Release Date: Apr 7, 2009
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Rock, Pop
For the sake of Telekinesis, I sure hope it doesn't. This album, with all its unmoored, frenetic energy, is a fantastic pop album, even if it doesn't posit anything new. Telekinesis, like so many great Merge bands over the years, make great songs, period. Songs with earnest feeling. Songs free of ….
The high point of Telekinesis! comes early on, about half a minute into the second track, “Coast of Carolina”. Michael Lerner, behind a curtain of lo-fi distance, accompanied by a flat acoustic guitar, sings with distracted yearning, “Dreaming of the coast of Carolina / Dreaming all the ways that you will smile”, giving that last word two extra syllables. Then, the song takes a deep breath, a couple of stray cymbal skitters are heard, and if ever there was an appropriate moment to use the verb “explodes” in describing a piece of pop music, now would unquestionably be it.
Many songwriters spend their entire lives attempting to write ‘the perfect pop song’. On paper it’s a simple beast – combine a three to four chord sequence with a melodic verse that makes way for a catchy chorus, add words that convey some sort of sentiment that a broad audience can relate to, and do it all in about three minutes – simple? Well, actually, no. The reality in trying to achieve this task often results as an eternal pursuit, never quite obtained and very rarely mastered.
Telekinesis' debut album announces its utility right away, filling your mind with ideas of how to put its songs in their most ideal contexts: car rides on sunny afternoons, summer-themed mix cds, cookouts, bumper music for teen dramas. It's like buying a new pair of sneakers and getting the urge to go for a run, even if you're not normally inclined to do such a thing-- the music creates a demand for its own use, and you start anticipating your first opportunity to hear it under perfect conditions. There is nothing original or novel about Telekinesis' music, but somewhat counterintuitively, its by-the-books professionalism is what makes it so effective.
It's heartening to see that although Merge had evolved into a major player on the music scene in the 2000s, they still had the inclination to give new bands a shot. The Rosebuds, the Broken West, and Wye Oak each released impressive debuts for the label, and with their 2009 self-titled album, Seattle's Telekinesis attempt to follow in their footsteps. They do a fair job of it.
For a band that drafts so closely behind Death Cab for Cutie, Telekinesis' brilliant career launch of having Chris Walla produce its debut LP doesn't do much to distinguish the band from its idols. Principally the project of Seattle's Michael Benjamin Lerner, who even looks like a young Ben Gibbard, Telekinesis unabashedly channels its fellow Northwesterners with considerable aplomb, especially through the emotional drive of numbers like "Coast of Carolina," "Foreign Room," and "Great Lakes. " It's Lerner's mimicking of Death Cab's less impressive elements that does Telekinesis disservice, though: indulgent lyrical repetitions and awkward, Gibbard-ish lines like, "Going to find a way outside; that's the day I'm gonna make you my wife.