February 2, 2006

Music's New Forte

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Modern pop music loathes empty space. By today’s standard, no pop song can survive without the constancy of bass lines or thumping drums. While this constancy has saved many tunes from their own flabby lyrics and melodies, these backing beats oft lend themselves to annoying repetition.

That’s why P:ano’s latest work, Ghost Pirates Without Heads, must elicit a sigh of relief from pop critics everywhere. The first track opens with a plunk plunk plunk and then halts, to let the notes linger in silence. Tiny breathes of silence refresh the otherwise simplistic instrumentation on the EP.

Each performance sounds as if it was recorded on the beaches of a lost isle, far removed from a professional studio. Most of the eleven tracks are stripped of percussion, relying heavily on only a handful of instruments and a trio of dulcet backing vocals.

The lyrics here are expectedly sweet, fittingly matched to a twee ukulele, but appropriate for the Neverland themes strung about – from the spooky to the adventurous. There’s plenty of whimsy too, as the playful title suggests, though the lyrics aren’t nearly as eye-rolling as Mellencamp’s cheeky toss-offs. Pop’s simplicity fosters passive listening, but P:ano’s music invites listeners to revel in the delicacy of the songs, so to tune in attentively to each rather than let the notes wash over them.

“T’ Hatch Says ‘Round E’vry Corner’,” one of the EP’s highlights, opens with the tiny, clear chords of a ukulele. The hushed thump of a tight drum, puff of a bass clarinet, and wheeze of an accordion follow, simultaneously introducing the song’s snappy tempo. The vocals slide into the mix cautiously, replacing the accordion. Singer Nick Krgovich adamant optimism is wonderfully endearing. Nick is gonna shimmy into the future, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The disc is appropriately brief, as the sweet harmonies would cloy if the playing length stretched any longer than 30 minutes. “Animal Friends” ends Ghost Pirates with a slightly melancholic tone. The thumping drums that gave earlier songs a snappy beat ease up, and let a more contemplative accordion fill the space around the vocals. It’s the adventure’s dreamy closer, gently carrying l isteners back into the noise of the real world. Slightly sad and slightly sweet, it was certainly was a nice trip, one that I’d recommend taking.

Archived article by Andrew Meehan
Sun Staff Writer