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Opsvik & Jennings Commuter Anthems Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

Not something you should tire of easily, this might well ease a particularly rough...

Greg McLaren 2007

Opsvik and Jennings from Oslo and Oklahoma respectively now make music in NYC. Commuter Anthems (on Norwegian label Rune Gramofon) is a perfectly titled collection of aural snip snaps and melody. The boys have interrogated the commute, that journey from one life to another where you aren’t really anywhere, and dissected the soundtrack, replaced it with mimicked sounds: strings being car horns; lap-top pops and shudders reminiscent of transit. Opsvik’s bass, drums, organ and theramin, bustle and spar with Jennings’ guitars, lap steel and banjo. And along that journey where you might consider your life there is surging melody and half sung almost-thoughts.


The Norwegian jazz lineage is clear with echoes of Jaga Jazzist and Tape pinging around the corridors of these tunes, but it also sounds like the meeting of two different musical lives talking together over a long train ride. On ''Lorinda Sea'', a shift from stuttering trombone to tranquil lap steel keeps dialogue spinning out of the train and beyond into the countryside and up over cities. The good songs are plotted like mini thrillers and the record as a whole is populated with instrumental characters and motifs that show an impressive depth.


''The Last Country Village'' is music for sentimentalist robot children, while ''Ways'' suddenly plunges you into a depression era family drama played out by wind-up toys. There are plenty of surprises, the title track ''Commuter Anthems'' jerking through time signatures eventually collapses into a soft sofa, the one you dream of being in on the way to work. Its not all pleasant though, perhaps in an attempt at something a little more searching there is ''Scrounge Along'', but it comes off like a bad French take on Ill Communication-era Beastie Boys clamour and not as an interesting, different direction.


It all seems light and simple enough but placing the sounds and the instruments and thinking about what they are doing there is a brilliant game, and one that will reward repeat listening. Not something you should tire of easily, this might well ease a particularly rough route in one morning.

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