The Jigsaw Seen - Winterland
It was only last year that The Jigsaw Seen released "Bananas Foster" to critical fame, but the band is back with ten more swirling pop tunes for your perusal. While "Winterland" doesn't always touch your heart, when it does it does so with songs that will probably remain there.
In loose fashion,"Winterland" is a concept record about fall and the holiday season, though it the songs that directly address that theme that are the weakest of the set. The opener, "What About Christmas," just might make it into the December canon, but then again that is no compensation for its tepid jauntiness. Thankfully it is followed by "December," a gorgeous, understated instrumental. the Jigsaw Seen's strength lies in its quirky melodies and seemingly effortless poetry. Accordingly, the best songs are those like "Woman Loves The Season," an off-kilter, melodic no-wave pop, ala Ben Folds fronting Gang of Four, with a riff on the break that is brilliant and instantly memorable, or the Psychedelia meets Dumptruck on this laconic power pop of "Candy Cane."
"Snow Angels of Pigtown," "Circle Of Steel"and the over-wrought "First Day Of The New Year" try to salvage the holiday concept, but it rings more cute than true. Then again, for some that cutesiness is what attracts some to the band, so who knows how this will play out with the individual listener. Ironically, and effortlessly, "Christmas Behind Me" captures all the power and pathos of the holiday blues. The other song that reaches true genius is "Dreams Of Spring," whose majestic piano and strings create an epic pop masterpiece that takes all that failed in "First Day" and remakes them in a sincere emotional peak for the band.
"Winterland" is a curious record. On the one hand, the Jigsaw Seen tries to hard at times to shoehorn their concept into songs that deliver neither on the winter theme nor work as solid songs. On the other hand, the band's knack for melody, harmony and pop hooks leap out at you in song after song, providing too many sublime moments to hold their pretentions against them. In the end, they win again.
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