Monday, May 2, 2011

Entertainment Ordinaire - J.J. Ipsen and the Paper Crown

Entertainment Ordinaire

J.J. Ipsen and the Paper Crown
Label Fantastic Records.

SCQ Rating: 76%

There’s always an excitement about falling in with a new crowd. You’re still feeling out the personalities, relations and mindsets of all parties involved while gauging whether any of them might rub off in a complimentary way. That’s largely how I’ve approached J.J. Ipsen and the Paper Crown’s new full-length; I don’t know any of these musicians, their label or their intentions, and all of this has helped me approach Entertainment Ordinaire with a casual curiosity.

I mention this disconnect not only in light of the many Canadian bands (re: supergroups) who trade musicians at an incestuous rate but because, in the absence of all expectations, I’ve warmed up to Entertainment Ordinaire with an almost grassroots-styled patience. Lord knows why it took me so long; ‘Basement Pleasure Domes’ immediately lays out the group’s lead touchstone, Wilco (circa Summerteeth and A Ghost Is Born), via their electric stomp and chicken-choking guitar leads. Among these playful Beatles-esque transitions and frantic solos, however, exists a laidback cool, a smooth musicianship, which hands any homage back to Ipsen and Co.’s creative license. So many melodic, mid-tempo jams – even ones as silkily shape-shifting as these – risk stretching listeners’ attention spans but they butter-up Ipsen’s easy croon in a way that resembles a perfect hybrid between Ron Sexsmith and Gord Downie. And it’s that passive confidence that converts leisurely rock tunes like ‘Good To Be Me’ and ‘Crossword Puzzle Riddles’ into lounge-y pillars of a lived-in Sunday morning coffee collection. The romantic lilt pervading ‘Ancient Dictionary’ and ‘April & May’ lends well to this sort of listening environment, as does the reflective swoon of ‘Spangled Stars’.

But a solid mood-piece, Entertainment Ordinaire isn’t. While Ipsen and the Paper Crown don’t shy from eccentricities that might divide their audience, they at least commit to every decision. One would think ‘DaDaDa’, with its obvious singalong hooks, should be capitalizing on laziness but instead it’s a well-constructed chapter that never sabotages the album’s flow by getting too fluffy. By that same measure, the saloon-esque jaunt of ‘Hey Hairdo’ oversteps its intentions and interrupts the latter half’s earnest mood.

J.J. Ipsen and the Paper Crown cover a lot of ground with this full-length, jumbling their introspective moments in with a lot of quirky, eclectic performances. It’s a bit of an onion, the way its layers have slowly worked me over and dug under my skin. Like the cat painting adorning its cover, Entertainment Ordinaire weaves a precious narrative but one thankfully reinforced by tight musicianship and lovely songs.

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