First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2007, Volume 14, #4
Written by John Metzger
On The Boulevard Back Then, the fifth track on Nathanís latest effort Key Principles, lead singer Keri Latimer imagines a future that looks an awful lot like the past. There may be no electricity, but "thereís music, talking walls, and next door neighbors, ceiling creaks, and radiators." The sounds that surround her voice oscillate between something that is charmingly old-fashioned and something that is decidedly post-modern, while the well-placed rattles of percussion that accent the song lend to it a psychedelic edge that is dark and surreal. Throughout the rest of the endeavor, too, Nathan juxtaposes past and present in a refreshingly seamless fashion. On Key Principles of Success, it colors its Dust Bowl reflections with the romantic atmospherics of a European cafť; it dabbles in the Bakersfield-bred country of Buck Owens on You Win; and the gently rolling banjo that underscores The Wind paints an aural depiction of open fields and farmland in a way that evokes a simpler time. As for the closely knit harmonies of Latimer and Shelley Marshall, they strive for and achieve an ethereal, otherworldly beauty that crosses effortlessly from the Andrews Sisters to the Indigo Girls, from the Carter Family to the Be Good Tanyas.
One of Nathanís biggest strengths is that it doesnít remain in one place for very long, and Key Principles works best whenever the band tucks styles within styles. Its kaleidoscopic vision allows the shifting textures of its music to alternate between revealing and concealing the phantoms that lurk in the shadows of its material. On John Paulís Deliveries, for example, the group tells the tale of a secret, late-night gathering of high school kids. Yet, the enchanting innocence of star-filled skies and campfires is shaded by the sinister presence of stolen cigarettes and spiked alcohol. Similarly, the groupís pop-oriented aspirations blossom fully during Daffodils, a tune in which a murder and its nagging psychological repercussions are bathed in the gleaming sunshine of a horn-dappled arrangement.
On paper, Nathanís lyrics might appear to be puzzlingly fragmented and strangely nondescript. When embraced by the ensembleís subtle but wide-reaching music, however, they assume greater meaning. Key Principles might not be a bonafide masterpiece, but it is a diamond in the rough, one which casts an alluring spell that will make a fan of anyone who takes the time to listen to and comprehend its beckoning call. Ĺ
Key Principles is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box