Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Snowflakes That Hit Us Became Our Stars - Seven Saturdays

The Snowflakes That Hit Us Became Our Stars

Seven Saturdays

SCQ Rating: 74%

Hot on the heels of his self-titled EP that came out in January, Jonathan D. Haskell returns with a second mini-album of all new material that may instigate a concentrated bout of déjà vu for the first few minutes. Namely, opener ‘Early Morning Fog Bank’ is behind that familiar feeling, dousing the listener in pre-dawn downtown ambience and audio clips of feminine, French dialogue. Hypnotic though it may be, the track is punch-for-punch identical to the trajectory of Seven Saturdays' ‘The Shallow End’, only slightly longer. It’s a strangely assured move for Haskell, someone with such a vulnerably thin catalog, to self-reference himself so thoroughly but the way both openers lead into their second cuts offers an interesting contrast.

Unlike his earlier EP’s dive into pseudo-Album Leaf territory, ‘Early Morning Fog Bank’ clears up into the awe-inspiring ‘Au Revoir’, a pristine chill-out groove flurried over by strings and a choral. Throw in the intimacy of a toy-box bridge and all-too-brief vocoder-effected vocals - so subdued they’re hardly noticeable - and Seven Saturdays has officially broken new ground. Not the kind of “new ground” that wouldn’t sound terribly out of place on a cinematic car commercial but the kind of posh-electronic hybrid that would freeze you from changing the channel each time it came on.

The remaining five tracks follow ‘Au Revoir’’s lead, showcasing a finessed take on Seven Saturdays' orchestrated sullenness. Haskell’s brief 'Piano Interlude I' and 'II', although executed as stream-of-conscious mood-setters, sweat classically-inclined precision and switch up from the safer padded-keyboard approach of ‘True Romance’. As this nearly ten-minute dream-athon acknowledges, Haskell’s evolving songcraft and detail for arrangements does sacrifice that occasional punch his debut EP offered. Thanks to Haskell’s title track, Seven Saturdays anchors the EP with a percussion-oriented instrumental that prevents The Snowflakes That Hit Us Became Our Stars from getting lost in the shadows. Choosing intricate arrangements over the former EP’s forceful dynamics, The Snowflakes That Hit Us Became Our Stars offers a secondary angle at this convincing songwriter.

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