San Diego’s Pinback, is the primary musical vehicle for multi-instrumentalists Armistead Burwell Smith IV and Rob Crow, who both also contribute to numerous other popular indie bands. One of Pinback’s signature (and effective) structural devices in their songwriting is the use of competing, layered vocals. Frequently, the different sets of lyrics are simply piled directly on top of one another. At least one of the lines is usually sung in a warm, calming voice like a harmony set to alternate lyrics. If this sounds overwhelming, it isn’t: the songs rarely feel claustrophobic or frantic. However, it can make one of the sets of lyrics difficult to decipher but, nonetheless, the songs feel tightly structured, cerebral, and intriguing. Their album, Summer in Abaddon, is a classic example of this device as it appears on more songs that it does not. The result is that it is a great album for stimulating conversation at a relatively laid-back party or get together, such as the breakfast potluck we had at our house. Since Wikipedia notes that “[i]t is or was common for a crowd of extras in acting to shout the word ‘rhubarb’ repeatedly and in an unsynchronized manner, to cause the effect of general hubbub,” the rhubarb coffee cake that Kasey prepared for our recent breakfast (brunch) potluck is an excellent pairing for Pinback’s Summer in Abaddon. If you’re thinking of hosting a breakfast potluck, you might want to also consider mixing things up with a little Jay Z, Ella Fitzgerald and recently-paired Grizzly Bear, like we did.
Summer in Abaddon is a generally laid back album consisting of dense, pretty songs that reward repeated listens. And although the album is generally laid-back, Pinback does demonstrate an intensity that appears on some of their other side projects on the excellent tracks “Fortress” and “AFK.” Other highlights on Summer in Abaddon include “Non Photo-Blue,” “Sender,” and “The Yellow Ones.” If you are already a Pinback fan, you may also be included in the alternate versions of the tracks “Offline PK” and “Penelope” (both of which originally appeared on the album Blue Screen Life) from a limited edition Tour E.P. from 2002.
Head back to the eating/sf home to read more about what went down at our breakfast potluck, get the recipe for rhubarb coffee cake, and find links to other brunch/breakfast party goodies.