To paraphrase Ira Glass: artists with good taste go through a period in which their work isn’t as good as they want it to be. It’s full of potential, but missing a certain something. Austin Longbine, the man behind Left Aligned is a definitive example of what Glass is postulating. Longbine’s new release, Pulp, exhibits an artist on the verge of creating great music, but right now, is producing work that is a bit raw and blurry. He’s young, only a college sophomore, but with a deep well of creativity that is surely only just being tapped.
What sets Longbine’s Pulp apart from many other indie rock albums by young DIY artists is the ambitious nature of every song. Pulp is the work of an artist with a refined musical palate taking risks, and at times, achieving satisfying results. Take “Wake Up,” which aspires to be a Highly Refined Pirates B-side, or the very Sufjan Stevens–sounding “Friendship Fairy” for example. The latter is a heartfelt portrayal of its model, but lacking polish, while the former shows Longbine is on the cusp of achieving his desired sound.
And about the creativity, there’s plenty on display here. The titles of tracks seven through thirteen read like one long phrase: In the eyes of mountains, the future was yesterday, moving forward, through life, in phases, uptight, and loitering with knives. The titles, though, only scratch the surface. Many of the songs display Minus the Bear–styled tapping with off tempo vocal melodies, and no song follows the same song structure. The longest song “Song for a Friend’s love” has a minute-long instrumental passage at the start but carries like a lullaby for six minutes hooking this listener with the Breaking Bad reference: “Our chemistry was more pure than Heisenberg’s blue methamphetamine.” As mentioned, Longbine has good taste.
Perhaps most ambitious about this music is that it’s complex—each song reveals a new layer with every new listen—while still dipping deep enough into an aspect of the rock/jazz, pop, folk, math spectrum. The effect is novel despite its impurities.
Those who are tuned into the northern California’s underground music scene might liken Left Aligned to Zac Garren’s former project, Good Health, especially after hearing songs like “Through Life” and “In Phases,” which rely heavily vocal oohs and groovy guitar play. But, like Garren, Longbine’s reach exceeds his grasp in spots. When his talent matches his ambitions, though, look out.
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