by Mike Corrigan
It just keeps getting better, doesn't it? Mazarin, a loose-knit collective headed up by Philly wonderlad, Quentin Stoltzfus, presents for your quiet afternoon pleasure A Tall-Tale Storyline, the group's follow-up to its critically acclaimed, home-recorded indie pop jewel, Watch It Happen. Be prepared, for the pleasures found here come quick and often.
The ambient drone that forms the foundation of the eight-minute opening track, "Go Home," hypnotically rises and falls, trilling like deep ocean whale chatter over emphatically strummed acoustic guitar. Layered vocal harmonies are pleasantly reminiscent of those once crafted by Brian Wilson.
The production is strikingly warm, organic and immediate despite a conspicuous electronica presence (tone generators, samples and synths). Elsewhere, the electronically generated atmospherics are wed to No Wave wonk ("My Favorite Green Hill" rocks Yo La Tengo-style) in a simple yet exalted ceremony that's destined to rouse the neighbors. Lazy slide guitar, tinkling xylophone and the singer's quavering falsetto are all that are needed to invoke a wistful, reflective mood on "Flying Arms for Driving." And more than once, mildly trippy, countrified rock a la Notorious-era Byrds emerges from the reverie (on the wonderfully melodic "What Sees the Sky" for instance). The Gram Parsons-inflected "Limits of Language" explores the futility of attempting to express with words that which can never be adequately verbalized: "The limits of language have all been found/And I keep writing on till I get it down." It is this challenge that is the ultimate inspiration and impetus behind all writing -- whether as lyrics or in other forms.
The album's initial airiness takes on multi-dimensional heft on repeated listenings as the delicate interplay between instruments (emphasizing the acoustic variety and Stoltzfus' warm, accessible vocals above the electronic sounds gurgling merrily just beneath the surface), inventive vocal harmonies and smart lyric fragments inexorably reveal themselves. It's then that you realize that this not just a beautiful and confident sophomore effort but a singular triumph of impeccable song craft and hope over the power of cynicism. You need you wrap yourself up in this. Immediately.