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Rotary Downs
Cracked Maps and Blue Reports - Rookery
FILTER Grade: 80%

By Marty Garner on March 25, 2010


Rotary Downs

At any given moment, James Marler can sound like a combination of Bill Callahan, Mason Jennings and Stephen Malkmus.  These disparate voices are indicative of Marler’s group, Rotary Downs, and its ability to stand between the borders of different worlds: indie and pop, mainstream and underground, trepidation and confidence.  On Cracked Maps and Blue Reports, the New Orleans group’s fifth release, Rotary Downs don’t bridge these worlds so much as stand above them, trying to decide where exactly to land. Rotary Downs make radio-ready indie rock that isn’t quite comfortable with that fact, lending Cracked Maps both its charm—Marler’s I-hate-to-tell-you delivery—and its downfalls—all those half-hearted “woo hoo hoo’s”.  They finally let go on “Ragna Rok,” with its noodly intro that mounts into a searing guitar anthem somehow worthy of both Built to Spill and No Age.  Marler’s lyrics, even when they don’t make linear sense (“Parking, cannons, copper spheres/engines roaring, lions, lions”) are wonderfully textured—they’re both intimate and powerful.  Its stuttered rhythms, though, mark Cracked Maps as perfectly New Orleanian: both high and low, in and out, joyous and mournful.

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