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The all-inclusive, ever-changing, and uncomfortably flexible guide to all things music in the 2010's.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Catching Up With... Tim Cohen

Hey everyone, we’re starting yet another article for Check Your Mode, and this one’s called Catching Up With… where we review the past 2010’s albums that were missed by certain artists whose works were reviewed recently. For the first Catching Up With… we’re going to talk about the albums released in 2010 by San Francisco solo artist and frontman of The Fresh & Only’s, Tim Cohen. We’ll be reviewing his second solo album, Laugh Tracks, and The Fresh & Only’s 2010 album, Play It Strange. For the review of Tim Cohen’s excellent 2011 solo album, Tim Cohen’s Magic Trick, click here. Otherwise, let’s catch up!

Tim Cohen – Laugh Tracks

Released: June 8th 2010:

If there’s anything I’ve learned about listening to Tim Cohen’s music before Magic Trick, it’ that the man’s wry sense of humor is a very new development. On Laugh Tracks, Cohen plays a shyer character, allowing reverb to envelop his voice like many other singers of the lo-fi genre. Never fear, though, because there is a boisterous personality on Laugh Tracks, and it’s a trumpet. Its inclusion is unexpected and enlivens songs like “Deep Blue Sea” and “A Mind of Their Own”. Other than that, though, Cohen gets around on modest hooks that mostly land. “Send No Sign” is a complex track for Cohen’s standards that incorporates an ominous organ line that lays dormant in the verses and seethes in the choruses. Cohen dons a schmaltzy tone for closer, “Small Things Matter”, but Laugh Tracks by that point has made its mark, and it’s unfortunate that it’s not more pronounced. My suggestion would be to get “Send No Sign”, “Deep Blue Sea” and “A Mind of Their Own”. They are affecting tracks that were indications of the personality Cohen would hone in on later releases. B+

The Fresh & Onlys – Play It Strange

Released: October 12th 2010:

That is before Cohen’s personality regressed further into the background for the fifth Fresh & Onlys album. Now here, Cohen’s working with a group of other musicians, so his placement farther from the foreground makes sense. Regardless, Play It Strange is an improvement on Laugh Tracks, because the group focuses more on songwriting and makes more complete musical statements than even Magic Trick. Cohen’s records are always good for at least one impressive song and “Who Needs a Man” is it, featuring a rousing introduction into an Eastern guitar line that shows the group transcending their own style. The seven-minute “Tropical Island Suite” moves seamlessly through multiple musical movements, a welcome distance from the two-minute lo-fi crunch one would expect from a group like this. Although Cohen doesn’t come off with a single memorable line on Play It Strange, his diminished presence is somewhat regained through the songwriting talent of the rest of The Fresh & Onlys. With Cohen’s newfound wit, I can only imagine better things will come from the group in the future. B+


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