By: Eric Greenwood
It would be easy not to notice this album if you dropped in at a party, and it just happened to be playing in the background. The music is so laid back and innocuous that it just hangs pleasantly in the air. You probably wouldn't know why you were tapping your feet, but each song has a secretly magnetic pull. You may even wake up the next morning humming one or two of the tunes, unable to remember where you'd heard it before.
Blanket Music dabbles in lounge, jazz, bossa nova, and retro guitar pop with sweet male/female harmonies. The music does not engage you directly, but if you engage it, you'll find yourself charmed by the breezy hooks and smooth flows. Vocalist Chad Crouch receives his share of comparisons to Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch, which is justifiable to a degree, as they both possess a hint of the ghost of Nick Drake, but I think Crouch sounds more like an infinitely less neurotic Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes. And maybe a hint of David Byrne.
With the obligatory vocal comparisons out of the way, I can concentrate on Crouch's golden goose: his lyrical ability. "Hips" may sound like the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon spent lounging by the pool, but if you listen closely, you'll hear a passive-aggressive diatribe against music critics. It's pretty ballsy to say, "Hey, you're a condescending prick, will you review my album?" But when you couch your cynicism in a hook as infectious as "shut up and sway your hips" it's hard to take offense.
"Tap The Beat" is equally as intoxicating, both lyrically and musically. A subtle bass groove with a Jamaican flair underscores Crouch's harmony with one of his female back up singers. It's a strangely quaint love song, pondering the scenario of what two lovers would do to help one another if they were to lose their limbs: "And if I lost my arms/and if I lost my legs/I would put you on my back/and I would grab things off the shelf for you." The vocals are delivered in such a breathy, carefree way that it almost negates the altruistic sentiment, but they fit the lovely sway of the song perfectly.
Blanket Music couldn't be a better name for this band, musically, but the lyrics will take a bite if you aren't careful. Crouch aims his vigilant pen at "hot designers fresh outta school" who "gotta hustle to be cool." He hits the yuppie nail on the tech-savvy head with these lines: "he's going out to drinks with them/and he's in a fix for sure/turtlenecks tossed on the floor…that black, zippy jacket, it was cool but now it's wack/he's talking to the mirror, he says 'I think white is the new black.'"
On "Walk The Dog" Crouch rambles off a list of mundane chores while one of the female back up singers intones "Tick…Tick-tock." The drums shuffle repetitively as an acoustic guitar plucks a maudlin melody. Crouch's sincerity is hard to dismiss. Some would call such an outlook disturbingly cynical, but you get the sense that Crouch takes pleasure in what others tend to ignore. He even goes so far as to call "to-do lists" a form of "inadvertent poetry." "Cityscape" is the biggest burst of energy on the album, and it is also Crouch's best moment vocally. The unexpected bend of notes as he sings "Elevator up/elevator down" is luminous.
Not many bands could make spelling out the word "Karaoke" so melodious, but Blanket Music pulls it off with gusto and a sense of humor. This album is full of tiny triumphs like that. Blanket Music creates smart, danceable music that feels like a summer breeze and nods respectfully to the genres that clearly inspired it. Move is a thoroughly engrossing album, if you take the time to see what makes it tick. You may have even heard something off it and didn't even know it. So, pay attention next time you're tapping your feet at a party and don't know why.