Reviewed by Darcie Stevens, Fri., Aug. 6, 2004
Pleasant GroveThe Art of Leaving (Badman)
Pleasant Grove. The name itself insinuates breezes and silence, subdued color and broken horizons, the atmosphere in which this Dallas fourpiece excels. The Art of Leaving is at the same time beautiful and absentminded, accidental and dreamy, sneaking out the back door without anyone noticing. While Art is awe-inspiring at times and at least impressive at others, it sneaks under the radar with emotion and grace. Art is an introverted loner begging to party with the big kids but not gaining the courage to get up and invite himself to come along. The tracks are unmistakably true to life. The music is comforting and relaxing but without escape or fantasy. Marcus Striplin's and Bret Egner's vocals work well in harmony, and the waves of organ and reverb bounce off each other creating walls of soft, subtle sound. Opener "Elaborate Son" stands alone as the pop hit of the album, bouncing Jeff Ryan's snare off Tony Hormillosa's reverby picking, but the upbeat and fast-paced songwriting isn't Pleasant Grove's strong suit. Striplin's Beck-like vox lends breathiness to ambients and standouts "Impossible" and "The Plaque at 16ft," while lullabies "Cone Equation" and closer "Commander Whatever" succeed in melody but fail in redundancy. When the turntable stops, emptiness abounds. Whether that feeling is a result of the music itself or just the lack of sound in the room is the question.