Release Date: Mar 9, 2010
Record label: K
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
Way back in 2001, the year both The Moldy Peaches and Jeffrey Lewis signed to Rough Trade in the UK, the Peaches’ Kimya Dawson teamed up with anti-folk fellow traveller Lewis for a self-released five-track EP. Lewis’ website states that there were 'maybe 50 copies made/sold', and boasts of a second edition, also burned to CDR, along with three tracks Lewis recorded with Diane Cluck, of which 'at least 300 have been made and sold; a few dozen have also been made and sold by the Rough Trade Record Shops of London. ' When the pair got back together in a Washington studio last year, augmented by multi-instrumentalist Karl Blau and Jeffrey Lewis Band regulars Anders Griffin on drums and Lewis’ bassist brother Jack, it would be fair to say sales expectations for the band now christened The Bundles topped 350 copies.
For many, mere mention of the word ‘twee’ is enough to provoke ire. Yet, when unflustered with fussy production, the genre is simply music boiled down to its bare bones – surely the punk rockest of principles. Something of a twee supergroup, led by [b]Jeffrey Lewis[/b] and former [b]Moldy Peach[/b] [b]Kimya Dawson[/b], [b]The Bundles[/b]’ kooky childishness and playground melodies will beguile and irritate in equal measure.
What the hell is anti-folk anyway? The story, as it is most often told, is that the musical category originated in New York’s Lower East Side when singer-songwriter Lach couldn’t get a gig at some popular venues in Greenwich Village. He started a new scene at a spot called Fort and tagged it anti-folk. Most agree anti-folk adopts a punk ethic while building on the legacy of the folk-rock scene of the 60s.
The last thing you would expect from Kimya Dawson, with her latest project the Bundles, is an earnest, cut-to-the-chase statement of purpose making sense of why she does what she does. And yet, there it is, right in the middle of the band’s self-titled debut album on the song “Over the Moon”, where Dawson makes clear that her schtick is anything but a novelty act: This moment of clarity comes out of nowhere, as Dawson’s sing-songy, but almost defiant verses follow up free-associating lyrics about henna, moon men, and lucky clover sung by her likeminded bandmates Jeffrey Lewis and Karl Blau. In effect, Dawson is literally explaining the point that the Bundles’ outsider music makes loud and clear, that the band unapologetically follows its own set of rules.
Geek-folk mainstays Kimya Dawson and Jeffrey Lewis met about a decade ago, as Dawson's Moldy Peaches were making their mark and just before Lewis' esteemed debut LP. They wrote a handful of songs together; several appeared on 2002's limited-run "antifolk" compilation AFNY Collaborations, Vol. 1, but they've largely gone unheard, if not unremembered.
Jeffrey Lewis and Kimya Dawson can both boast back catalogs full of smart, funny, insightful, and touchingly direct punky folk tunes, but they've also each penned plenty of inane, inscrutable, and/or indulgently scrappy song-doodles that, at best, have served to flesh out each performer's personably idiosyncratic, warts-and-all appeal. The dividing line between these two types of songs is a subjective one, to be sure, but even devoted fans would probably agree that the bulk of The Bundles -- the first recorded output from a longstanding though intermittent collaboration between these two leading lights of anti-folk -- lands sadly but squarely in the latter category. From the shambling start of "A Common Chorus," with Dawson repeating "Don't forget about your friends" over crudely basic Casio and acoustic guitar bits, the album sets up an emphatically informal tone that ostensibly speaks to its low-key, friendly inclusiveness (to wit: minutes later, after a bunch of rambling overlapped vocals and a unison throwaway Hollies reference, the Dawson-led Olympia Free Choir pop up to sing the song's title en masse), but more often winds up feeling impenetrably haphazard, or merely lackadaisical and tossed-off.
Kimya Dawson and Jeffrey Lewis deliver a sugar-sweet collection. Jude Rogers 2010 Ten years ago, Kimya Dawson and Jeffrey Lewis, two scruffy New Yorkers who slunk out of the city’s punky anti-folk scene, were signed to Rough Trade in the UK. Dawson was half of The Moldy Peaches, a band that dressed as Robin Hood and a bunny rabbit on tour, while Lewis was a comic-drawing, croaky oddball.