by Richard Golden
Melody Hill was the Circle Sky Records official magazine while we were open between 2002 and 2010.
Being a record store we did lots of reviews of music-related items. The following is a review of The Green Pajamas’ “Northern Gothic” album (Cam045 Camera Obscura).
This is the latest from my favorite neo-psych pop band around. I wish their home base of Seattle wasn’t so far from Atlanta. I think, as do so many other Green PJ fans, that “Northern Gothic” is one of the strongest works since 1998’s “All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed”. This is also a dark atmospheric recording, I think it must have to do with the climate in Northern Gothic Territory, Washington State.
What if these guys lived further down the Southern Coast in sunny California? I cannot help but wonder if things would be a little more poppy as in the most excellent recordings of the compilation “Indian Winter” CD released on Get Hip. The title of this new effort comes from the band’s desire to evoke the geography of the Pacific Northwest. Leadman, Jeff Kelly says “living here, you have a certain landscape, certain weather etched into your psyche.
The trees, lakes, rain, the way the sky looks – they all combine into a very gothic sort of scene.” The album begins with “In The Darkness” sounding like a more unique progression of sound these guys have been perfecting since “Strung Behind The Sun”, which is to say the PJ’s are coming into their own unique mature sounds instead of just leaning towards the obviously psychedelic.
Often extending the very live-sounding tracks on “Northern Gothic” seems to define the unique place where beauty and darkness co-exist. The keynote track “First Love” is where the delicate piano and vocal sections are combined with the heavy guitar for which the band is so noted. The strong contrasting song contributions by band members Eric Lichter and Laura Weller with Jeff Kelley’s compositions launch a landmark record, added to this prolific band’s previous consistently wonderful excellent records.
Most of this album is recorded alone by Jeff Kelly with sporadic contributions from the other members. This album contains some of the band’s most melodic, enticing songs to date, despite the usual dark and melancholy subject matter.
There are intense performances of the ballads, “First Love” and “Blue Halloween Moon”, which brings the listener to the dramatic rock hook with the Celtic mandolin of “In The Darkness”, “The Cruel Night” and “Bitter Moon”. The “Lost Girls Song” is a swampy outing and sounds like nothing the band has ever done before.
Jeff keeps the music colorful with bright instrumentation and varied arrangements, lush pianos, distorted power chords, slide guitars, and lovely sweet creamy harmonies. Keyboardist, Eric Lichter has two of his best tunes in the winsome “Wild Wild Reefs” and “Coyotes and Comets”. Becoming more integrated into the band’s sound than before is newer member guitarist/vocalist Laura Weller who adds the beautiful “Christine Crystalline”. She is also the most prominent backing member on the album. Check out her recent collaboration with Jeff Kelly in the “Goblin Market” project.
1 In the Darkness – Jeff Kelly 02:40
2 (End of Summer) – Jeff Kelly 00:18
3 In the Burning Moonlight – Jeff Kelly 04:43
4 Wild Wild Reefs – Eric Lichter 03:19
5 Bitter Moon – Jeff Kelly 04:25
6 Christine Crystalline – Laura Weller 03:52
7 First Love – Jeff Kelly 06:50
8 The Cruel Night – Jeff Kelly 04:29
9 Mary Ryan’s Hair – Jeff Kelly 05:19
10 Coyotes and Comets – Eric Lichter 03:02
11 Blue Halloween Moon – Jeff Kelly 07:23
12 (First Snow) – Jeff Kelly 01:10
13 Lost Girls Song – Jeff Kelly 06:52
14 Cold North Sea of Love/Bleak Are the Bells – Jeff Kelly 06:28
My overall reaction to this album is upbeat and encouraging in that one day we will get to hear a more solid effort from all the combined members of The Green Pajamas rather than a mostly solo album from Jeff Kelly. This is definitely an album to be praised in the ‘Camera Obscura Period’. This album has reached a new peak in the annals of Green Pajamas material and I suggest if you’re a fan, go out and purchase this fine work.
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