Release Date: Apr 27, 2010
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
Say what you like about Americans – eg having pancakes for breakfast really can’t be beneficial to a balanced diet – when it comes to indie rock there’s isn’t anyone better at it. This week’s reminder of that fact is [b]Avi Buffalo[/b]. Four teenagers from Long Beach, California, who spearhead a new wave of bands ([b]Dum Dum Girls[/b], [b]Happy Birthday[/b]) who are each propelling the iconic Seattle label Sub Pop back to its former glories.[b]Avi Buffalo[/b] are led by a 19-year-old songwriting genius called [b]Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg[/b] and all the songs on his band’s debut are about a young man undergoing a mental collapse.
“What’s In It For?” ponders the mostly-teenage collective on the album’s second track. The answers found are numerous and they unfold via guitar solos from the School of Nels Cline, through dirty, adolescent pillow talk (“Summer Cum”), and in poeticism (“One Last”) that obliges compulsory listens. Continue to muse, and this strange, wonderfully unexpected work of art becomes one of the most mature (and stirring) narratives on intimacy, fidelity, and hesitant honesty heard in a long while.
Anyone who feels the world of music has become too jaded and cynical could do worse than peruse the Twitter feed of 19-year-old Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg, frontman of California-based quartet Avi Buffalo. It offers 140-character bursts of enthusiasm directed at virtually everything. He is enthusiastic about his band's debut album: "I'm getting stokeder and stokedissimo!" He is enthusiastic about people from websites you've never heard of Tweeting him to solicit an interview ("Thanks so much for asking!").
In an era when the music industry gets a Dorian Gray hard on over any band clutching a Zip Oystercard, you're sometimes tempted to scurry off to your local Help The Aged to finger through the musty 12-inches, whilst bemoaning the 'youth today' over a cup of strongly brewed Yorkshire tea. So, when you hear about child prodigy Avigdor Zahner-Isendbert, whose band Avi Buffalo signed to Sub Pop at the grand old age of 19, part of the bitter old man in you wants the band’s debut to be as insipid and relevant as a decapitated Power Ranger, asphyxiating in a discarded bag of Space Raiders. However, Avi - along with his Long Beach High School friends Rebecca Coleman on piano, Arin Fazio on bass and Sheridan Riley on drums - unites youth and maturity in a harmonious marriage, with his undoubted musicianship finding a bedfellow in his untainted naivety.
The ladies and gentlemen of Avi Buffalo are all about 19, and you might say they do a good job acting their age; they're ponderous but not brooding, strident yet skeptical, and really, really horny. As his band saunters around him, frontlad Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg finds himself "lost in your summer cum" and puzzles over mortality: "Too much time to die," he and bandmate Rebecca Coleman sing in unison, "and I don't wanna die." His voice, never too far from a crack, lends that riff on impermanence the same weight as his takes on young lust. For all their age-appropriate fumbling, Avi Buffalo seem graceful beyond their years as songwriters.
At the tender age of 19, Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg might not come across as wiser than his years in his lyrics, but the music he makes definitely sounds like he skipped ahead a few grades at the School of Rock. Indeed, it’s hard to say what the most shocking quality of Zahner-Isenberg’s Long Beach-based band Avi Buffalo might be: Is it the messy hormone-fueled mini-dramas that the songs are about or, rather, the post-grad guitar-driven compositions that build on and fine tune some of indie’s most time-tested formulas? A prodigious talent with a decidedly adolescent perspective, Zahner-Isenberg might seem to have gone straight from gigs at the strip-mall café to the underground’s major leagues, but really he has honed his craft since his mid-teens by playing with all comers, be it his classmates or local bluesmen. The result is Avi Buffalo’s endearing take on (pre-)college rock, a mix of innocence and experience that delivers a first album that’s both an appealing novelty and a highly skilled endeavor that belies the band’s relative youth.
Long Beach, CA’s Avi Buffalo may own some Shins records, but that doesn’t mean that bandleader Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg’s wiry falsetto and inherent knack for pairing pop hooks with handclaps is destined for silver screen adoration. The band’s Sub Pop debut may be quirky, but it’s a little sinister too, boasting a heavy dose of arty melancholy (“What’s in It For?”) and subversive, faux-twee indie pop (“Summer Cum”) that has more in common with left-field outfits like the Danielson Famile and Deerhoof than it does the Morning Benders. Either way, the band never truly offers up a mission statement, which is kind of nice, as the fragmented song structures and childlike melodies manage to come off as either cloying or slightly unhinged, depending on the temperament of the listener.
So there’s this new band on Sub Pop that writes accomplished, sun-soaked pop songs. There’s a catch, but I’ll hold off on that until later. Singer-songwriter Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg (Avi Buffalo, for short), a surfer from Long Beach, has put together a band of his friends to record a debut album whose strengths can best be heard on lead single “What’s In It For,” a track buoyed by reverb-heavy guitars, plaintive high-pitched vocals, soaring background vocals, and a great major-minor chorus that recalls The Shins’ best work.
No matter what Natalie Portman might say, the Shins were never an earth-shattering band, though they did help usher in an unironic reverence for 60s and 70s folk pop and unabashedly wistful hooks. It's a model that young Sub Pop descendants Avi Buffalo go for on their debut LP. Like the elder statesmen, the teenage California quartet offer skewed good-time indie pop that won't change your life but will sound fantastic blasted from a front porch on a summer day.
A truly remarkable album that’s sad and wistful way beyond the band’s years. Mischa Pearlman 2010 There are moments in everybody’s life – moments buried deep in the blissful haze of departed childhood or misspent youth – which are always conjured up upon hearing a certain song. Whether it’s one that was around at the time, or one that sums up how you felt, just hearing a few seconds are enough to transport you back to a time and place that you hadn’t thought about for a long time – slices of life long gone, dreams long discarded, love long since faded, people long since dead.