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Album Review

SYDNEY WAYSER
Bell Choir Coast

I want this album on vinyl. I want this album on vinyl because it demands it. I want copious liner notes and pictures--- yes, make it a gatefold jacket--- and make those pictures pictures of Sydney Wayser and anyone who had anything to do with this album and photograph them on her fictional Bell Choir Coast--- lighthouses and beaches and all--- something to give credence to this world wonderfully created by Wayser and her music. It will be one of those magical places like the ones visited by music fans every time they put on Sgt. Pepper's or listened to Days of Future Passed. You may laugh, but this album makes me say it. It is that good.

I didn't think Wayser could do it. I didn't think she could even approach the excellence of The Colorful, her last album which was released--- whoa!--- in 2009? Thing is, I've been listening to that album fairly steadily since release and it just doesn't seem like it was that long ago. I guess time flies when you're having fun, eh? So when she announced she was working on a new album, I was leery. How to follow up an album as unique and as incredibly musical as The Colorful? Not possible.

But she did it. She tossed most of the little nuances which made the last album so damn good (well, downplayed them a bit) and went in a whole 'nother direction and created an album which could very well put her over the top. There is a bit of Phil Spector in her production, and not the mountain deep harmonies but the depth of the sound. Wayser, who has a great voice and one of the more unique I've heard in recent years, sings mostly into a chamber, I'm guessing, and many of the instruments are channeled through one as well. The result drags me back to the Fifties and early Sixties and while it is hard to put a finger on specifics, I cannot shake it.

It's not the music or the songs. Wayser has outdone herself here as she had on The Colorful, but I defy anyone who lived in those glory years of early rock 'n' roll to disregard the sound. Every time I play this album, I get chills from that sound, and I've been playing it a lot. And for good reason. I love albums which work, front to back. I love songs which belong together, which flow into one another as if they were written that way, that almost tell a story with the music alone. I love music which sounds simple but really isn't. But most of all, I love music which grabs hold and will not let go. I mean, I find myself looking forward to Bell Coast Choir, almost scheduling my day around it. Like I used to with Sgt. Pepper. Like I used to with Cargoe. Like I used to with The Colorful, as a matter of fact.

I am listening to Geographer as I type this and I cannot even begin to tell you what a magnificent song it is. There is a bit of Brian Cullman in both the song and the production (and the arrangement, now that I think about it) and you have to hear Cullman's All Fires the Fire to even begin to understand what a compliment that is. And as I listen I'm thinking of the tracks which led up to Geographer, like the island-fueled and rhythmic Dream It Up, and the catchy and totally Wayser-istic Alright with its dream-like female background vocals, and the others, all laid out in perfect sequence.

Descriptions never suffice when it comes to albums like this, so let me help you out. You can stream it here. I recommend you do so, but don't give it a cursory listen. Listen all the way through, maybe even numerous times. It grows on you. If you're like me, it could just sweep you away. Album of the Year? It's in the running, easily.

I haven't read any reviews of the album yet, but I have bookmarked quite a few. I see that Bob Moses gave the album a super-positive review for No Depression. I will go there after I finish this just to see if our reviews parallel each other in any way. I follow Bob and his writing. He's one of the good ones.

You know what the down side of this whole thing might be? I may not ever write about Sydney again. I write about the Indies. I steer clear of major labels and major label-distributed albums. My hands are full covering the little guys. I have this sneaking suspicion that Sydney will not be a little guy anymore. Not after people hear Bell Choir Coast. It is as good as it comes.

And just so you know, my favorite track at the moment is Time Frame. Just keep it in mind when you listen. You'll understand.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.


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