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Buffalo Daughter ( )

I
Emperor Norton ( )

Many times now it has been decried in various media, this "age of the single," in which hit songs fade away as fast as they explode, taking with them the seemingly old-fashioned idea of an album. Japan's Buffalo Daughter haven't yet vocally added their laments to the heap pile, but their latest album, I, protests by nature of its structure: the flow from one song to the next and the placement of sounds are so important here that picking apart individual track numbers seems like a pointless venture.

I is most definitely a journey, as clich‚d as that may sound, but it's one that doesn't have any identifiable landmarks. Buffalo Daughter don't create music in a straightforward way, making their songs sound as if they've been beamed in from another dimension. This is especially true of pseudo-pop tracks such as "28 Nuts," which tries dutifully to be catchy amidst the tuning of strings and the always-aloof vocals of the trio. This is music for hipsters, to be sure, but it never seems fake or purposely ironic. Buffalo Daughter are genuinely weird.

The album works best when the songs carry the listener along with a gentle flow that is saved from boredom by an underlying, almost sinister, tension. "Ivory" starts things off with a bassline that propels and a guitar riff that lulls, all the while making way for unsettling vocals that sing not lyrics but eerie "la la's." "I Know" picks up with gentle blips & bleeps and the voices of increasingly agitated children reciting the title. This is all interrupted with the outright aggressive "Earth Punk Rockers," which sounds like a death metal song in comparison to the light touch on other tracks. Somehow, however, it all seems to fit and herein lies the trick of Buffalo Daughter. It would all make for a perfectly uneasy listening experience if not for the serious dip in quality about three-quarters into the album. Somewhere around "Moog Stone" the magic is lost and we're left with a peek behind the band's carefully constructed curtain. Too many soft rockers at the end of the album only serve to point out Buffalo Daughter's downfall: when forced to notice the actual songwriting instead of just the ingenious placement, it becomes clear that these tunes aren't really all that strong.

RECOMMENDED TRACKS: "Ivory", "Discotheque du Paradis"

- Caitlin Crockard, CKMS-FM, Waterloo, ON

By Caitlin Crockard
May 29, 2002

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