Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Finally, the hippies have good record collections

Maybe it has to do with the fact that Phish broke up and the hippies with nowhere else to go have finally started listening to non-jamband fare. Maybe the hippies just decided that the String Cheese Incident wasn't doing it for them and started delving into authentic psychedelic weirdness. Dungen is championing Trad Gras Och Stenar, Devendra Banhart has Vashti Bunyan, Ben Chasny has uncovered Gary Higgins from whatever rock he's been hiding under. For the record I'm not calling Ben a hippie, just using that as a point of reference. And for the record, I think the term "freak-folk" is a really lame buzzword cooked up by lazy journalists who have to categorize everything. For good or ill, as of late there seems to be an overabundance of bands practicing a sort of hippie-ish/back-to-the-land ethos.  The problem with a glut of bands in any one “scene”, other than the inevitable backlash, is separating the wheat from the chaff.  Feathers, a collective from the white mountains of Vermont, fall into the former category. They were the backing musicians on the aforementioned Banhart’s most recent studio album “Cripple Crow”, but their self-titled debut released on Banhart’s gnomonsong label is far superior. This record has me almost ready to put all my metal records in a pile and light it on fire and dance around it barefoot drinking mushroom tea under a full moon. (almost).  Their songs have a psychedelic-folky vibe that makes them sound like they were recorded in a sunlit meadow amongst wildflowers swaying in a gentle breeze or in a circle of gypsy wagons around a campfire. The one track that has especially captured my heart as of late is the closing "Come Around". The harmonies are achingly sweet and the multi-layered instrumental arrangement is just perfect.  More importantly, they have an authentic quality to them that leaves you wondering if the songs were recorded now or in 1973.  They don’t come off as a fly-by-night bandwagon jumping act who all of the sudden started waving their freak-folk flag for an already built in niche audience.

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