La Jr – Dos Casas

La Jr
Dos Casas

As this is being written a late summer thunderstorm rages outside, which feels like an appropriate backdrop for Dos Casas the latest album from La Jr. Images of a 50’s crime noir film have unrolled since first setting ears on this album and the way the thunder outside seemingly waits for the quieter moments in the songs is frankly a bit unsettling. But that’s the whole point.

Vocalist Frank Rudow and the rest of his band have created a soundtrack for a crime film that has yet to be made. With a rolling upright bass line and pulsating organ, the opening track “la decoracion 1” delivers in setting the theme. It’s an inviting and hypnotic start and you can imagine the credits rolling as the P.I. drives down rain slicked streets. “Perro,” the second track, can be seen as a recap of the crime, replete with its Psycho-esque violin stabs. Except where in that film the soundtrack was upfront and unrelenting, here they stand in the background, sparse and muted, making it even creepier.

There are many moments throughout the album that bring about an unease caused by only one unexpected guitar note or vocal. Rudow’s compositions and vocal delivery are similar to Michael Gira in his Angels Of Light project. He sings as though he’s telling you a secret in such an intimate and breathy way that you’re sure you don’t want to hear what he has to say. There are times however that this becomes grating because his voice is so upfront you can hear his mouth move. It’s as though the microphone was nearly in his mouth. This doesn’t become a problem until the midpoint of the album where it seems everything else falls apart as well.

By “Pistoleros” it sounds as though the band has grown bored and by now we’ve got ourselves a cold case. Opening with a minute of silence save for a few random violin scrapes, the song that follows lacks cohesion. It’s a jazzy number in a Mingus like vein but doesn’t hold up over its lengthy running time. “Wan Yo” starts strong enough with plaintive acoustic guitar but it doesn’t go on long enough, as though good or bad, the band feels tired. Things do pick up by the end but interest is lost at this point. There are also moments of random silences and noises that don’t make sense in the larger context of Dos Casas. “Yo voy a cambiar, eh!” which translates to “I am going to change” does live up to its name by providing the most pop oriented song of the album. But again, too little too late.

By keeping the vocals sparse and using mainly Spanish style instrumentation La Jr have a good thing going and are more than capable of creating a mood. Unfortunately it doesn’t succeed in extending the plot long enough to keep the listener involved. Acuarela Discs has a fine tradition of putting out quality albums of varying styles, this is just one minor setback in their catalog.