November 1, 2002

Test Spin: The Blow

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If there’s ever been such a thing as indie-pop-rock minimalism, The Blow’s newest release, Bonus Album, is it. The Blow is Khaela Maricich, who sounds like a little-girl version of Cat Power, minus the bizarre lyrics and occasional creepy howling.

The songs on Bonus Album are bafflingly simple, so much so that it’s not clear whether they represent an exploration into the basics, or whether Maricich is just relying on aural ingredients she finds on her way to the recording studio (including other K records artists). In “Watch the Water Roll Up,” Phil Elvrum of the Microphones adds a bit of bossa-nova flavored percussion that meshes nicely with Maricich’s talk-y, bare-bones vocals. “Little Sally Tutorial,” is a set of instructions for a kid’s game, with the K Records crowd, including Calvin Johnson and his wonderfully distinctive baritone, joining in at the end. It’s a somewhat peculiar choice for inclusion on an album, but you could probably say that about several of the tracks on Bonus Album.

To her credit, though, Maricich knows her range. She has a simple, kid-like voice, and an obvious ear for harmony, but doesn’t try to push it to any extremes. Still, it’s no surprise that the best tracks on the album are those with some other instrumentation besides her multi-tracked voice. In “The Democracy of Small Things” Maricich’s slightly synth-altered, multiplied voice floats over light buzzing noises. The heartfelt cover of Wolf Colonel’s “Jet Ski Accidents” includes an organ, drum machine, and something that sounds like a tympani, but could be a garbage can.

Bonus Album is worth listening to, if only because it’s something different.

Archived article by Thea Brown