Release Date: Apr 2, 2013
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Some artists are criticized for releasing the same album over and over, while others are condemned for not delivering seconds and “turning their back” on the sound that brought their fans to the table. But Michael Benjamin Lerner, who performs under the name of Telekinesis, recycles his signature punchy drum-bass-guitar (with the occasional keyboard) arrangements for a third time on Dormarion and manages to keep it fresh. Dormarion is named after the street in Austin, Texas that is home to Spoon drummer Jim Eno’s Public Hi-Fi studio where the album was recorded.
“No origin, no description. I can’t tell you what the word means. It’s like something from Lost.
Telekinesis has always had pure pop swing in its music, a certain melodic sensibility that harkened back to the '60s, no matter how presentation varied in terms of instrumentation or fidelity. After its self-titled debut, Michael Benjamin Lerner's sophomore album as Telekinesis, 2011's 12 Desperate Straight Lines, added a bit of a heavier rock and roll edge, best exemplified by songs such as the scathing, Hüsker Dü-esque "50 Ways" and the bass-heavy and driving "I Cannot Love You." But with Dormarion, the third Telekinesis album, Lerner has incorporated a bit of everything. "Power Lines" is a Beatles-esque melody with Cheap Trick power pop guitars.
To paraphrase Sam "Ace" Rothstein, Michael Benjamin Lerner’s voice is like an emotional car wash. No matter what Lerner is singing about, it all comes out sounding clean, winsome, and nice. It’s a good voice for the music he makes as Telekinesis-- the power-pop blueprint has long relied on boyish dudes who can turn their inner misery into sunny songs, and Lerner’s pipes puts him squarely in the tradition of brooding tunesmiths like Matthew Sweet and Fountains of Wayne’s Chris Collingwood.
Three albums (and a few EPs) into his career and only recently able to rent a car, 26-year-old Michael Benjamin Lerner has already covered a lot of ground as man/band Telekinesis. After largely side-stepping the Sophomore Curse with 2011’s 12 Desperate Straight Lines (which followed his charming 2009 eponymous-plus-an-exclamation-point debut), Lerner continues to build on his brand—if not exactly step out of his comfort zone—with Dormarion, a dozen punchy New Wave-indebted power pop tunes anchored by Lerner’s honest voice singing about relationships and growing up. The title is borrowed from a middle-of-nowhere-street-name in Texas near where Lerner recorded Dormarion.The album’s U.S.
Telekinesis main man Michael Benjamin Lerner, a chirpy musical sibling of Apples in Stereo and Death Cab for Cutie (whose Chris Walla produced both previous Telekinesis records), has hitherto made an admirable career exporting heartbroken, classic-sounding nuggets from his gleaming indie-pop lab. There's more of the same on Dormarion, the singing drummer's reliably affable third album for Merge, which has a little something for everyone, but stops short of total engagement, like a slightly too tipsy party host. Still, what Dormarion lacks in durability it makes up for in pumping, mechanical bravado.
Two minutes into his third foray as Telekinesis, Michael Benjamin Lerner smacks you over the head with the formula he’s been using to craft songs ever since his memorable 2009 debut. Muted power chords give way to explosive guitar-pop mixed with a few aw shucks indie loner lyrics. And while much of Dormarian does hear Lerner up to his old tricks, the album dips into new waters, exploring more electronic, washed out sounds.
Michael Benjamin Lerner can’t stay quiet. If you have listened to any of his releases as Telekinesis, you know that Lerner gravitates toward explosive power-pop, and any attempts he makes to temper the driving sounds are about as effective as placing a lid on a geyser. Take the song “Coast Of Carolina,” a track off of his 2009 debut, Telekinesis!: It starts off with a lazily strummed acoustic guitar and a hazy voice that sounds like it was recorded on a tape deck, but then clarity strikes, and drums and an electric guitar team up to punch you in the ears.
It’s still early days, but probably my favourite record of the year so far is Fade by Yo La Tengo. What really stands out about it is how concise it is. It’s a forty-five minute album with a four-letter title, comprised of songs that are sonically very cohesive, which is a refreshing departure for a band usually more given to producing near-eighty-minute epics with titles like I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass.
The press kit to this album nails it: Dormarion, it says, “is the sound of a man figuring out exactly who he is.” Give the guy who wrote this a raise, or maybe fire him, because the problem with this album is that it can’t figure out what it is. Michael Benjamin Lerner, the man and the band who is Telekinesis is wildly talented, but also wildly unfocused. There’s no thematic or sonic line, straight or crooked, that you can draw to connect the songs on this album.