March 26, 2009

Test Spin: Bishop Allen

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They graduated from Harvard. They performed in the movie Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. They released a four song EP every month during the year 2006. Heck, they even made it into my top 100 most listened to songs in iTunes quite a few times. Now (well actually, two weeks ago) Bishop Allen released their third full-length album, and it’s so upbeat and prepped-out.
On Grrr…, the Brooklyn-duo comprising Bishop Allen, Justin Rice and Christian Rudder, somehow effectively simplified their sound by inserting more string and percussion instruments. They have also impeccably enunciated their lyrics better than ever before. Compared to their past three albums, they have done less innovating and more crafting of basic, über-upbeat, pop tracks with slight intricacies that are very pleasant on the ear.
Their choice to make the musical additions of tropical slide guitar on “Tiger, Tiger” or glockenspiel in “The Lion and the Teacup” make it obvious that Vampire Weekend’s preppy rock success has been noticed by Bishop Allen. Despite that, the band still held onto their founding sound of subdued plucked guitar patterns with tracks like “Oklahoma” and “Cue the Elephants,” though the distinctiveness is subtler than on previous records. However, the best song on the disc, “The Ancient Commonsense of Things,” which is a Guster meets Sufjan Stevens mixful-masterpiece, clearly exemplifies that this is original Bishop Allen and no rip-off of someone else’s prep-pop.