Harlan, The Still Beat LP

Amelia Raitt

By Amelia Raitt

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

John Harlan Norris brings a painter's perspective to his music, piling sometimes disparate layers upon one another to see what happens when they interact. And even if they sometimes don't immediately make sense (the synth line that drives “Computer Games Under the Sun,” for example), if you give it enough time the once-awkward element will eventually slot easily into a harmony that you never could've imagined (the aforementioned synth gets buoyed late in the same song by a sound-effects laden mini-climax). The Still Beat doesn't always sound so piece-meal. “Sons & Daughters” patiently showcases Norris'Brit-pop influences over a too-quick three minutes, while “Interviewer & Interviewee” is a straight-ahead rocker complete with squealing guitar solo. Painting in broad strokes throughout, Harlan's sound is hard to adequately categorize — is there a convenient term for folky Britpop that sounds a little bit like a low-rent Shins with some keyboard and vocoder thrown in every so often? — but when there's a surprise around every corner, it's pretty hard to complain about the embarrassment of riches on hand.