Chad VanGaalen, from Calgary (Canada), emerged with
Infiniheart (Flemish Eye, 2004 - Sub Pop, 2005), an album that he
composed, played and produced by himself, arranging the songs with a large
arsenal of classical instruments, self-made instruments
and digital/electronic devices.
Superficially, VanGaalen appears to be
yet another singer-songwriter in search for the pop melody and convinced of
being the next Shakespeare.
The truth is that most of his melodies have been heard before (more than once)
and that his lyrics are tedious like most songwriter's lyrics.
But the arrangements are indeed original. If one discards the ostensible
and retreats to the factual, then this album does represent a significant
breakthrough, not in terms of songwriting (or, let alone, singing) but in
terms of sound. The subject is the sound that was trademarked back in the
1970s by Fleetwood Mac (in their commercial phase) and Pink Floyd (in their commercial phase) and that has simply been updated by a generation of studio
to the digital age
(from Apples In Stereo to
While VanGaalen is not the Mike Oldfield of 2004 (because he doesn't have
Oldfield's ambition of large-scale compositions),
but he is a visionary of the song format, that he bends to
Neil Young-ian folk After the Afterlife) as well as to R.E.M.-ian
rock (Clinicly Dead), and in between to a wide range of styles
(Kill Me In My Sleep, 1000 Pound Eyelids,
Echo Train, Blood Machine).
Best, though, are the beat-based instrumentals Dolphinariums and J.C.'s Head on the Cross: many of the songs sound like instrumentals that are
somewhat ruined by vocals.
Skelliconnection (Subpop, 2006) sounded like the leftover of the previous one. The stylistic range seemed to denote more a lack of musical skills than an eclectic taste. None of the songs truly succeeds. Each does something to spoil
either the melody or the vocal display or the arrangement that would make it
Too many songs on Soft Airplane (2008) adhered to conventional stereotypes of how a pop song should be structured.
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