Michael Nau turns the Page to more
Cotton Jones is the new-ish project of Michael
Nau, who spun out several twee-pop statements as the brains behind
Page France until the group called it quits last year. The
Cumberland, Md. bandleader had quietly released a trio of EPs and
2008's full-length, The River Strumming, under his new moniker
(which was itself shortened from the Cotton Jones Basket Ride). However, Paranoid
Cocoon is the strongest indication yet that Nau is ready to forge
ahead with a unified new approach replete with more vintage instruments
and fewer overt religious references in the lyrics. Most of all,
Nau's most noticeable adjustment is his voice, which scraps the
previously favored fragility of his upper register in favor of a
deeper, raspier timbre.
PF alum Whitney McGraw softens his
newfound roughness with call-and-response moments and soaring
harmonies on the lounge-ready "Up A Tree (Went This Heart I
Have)." Together, Nau and McGraw revive the cowboy psychedelia
originally captured in songs like "Some Velvet Morning" by
Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra (and, more recently, She & Him).
Recurrent use of the words "velvet" and "morning"
in songs doesn't hurt either.
A moment that pushes the collection up
from good toward great is the whistled refrain of "By Morning
Light," which proves to be as memorable as any of Andrew Bird's,
if slightly less virtuosic. Only the instrumental "Photo Summerlove"
takes the record's lounge stylings too close to snoozefest territory.
Overall, Paranoid Cocoon's bedroom chamber pop spins with
variety and subtle dissonances aplenty. "I Am The Changer,"
replete with hypnotic organ and guitar patterns, closes out the
album. The song's engaging simplicity resembles And Then Nothing
Turned Itself Inside Out-era Yo La Tengo, perhaps the last band
this adept at trying on different musical styles and making them fit.
Listen to Cotton Jones' "Blood
Red Sentimental Blues" from Paranoid Cocoon: