My Own Retard - Bumble
(2012 Swan City Sounds)
There's something about the cassette that just adds a special, indescribable aura to an album that no other musical format can offer. Perhaps it's the way it forces you to listen to the music from beginning to end, as it's nearly impossible to skip to your favorite tracks without mashing the fast forward and rewind buttons. It might just be the fact that they're so anachronistic, leaving the owner with a feeling that he belongs in a secret society with the 50 other nameless, faceless people out there who bought the limited edition tape. It's a secret society that realizes that true beauty is found looking toward the past and not the future. Whatever the cause, no self-respecting music nerd can deny that the humble tape-filled rectangle is making a comeback, with labels like the up-and-coming Swan City Sounds harnessing its magic powers to their fullest potential.
The Florida-based record label's latest release, My Own Retard's debut EP titled Bumble, is exactly what I'm looking for when it comes to lo-fi music. It boasts riffs similar to restaurant tortilla chips: crunchy, weightless and addictive. My Own Retard has constructed an album, saturated with instrumentals, that covers practically covers all bases of my musical interests. Fuzzy bedroom rock like that of Dinosaur Jr. is broken down into simple loops and repeated ad nauseam in the twinkly, psychedelic manner of Ducktails, Racoo-oo-oon, or even early Animal Collective.
The impressive opener, "Good Intentions", feels much bigger than the sum of its parts. Although there's no real rhythm or variation within the track, the residual noise created by the delicate guitar pluckings gives it a fuller feel, as if it's slowly stewing in its own juices. Melancholy strains of keyboard lurk beneath, adding a touch of beauty to an already great track. Although most of the album is made up of short instrumental pieces, there are many influences scattered throughout. My Bloody Valentine-esque dream pop bubbles to the surface on "Blowfish", yet "Ted's Back" has a punkier edge, recalling the post-rock of Explosions in the Sky. The closing track, "Urban Cowboy Blues", even has a western feel. It's no less majestic than the rest of the album, and is actually one of its most majestic tracks.
It seems the centerpiece of Bumble is supposed to be "Mouth Full of Bikes", a deep-fried and upbeat acoustic track that may well be from a Lou Barlow solo record. Clocking in at a relatively steep three-and-a-half minutes, it's still an interesting and fun listen. For the innovation and adventure this cassette packs, the five dollar price tag isn't all that bad. It's gotta be worth more than a Happy Meal, right?