Tickley Feather – Hors d’Oeuvres

Tickley Feather – Hors d’Oeuvres

Tickley Feather – Hors d’Oeuvres

My first experience with Annie Sachs, the woman behind Tickley Feather, was at a 2007 Animal Collective concert. On that night, my girlfriend at the time and I stood at the front of the stage perplexedly watching Sachs’ interesting demeanor. She sung into her microphone these unintelligible phrases and dialed up the fuzz and reverb to the highest notch. And her drummer lazily delivered a rudimentary pattern that could have been equally recorded onto a drum machine. It was obvious she took to the lo-fi aesthetic many artists have bonded to but she took it to another extreme with purposely warbled singing and accompanying music.

Needless to say, there were a few people who nodded along, a few who walked out and a few, like yours truly, who simply stood there, trying to figure it all out. Don’t get me wrong, she looked cute dancing away on the stage with her fragile voice and meek timbre but there was something missing. Now, she’s released her second album, Hors d’Oeuvres, of music that follows on the same path that she started on more than two years ago. Sachs supplies to the method that you should be able to make weak melodies, cram them with droning feedback and lay muddled vocals on top and all should be good, no? Unfortunately, her new album will surely find the same results with her audience that the aforementioned concert experience showcased; only this time, people can’t necessarily walk out.

For some reason that escapes me, Paw Tracks’ page for the album depicts Hors d’Oeuvres as an album that “brilliantly captures Annie’s Southern Gothic meets Existential Hillbilly vibe.” Trust me when I say that there is nothing southern, gothic, existential or even hillbilly about Sachs’ sound. If she’s trying to recapture her roots with the swooning confusion of something like “Fly Like An Eagle” then she’s definitely lost her sense of direction.

Sachs lead single is the album’s opening slice, “Muscles.” While the frustration lies in her delivery, it’s enough to turn the song from a somewhat intriguing listen into an entirely dismissing experience. Back in the day, lo-fi recording was something necessary because of lack of funds but now, most artists are making the conscious decision to riddle their music with these unnecessary treatments. Naturally, it works for some artists but Sachs has a harder time finding the right balance. On “Don’t Call, Marylin,” Sachs fills the song with a pounding drum and an ever-changing bass line that almost recalls doo-wop but when the lyrics are incomprehensible it quickly turns into something altogether wasteful.

There happens to be a few optimistic moments on songs like “Club Rhythm 96 and Cell Phone” because it is during moments like these that Sachs fully invests in her creative force. The song’s exactly what the title suggests, a ringing cell phone melody in the background of club beats and for once, it provides a canvas for Sachs’ vocals to wash over you in a haze, rather than deter you from what’s going on. It’s one of the few saving moments on an album that seems to forget what an artist should always be striving for: growth and improvement.