"Marionettes in Modern Times" - The Color Turning
If the music here has the spacious mellowness of a certain sort of ambling old prog-rock composition--mid-career Genesis, perhaps, or later Pink Floyd--singer Steve Scavo's sweet tones add such a decisively contemporary feeling (think Ben Gibbard or Jeremy Enigk rather than Peter Gabriel or David Gilmour) that the older allusions are likely to be overlooked by most who give this a listen. The band themselves may not even be doing it on purpose, but I'm such a relentless musical integrationist that I love it when I feel two (or more) distinct rock'n'roll eras combining in the here and now.
The thing that sells me without question on this one is the chorus. After the deeper, prog-y sounds of the intro, the verse, with its prominent acoustic rhythm and reverby synths, may strike a casual listener as an airy sort of Radiohead Lite. But this is exactly what sets us up for the chorus, the way a narrow path through the woods makes the flower-strewn meadow it leads to all the more glorious. The chorus takes the airiness of the verse and subtly but firmly focuses it both melodically and instrumentally. As soaring guitar and synth lines replace the acoustic strumming, note how the vocal melody--starting now in the second measure, nicely playing off the first measure's dreamy instrumental motif--leads us first to a resolution (1:30) and then, almost before you can register it, back into an upward-striving ambiguity (1:32-34) that floats us back into the verse. Note too how the verse, the second time around, unfolds with a few engaging differences. And yes, my description risks turning something delicate and gorgeous into something that sounds dry and technical, but there's an easy antidote: just listen to the song.
The Color Turning is a quartet from LA. "Marionettes in Modern Times" is from the band's first full-length CD, Good Hands Bad Blood, released earlier this month on Softdrive Records, a label started in 2006 by Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland.