The Armoires – Zibaldone
The second album by Psych/Pop band the Armoires, who feature the Big Stir label’s founders Christina Bulbenko and Rex Broome. This record was produced by Steven Wilson of Plasticsoul and has guest spots from many Big Stir alumni….LTW’s Ian Canty feels the warmth and good-time vibes that come complete with some ace tunes…….
The Armoires are a new band to me, but one I’m very pleased to make an acquaintance with. Formed by Christina Bulbenko and Rex Broome, the twin driving forces of the Big Stir label, they also feature a rhythm section of Derek Hanna and Clifford Ulrich (also an artist in his own right), with Christina’s daughter Larysa Bulbenko completing the line up on viola. Fitting band activity into the overall hive of industry that is Big Stir itself, the Armoires mix up a wide range of influences into something that is stamped through with their own unique identity. They are also possibly the first band I can recall who are influenced in equal measure by X and Fleetwood Mac.
The concoction that they serve up is a bewitching brew of harmonic Psych Pop that is as pleasing as it is infectious. Opening song Appalachukrainia (certainly testing my eyesight and spelling from the get-go!) namechecks the Jazz Butcher in Northampton among many other references during the heady whirl of images that makes up a song that is instrumentally bolstered by a cool organ line and lively rhythm section. With some lovely Folk Pop style jangle, this beaut is simultaneously mysterious and engaging, with a steady relentlessness somewhat akin to Ronnie Lane’s The Poacher. Next comes the cool beat drive of Pushing Forty, a great snappy single about aging (dis)gracefully which neatly skews My Generation with the line “I hope I live before I get old”.
Track three McCadden pushes along in a busy Country Rock fashion with some great harmony singing and The Romantic Dream Appears Before Us is a more moody treat, kind of like the Byrds in a full-blown 12 string guitar Pop Psych mode, if they had joint male/female vocals that is. Woozy accordion and strings announce the slower and more instrumentally sparse Suddenly Succulents, Christina takes the main vocal here and what results is a gorgeous sad ballad. (How Did You Make) A Mistake Like Me, in contrast, is more a tough R&B based stomper, another natural single that is totally charming and catchy too.
Rex takes the lead on the chilled Americana Rock of Satellite Business and on Is Drama Sue Here? we are taken for a thumping New Wave Pop ride with a real kick, which also showcases those golden harmonies again. With Alesandra 619 we’re back to something more reflective, the viola here is great and the guitars shimmer sweetly, this is a lovely example of modern Psychedelia with a firm Pop/Rock base. Slightly Surf Rock influences nudge into the beaty Just Like Carl Crews Said, again Christina delivers a great vocal.
Zibaldone finishes with the UK travelogue of When We Were In England (And You Were Dead), this song features Matthew Seligman of the Soft Boys (and also let us not forget Kevin Armstrong’s Local Heroes SW9 too). Yes, “band on the road” songs can be tiresome, but the Armoires throw their usual bucket-load of charm and concise musicianship in on this slower, “scarves in the air, end of gig” song, which makes for a fitting closer.
One of the main things I got from this album (apart from some thoroughly addictive and beguiling tunes) was a lovely feeling of warmth that flows through the album. From the cartoon sleeve in, there’s great heart and accessibility to all that they do, which really pulls one in. Which would be nothing without good lyrics and melodies, but they’ve got plenty of those too. This is a fine recording full of energy, humour and life, something that lifted my spirits at least on a bad day.
Songs that reflect the bitter experiences of life, but are never cowed by them, always ebullient, never beaten. It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many time you get back up as the old saying goes and Zibaldone in one’s earholes should help put a spring back in the step in even the most dour of rainy autumnal days. The sound of everlasting summer.
The Armoires are on Facebook here
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here