Plumbiferous Media

Avi Buffalo – Avi Buffalo

Apr 29th 2010
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Avi Buffalo - Avi BuffaloAvi Buffalo
Avi Buffalo
Score: 62

Long Beach alt-rock group Avi Buffalo was founded by then-high school student Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg (whose nickname, Avi, became the source of the band’s name). Zahner-Isenberg met the rest of his band and started out, like so many other groups, by posting songs on Myspace. After Avi Buffalo was noticed by Sub Pop, the band put together their debut album and on Tuesday released that self-titled introduction. Avi Buffalo demonstrates some definite potential on the part of the band – a hundred different influences mixed with some real creativity makes for an interesting debut, though the album certainly has flaws.

Frontman Zahner-Isenberg’s vocals, armed with a keening edge, immediately distinguish Avi Buffalo’s music, simultaneously giving it an emotional edge and (in his sharper moments) providing a clear contrast to the softer instrumentals. Zahner-Isenburg tells the occasionally odd tales that populate Avi Buffalo with a delicate but deep tone that he interrupts for the more energetic choruses of songs like “What’s in it for?.” When he’s accompanied by keyboardist Rebecca Coleman, the vocals take on a further depth as their voices nicely complement each other as well as the instrumentals. Unfortunately, from time to time, both slip into shrillness, which, though irritating, is fortunately at least somewhat intermittent.

But shrillness aside, Zahner-Isenburg (and occasionally Coleman) do a good job of narrating Avi Buffalo‘s stories. A few are conversations (if one-sided): “Jessica / Why do you always make it so hard? / You know I’m kidding / But sometimes I feel like you’re all I’ve got,” while others are the reminiscences that one might expect from a band like Avi Buffalo, with the slight oddness that the band’s lyrics seem to cultivate. In one example, Zahner-Isenburg sings of “strips of weariness in my raving heart,” which, along with his description of a pair of lips as “little strips of bacon” does a surprisingly good job at describing exactly what he’s trying to get across, however odd it may seem at first glance.

Avi Buffalo is certainly capable of adding solid instrumental parts to its tracks. The album’s opening track is, for a decent while, purely instrumental, and it certainly develops well. The warmth of the recording, especially noticeable in the bass, also bodes well for Avi Buffalo, although, as it turns out, the warmth is limited almost entirely to the instrumentals, often leaving the vocals shrill. There are, of course, other instrumental sections on the album, and most of them are quite strong, most noticeably, the drum-heavy end of “Can’t I Know.”

Still, even with a number of strong sections for instrumentals, there is a fair share of dull repetition. Some tracks start strong then fail to maintain any sort of development or progression, and others are just not all that great. A larger problem seems to be a disconnect between the instrumentals and everything else. If it exists, it’s nearly impossible to find any logical correlation between what is being played and what is being sung, other than just trying to sound good while letting the singers tell their stories, which really isn’t much of a connection. In fact, the instrumentals will, on occasion, seem to go as far as to contradict the lyrics. While this may have been specifically planned, it’s hard to understand why “What’s in it for” speeds up after the line: “stretching things out so long.”

Avi Buffalo is not an amazing album. The sound is generally well developed, and maintains a very solid level of density, neither to sparsely populated nor cluttered, but Avi Buffalo is by no means devoid of significant dull areas throughout the album. Still, while this is by no means a top album, it’s a pretty solid debut album. The band members may not be in tune with one another (from a thematic, not tonal perspective), but that’s still excusable as inexperience with one another, at least in the setting of recording an album. All in all, Avi Buffalo is, more or less, a decent album.

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