***This review was originally published at The Two Mirrors in August of 06. I have added a few additional comments noted at the bottom.
So I thought I’d treat this record right and give it a proper review. RD turned me on to this band about a month ago and I clearly remember my first reaction. As I listened I thought… this band has something special. I remember listening thinking that in a year I’d remember the first time I heard them and smile. It reminded me of the first time I listened to The Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, Broken Social Scene, and Bright Eyes. It’s like I could tell that someday soon I would get it. Don’t get me wrong I don’t think Arizona necessarily sounds like any of those bands above, but I just felt I was listening to something new and fresh that would undoubtedly be part of my current listening for a long time. Having said that I heard Welcome Back Dear Children in its entirety last night and here are my early reactions.
The album starts with Te Amo Tanto, a dreamy pop song that provides a nice backdrop to the record. It leads straight into Some Kind of Chill—a track we’ve all been listening to non stop for over a month. It’s interesting to hear it in the context of the whole album. I still get chills when he sings, “It’s gone looking for space, as people all will, until they get to that place…” Track three provides quite the surprise in Away. I am certain that this song will have that same feel that Some Kind of Chill provides after repeated listens. The album continues its wistful pop feel through Diventa Blue and that leads us to the standout. Splintering is the track that sold me on this band when I first heard them. The rock in this track sells it and it’s the first time on the record that they veer from that dreamy pop feel that you were just getting comfortable with. Just when you get comfortable there, Arizona take you on another little detour with Old Man With a Bad Back Climbing up a Staircase and David. These two tracks are oriented around a piano and are just straight up good indie pop. The later is a little more pop than Old Man… but they both have pretty fantastic moments. Now Waking Up is just a short little ballad centering on an acoustic guitar that even has a little Wilco flair to it. Surviving the Savior fits nicely at track 9 because it sort of weaves itself through the musical moments that have presented themselves so far on this record. You have the acoustic guitar, that amazing voice, and a good bit of rocking at the end. Somersby is a great little song that is most similar to Splintering if you liked that track. It’s got some nice oh ohs in it and it’s got a got bit of rocking in its soul. The drums on this track are really amazing. Now I’m no drum expert, but they just seem to stand out to me on this song. Stay With Who You Know finds itself at track 11 and it seems to be the song that I’m struggling to fit into the context of the record. It’s a good song, but I can’t seem to put it into context yet. Don’t get me wrong, I have only listened 5 times or so, and I’m sure I’ll make some sense of it soon. It just has a completely different feel to it. And at 4:43 it clocks in as the longest song on the cd. Through the Soot and On Judgment Day close out this record in the same dreamy style that began it.
Overall, I am completely and utterly impressed by Arizona. The fact that this is their debut record just amazes me. It seems that there are a very few bands in my extensive library that have created such beautiful music on their debut record. I hope that you all take my advice and go to itunes and buy Welcome Back Dear Children soon. I assure you that these guys are on the brink of success and you’ll be glad you were along for the ride.
Notes from eight months later...I still think that this was by far the best record I heard last year. That's right, it was my number one record of 2006. The only real addition I would add would be the brillance of Somersby (full review of that track and MP3 coming soon). And I would also like to note that Te Amo Tanto is one of the best opening tracks around. I strongly encourage you to purchase this record (if you have not done so already). And I would suggest you buy an actual copy. The artwork is done by Deems and it is just super. Deems listened to the record while he did the artwork. It doesn't get much better than that.
Purchase Welcome Back Dear Childen via ITunes
However you choose to do so, just buy it.
And to hear some Arizona--download the latest shifted sound podcast, that Shelby was kind enought to let me co-host!