This One Makes a Sound
Pop Quiz: Quick, name the songwriting duo that got their start in the following towns: Liverpool, Deptford and Swindon in the UK, Annandale and New Paltz in New York. OK, pencils down. For those totally in the dark, here's the crib sheet: Lennon and McCartney, The Beatles; Difford and Tilbrook, Squeeze; Partridge and Moulding, XTC; Becker and Fagen, Steely Dan; Casper and Ryan, This One Makes a Sound. Yeah, you're right, the first one was a gift, and the next few were for the progressively more astute pop aficionado. That fifth one, though, was definitely bonus-round material. For now. If you didn't get all five, it won't be held against you, but stand ready to have your pop expertise expanded. The duo that came out of New Paltz, This One Makes a Sound, has produced a debut album with a style and craft to it that bodes well for their names to be worthy of that list. Now based in NYC, it is surprisingly mature for a debut, filled with intelligent songwriting and slick arrangements. TOMAS is the work of Christopher Casper and Chris Ryan, who met in college during the obligatory art school classes required for potential pop stardom. Both are multi-instrumentalists and composers; each lending to the other's work additional depth and texture. The record is a broad palette of emotions and perspective. Both Casper and Ryan have found a way to add fresh commentary to traditional themes like relationships (mostly the broken kind) and introspection. The record opens up with two such songs, the Casper-penned tunes 'There's Gotta Be More' and 'On Bits of Paper', the latter of which is a showcase for Ryan's guitar chops, licks Jeff Baxter would be proud of. Musicianship abounds on this record, in fact, and although it's unquestionably pop music, Casper and Ryan cut wide swathes through that definition. To me, the most satisfying music stimulates your head and your body. On the stunning 'I Lay Down', Ryan has written a song that is at once irresistibly danceable and darkly brooding. Casper's 'Tell Me Differently' achieves a similar feat in it's reggae tinges and lyrical sophistication. And try not to tap the steering wheel in time during '(There Won't Be A) Next Time Around' while Casper tells off a selfish lover in his own cutting style. Love and it's intricacies is only one facet of what TOMAS has to say, however. 'Platitudes' takes the whole market-driven pop industry to task with a groove catchy enough to be thrown up the very chart it scathes. You'd be hard pressed to find a more infectious song of introspection than 'Who I Am', in which even the aliens are still trying to figure it all out. At least you can dance while working on the big questions. 'Waiting On A Train' reminds us of one of TOMAS' influences; it would have found a home amongst any later work of the Beatles as it ruminates on the human condition and lost potential. There is a visual quality to many of the lyrics that will stay with you long after the record is over. On 'All Of This And You', Ryan speaks of trying to get over a relationship 'like the steeples in Brooklyn reach for the sky', an image made all the more poignant in the wake of the changes to Manhattan's skyline. The record closes with a gospel-inspired blues tune, 'All In Good Time', which muses on the idea that global peace and understanding are still a possibility; that someday there will be a song that everyone can sing, one with a 'melody that heals the world'. After listening to this record, it's a safe bet that you'll agree that This One Makes a Sound has served up a dozen good candidates for the title. It's just been released, so ask your favorite store to order it if you can't find it. It's worth the effort. -C.I. Tirone.