Within the intriguing packaging (dreamy 1970ish cover painting, lack of credits, lyrics, etc.), the Chapel Hill, NC quartet The Kingsbury Manx have created a humble gem. Refreshing in its lack of music-biz glossiness (see above), this album seems like it sprung out of the ground fully formed - it's an awkwardly beautiful, organic, growing thing. Shades of the Velvets, Brian Wilson, New Zealand pop (Chills, JPS Experience), Syd Barrett-era Floyd, even the Dead! (check out "How Cruel") abound, but merely influence-checking this record really trivializes the wondrous sounds of this astounding debut.
The album opens with the sleepy, loping "Pageant Square" , then eases into the chilled air of "Regular Hands" - both different sounding tracks, yet both imbued with the sun-dappled gentleness that transcends you into a hazy, leafy world. This feeling is carried even further with the misleadingly titled "Piss Diary", it's sumptuous, autumnal glow passing over you like a blanket from your childhood. The funky wah-wah of "Cross Your EyesÓ leads into the wall-of-sound dirgey jam of "Blue Eurasians", which is in my opinion the weakest cut on the CD (if there is a weak cut!). "Hawaii In Ten Seconds" is acappella, full of ernest, albeit nasal, warmth. "Fields" starts as a sort of psychedelic song-cycle which evolves into some gorgeous acoustic guitar finger-picking (which they should have expanded upon). "New Old Friend Blues" has a mellow, Yo La Tengo-ish vibe that is further enhanced by its tired, lazy vocals which suit the songs feeling entirely. "Whether Or Not It Matters" has the kind of harmonies that you just don't hear anymore - without falling into soppy, Eagle-ish smooth rock - no small feat. The echoey slide guitar that careens throughout the rambling, spacey "Fanfare" washes out into the albums beautiful closer "Silver Trees", a slow, meditative tune with a late-fall, Nick Drake kind of vibe (except that the band uses electric guitar and harmony vocals, yet the feel is still there).
Forgive the hyperbole, but the fact that all of these sounds and moods are in one album, and a debut album at that, is extraordinary. If only other artists would take this direction and get back to creating art instead of pedalling image, music would be in a much healthier state. As it is, just be glad that an obscure jewel like The Kingsbury Manx is able to rise to the surface amongst all of the garbage.