarkably rudimentary “mine”/”mind” rhyme schemes. I suppose you can find the economy of the lyrics to be endearing, but it makes their awkward attempt at purple social critique on “Make It Work”– “such little relevance in the perfumes of high culture”– sound like they might be making fun of the National or something.
More typically, Romantic Comedy earns its title from Craig and Drennan’s narrators mostly dealing with relationships that are ultimately doomed if they even get past the point of premature negation. It’s perfectly fine for a half hour of commiseration or wish fulfillment for romantics who take their loneliness as evidence of their humanity: a treatise on the utter futility of heterosexual relations stems from a glossy magazine ad on “She Smiles for Pictures” (sort of a simplified, non-academic version of Jawbox‘s “Savory“), “Engine” wistfully reminisces of after-school heavy petting (sort of a simplified version of Death Cab‘s “We Looked Like Giants“), and “Minor Keys” goes metacritical in its study of pop’s emotional manipulation (very much a simplified version of the Smiths‘ “Rubber Ring“). Of course, it’s a bouncy piece of jangle pop referencing something other than itself, and that’s Romantic Comedy writ small, appealing and in tune with admirable influences but ultimately lacking the sort of unpredictability or drama that can make these the songs that saved your life rather than reminiscent of ones that can” (

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30 diciembre, 2011 Posted by | Big Troubles | 1 comentario

Big Troubles: Daytrotter session (Dec.1,2011)

Big Troubles

The relationships that come out of the Big Troubles album, “Romantic Comedy,” are those that we place in our past. We not only think that they couldn’t be anything like we’d get ourselves into right now, being of a certain age, as well as being of the elements that one thinks of as somewhat easy to discard away. They feel as if they’re of a different personal era, one that we’ve completely forgotten about, or are willing to erase immediately. It’s not to say that the endings of such things aren’t still capable of bringing us aggravation and disappointment/sadness, but it gets applied to us in the tiniest, most fleeting doses. We can see these interactions playing out in a non-descript diner or restaurant in a nowheresville or everyplace town, with another whose face is universally thought of as fine, but not remarkable.

The relationship ends and she gets up and walks out, mildly hurt – but not for long – and we just pull the fries that she didn’t eat over and squirt a little more ketchup onto the plate. We just make sure that none of that food’s going to waste. Our mind is barely disturbed – only slightly. Others – perhaps even the members of this New Jersey band — might simply ask for the check, whistle their way home, smoke some weed and watch a movie they’ve seen a hundred times before. They’d be a tad sullen and contemplative, but everything would clear out by morning and they’d realize that it had to happen, that it was going to be okay in the long run. There would be a rush of the newness that could be and that there would be a blank page to scribble on, to hatch new plans of love. It could be that there’s an appreciation of the sometimes absurd ways that people treat one another – the petty jealousies and the weird possessive tendencies – that sink even the most hopeful of relationships.
Big Troubles co-lead singers Alex Craig and Ian Drennan dream up these very hazy songs about love that make it all seem like the best way to deal with any of it is to be the bystander you were born to be. Even when they sing the Go-Betweens cover of “Bachelor Kisses” here, it suggests that maybe a guy is not cut out to be anything more than a single man, grabbing kisses, sex and the occasional companionship when it flops down in front of him, when the moonlight is touching just right. It might just be safer and less heartache-y if that was the way they were able to take it. Craig and Drennan sing about those – we’re assuming girls – with hooks for hands and that can get extraordinarily messy in a hurry. They warn, “You get hurt if you play with crooks,” and isn’t that all the more reason to try and see more of the comedic beats as they pertain to romance, than the sentimentality of it all? The “arcade lights are hanging down” and there are rarely winners, just ties, and you start to wonder if we’re men or if we’re marbles, just rolling to the next impediment, down the slopes, a race to the bottom of the pile” (

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30 diciembre, 2011 Posted by | Big Troubles | Deja un comentario

Toby Goodshank: Truth jump fall (2011)

Toby Goodshank es un artista neoyorquino multidisciplinar. Lo mismo compone y toca acompañado de su guitarra acústica que ilustra y dibuja comics o pinta y diseña portadas o merchandising para otros artistas.
En su faceta como músico, su sonido es muy de raíces americanas. Vamos, lo que entendemos como el Pop-Folk de toda la vida, aderezado con instrumentaciones más acordes a los tiempos. Algo así como un Josh Rouse sin ninguna estridencia mezclado con ecos de Matthew Sweet. Bueno, se me ha ido un poco la mano con las comparaciones, pero este Truth jump fall ciertamente se deja oír muy bien y es un disco bastante sorprendente. Un disco eminentemente de aquellos de los que pensamos que “suena clásico” pero con temas interesantes como Truth jump fall, Prelude to fire, Wedding bells, Baby I feel like just cut in half…
Puedes oírlo en su Bandcamp y adquirirlo allí mismo a un precio de risa.

Toby Goodshank – Truth jump fall (2011)

“There is something about Toby Goodshank‘s EP Truth Jump Fall that makes me want to openly weep. It’s not that it is a necessarily sad album; I am not under a blanket with a bottle of pinot blubbering away. It is one of those cathartic cries that we all need from time to time to recalibrate the system and return to our humanity. It is the kind of cry where you take a deep breath afterwards, laugh a bit and cry some more. It is an awesome sensation.
Truth Jump Fall manages to capture the painful beauty that is existence. The bumbling collection of broken individuals hoping to find happiness amidst the pain and hurt we cause each other on a daily basis. Through this we are defined and formed, chiseled and hardened. We long for the ache because it lets us know we are living. Toby Goodshank delivers the ache, and that is why I can’t stop listening.
You probably know of Toby from his work as the guitarist with seminal indie band Moldy Peaches, who provided Juno with her quirky personality*. OnTruth Jump Fall, Toby (or Tobes as I like to call him) steps out from the shadows to crush us with an emotionally raw, delightfully glib, and epically popish album. In a lot of ways it shares a sensibility with Ben Folds’ best works, mixing all of the loneliness of life and our most raw moments, in a glowing orb of catchy melodies and explosive hooks. Toby’s voice and guitar work blend together and compliment each other so well, his voice soars over the intricate fingering** and the two melt into a fleshy sensual pile of warmth. It creates a sensation of familiarity without seeming contrived or plagiaristic.

*I loved Juno so that is in no way intended to be a diss.
**Intricate Fingering was the name of my first band.

Stand out tracks like Sarah and John, Wedding Bells and Prelude to Fire are perfect examples of what makes Truth Jump Fall so wonderful, there is an underlying hint of darkness but the music makes you think of Molly Ringwald and all that her, and her pouty lips, meant to the world. It is the beauty, the pain and the ultimate acceptance that everything is broken and ruined and that is what makes it all worthwhile. We are searching for broken pieces that might fit together making us a little more whole. Toby Goodshank helps us all get a little closer with Truth Jump Fall” (

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30 diciembre, 2011 Posted by | Toby Goodshank | Deja un comentario


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