December 3rd, 2008 | by JEFF ROSENBERG Music | Posted In: Columns, Album Reviews, Album Reviews

Reviews: Chris Robley and Future Historians

     
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Chris Robley Movie Theatre Haiku


(SMART POP)
After being impressed with Chris Robley's 2005 debut, This Is The, and by his work with sometime band the Sort-Ofs and other projects, I took last year's terrific baroque-pop album, The Drunken Dance of Modern Man in Love, to be something close to the full flowering of his songwriting and production gifts. This paper duly dubbed it one of 2007's finest local discs.

With Movie Theatre Haiku—his first release sharing billing with his support band, the Fear of Heights—Robley's only gotten better: more confident both vocally and in the realization of his seemingly endless stream of musical and production ideas, from dissonant horn sections to folktronica instrumentals. More than ever before, Robley audibly allows the arranging and recording process to intervene in his songwriting itself. And he might also be feeling even more comfortable with unedited self-expression, if the nakedly misanthropic sentiments that crop up more frequently in this album's lyrics—still balanced with compassion—are any gauge. “These songs have serious legs,” I wrote in praise of his previous disc. This album's tunes have teeth. JEFF ROSENBERG

Future Historians Self-Titled


(SING A SIMPLE SONG)
There's a fine line between satisfyingly simple and overly elementary. Future Historians walk it. With the exception of the peppy acoustic track “The Martyr,” all the songs on the band's self-titled debut EP blend slow, easy sequences of notes into straightforward folk-pop harmonies.

The EP—a vinyl 10-inch that comes paired with a CD—finds flair, though, in frontman Dave Shur's dark, pastoral lyrics. He wraps his words around the simple hooks to conjure images of windy cliffs, burdensome friendships and fatal mistakes, and the playful interaction between Shur's voice and the band's undemanding orchestration—on tracks that average just over two minutes apiece—keeps the record easy on the ears. The unimposing arrangements of “Lost A Bet” are spiced up by Shur's coy croon: “I don't make those same mistakes anymore/ One foot on the floor and one eye on the door/ I'll get it next week for sure.”

Shur gets help from the EP's fine mastering, which is as crisp and clean as any local release in recent memory. When listening to lead track “Dogs With Teeth” through headphones, the flutter of mandolin sounds—and feels—exactly like a dragonfly buzzing in your left ear. I flinched on the first listen. WHITNEY HAWKE

SEE IT: Chris Robley plays Someday Lounge Friday, Dec. 5, with Tango Alpha Tango and James Low. $8. 9 pm. 21+. Future Historians play Backspace Saturday, Dec. 6. $5. 9 pm. All ages.
 
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