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The musical dynamo duo of Christina Bulbenko and Rex Broome (Big Stir Records) return with a second long-player under the guise of supergroup The Armoires. Their latest Zibaldone is a well-oiled good time machine of pop-psych thrills that is the effervescent soundtrack to a sunny day echoing through the atmosphere. It is the sound of sunshine and blue skies blasted through speakers, escapism from the abyss of life. This carefree smile of Zibaldone combines genres and eras, vaulting between harmonious textures that still sizzle after the needle has left the record.
This follow-up to the melancholic Incidental Lightshow (2016), is a more uplifting experience. It shows a band comfortable with the world in which they dwell, and sharing a newfound inspiration to spread a message of hope to society. For this, the label owners have enlisted the pounding backbone of Derek Hanna and Clifford Ulrich. As all these elements are in place, the Armoires manage to find a void between sixties-sparkle and eighties indie via some seventies’ subtext. In short, highly enjoyable and appealing to the ears of more than just the one musical form.
The record kicks off with “Appalachukrainia”, a jangling guitar driven, Byrds-esque modern rocker, power pop lifting the lid off what is an interesting album. With some classy blue grass fusion- “Pushing Forty” soars with a blissful urgency. The vocals of both blending perfectly with the sneer of Broome against the transcendent Bulbenko. “McCadden” is more minimalistic, stripped back with Christina’s daughter Larysa Bulbenko on viola. It is that sound which is the secret weapon of The Armoires, Larysa carves the solemn, string sound into each track, opening up another dimension to songs such as “McCadden”. The magnificent moan of the viola makes for a relaxed vehicle of expression for both vocalists.
The trick to The Armoires is their ability to surprise, just when you think you have them sussed they present another vault of prowess such as “The Romantic Dream Appears Before Us”. A dramatic, impressionistic piece as the name suggests, a standout of dual vocals, and that inspired viola against addictive guitar patterns. As the album rolls out, “Suddenly Succulents” sounds like Nico meets Americana in the New York atmosphere. Of course this is a beast of the west, holding the cosmic country traditions kicked off by Gram Parsons and The Grateful Dead. But, it swings easily through themes and genres- “Just Like Carl Crew Said” is B-52s experimental grooves flung into the modern age.
The album climaxes with the beautiful “When We Were In England (And You Were Dead)”, with haunting theremin infused into the sound, here the viola takes on a life of its own as the travelogue plays out. Records such as Zibaldone exist for the sole purpose of uplifting and fulfilling our need to break out of our existence through ethereal escapism. For this, The Armoires have nailed something polished and beautiful here. The effort the band has placed into the recording invites you to sit by the fire on a winter’s day, and soak up the warmth that radiates from the grooves of Zibaldone, that is what makes it such a worthwhile listen.
4.The Romantic Dream Appears Before Us
6.(How Did You Make) A Mistake Like Me?
8.Is Drama Sue Here?
10.Just Like Carl Crew Said
11.When We Were In England (And You Were Dead)
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