The Beast

The Beast
Composer: Budian
Label: Texas is Funny
Release Date: 2009-10-07
Rated: NONE
Media: CD
Length: LP
Format: Album
Genre: Recording

Press materials for this SA quartet’s full-length debut compare Budian (Budge Anne? Boo Dianne? Booty Yawn?) to Death Cab for Cutie, Rilo Kiley, and Postal Service, a side project for Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard and RK’s Jenny Lewis. The narrow scope of influence that list suggests is a lot more accurate than Budian probably intended. Opener “Pleased to Meet You” is a polite, windblown instrumental introduction to Budian’s most unique element: vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Janiene Bishop’s violin. The sustained violin notes hang pregnantly over squeaky-fingered acoustic guitar chords, and the sunny lazy-day atmosphere carries over directly into the following song, and then more or less the entire rest of the album.

Follow-up “Dreams” smuggles a camera into the land of nod to capture the colors. “Then they’ll see how it feels to be happy,” Bishop says, then adds, probably unnecessarily, “and I’m happy.” Her singing voice is similar to Lewis’s but the only track I’d label derivative is “Outlined,” in which Bishop’s keyboard is an admirable stand-in for Dntel’s glitchy Postal production and drummer Joshua D. Bishop does a passable 808 impression. It’s not original, but the song does show a promising understanding of what made Give Up a hit.

“Loving Ordinary,” a tale of an “ordinary wife in her ordinary life feeling unremarkable” marks the beginning of the album’s mushy midsection, most notable for the surprisingly aggressive cabaret bounce of “Get Up” and the whistled bridge in “Sydney,” a song promising, with intentional ambivalence, to “settle in love with you.” “Death of a Remote Control” baits the album’s best hook — a frolicking keyboard line amped up with distorted guitar blurts, mixed too gently to do any serious damage, and the off-kilter circus lilt in closer “Waltz On” pushes Janiene Bishop’s vocal performance into territory unfamiliar enough to prove she’s more than another pretty voice — and that Budian, maybe with a few more disparate influences (Slayer, Stravinsky, Snoop Dogg, anyone without an iPod ad), has potential to become more than another hipster sound-alike. — Jeremy Martin

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