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[Furious Hooves; 2012]

By ; August 24, 2012 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

At the time of the release of his debut full-length effort Noah Kittinger was 16. No matter how small a blurb written about this release, Vivid, this fact was amongst the first things mentioned. It almost seems a reductive approach to what Kittinger has put together, practically ignoring the fact that he’s put together a pretty impressive debut effort and focusing instead on a nonessential, if impressive, biographical detail.

In these tracks, age is no factor, aside from in the obvious nostalgia present in the lyrics, tone and, well, the song titles themselves. I suppose there’s really no more salient example of Kittinger’s backward gaze than on “Nostalgic Feel” itself, where he forms a Jack Tatum-esque approximation of ’80s dream pop around lyrics looking back on a past relationship. It’s a bit precious, it’s a bit clunky, but the mood he’s able to conjure is one forgiving to individual missteps.

It’s no surprise that Kittinger has at various times called Captured Tracks his dream label. Even aside from the aforementioned similarities to Jack Tatum’s Wild Nothing project, which remains throughout the record the most notable touchstone, you’ll find the hallmarks of the label’s uniquely jangly sound encased here. The lo-fi, beats-based bedroom pop of Heavenly Beat can be found in “Trees,” the sweeping darkness of DIIV in “Falling,” and the dreamy float of Beach Fossils throughout the entirety of the record. Like these acts, Kittinger is able to parlay a mostly homogenous musical tone into a record that breezes by. Even in his found sound samples (present on “CMPTR” and “▼”) he’s able to stick to floating through these tracks. Songs simply blend into the next, both on the album and in your memory. Though that’s often the biggest complaint leveled at your average dream pop album, it works here to Kittinger’s advantage.

There are just a few mild missteps marking the album that, if not for the homogeneity, might standout enough to derail the whole production. Some lyrical cheesiness on “Nostalgic Feel,” the generally cheap sounding instruments that sit at the top of the mix, and ultimately an underdeveloped sense of arrangement could easily be enough to deter any mention of this record on the internet. Still, it’s a testament to Kittinger’s style and finesse then that even in his infancy as a songwriter and with such limited equipment he’s been able to create a collection of songs so cohesive and complete.

What we have here is a well-constructed brick wall, but without any single standout brick. If you pull out even “▼,” a mostly ambient instrumental that might seem the least essential of the tracks, the whole might crumble. Each track is so essential to the breezy vibe of the album, that even “▼” and “Cmptr”–both reliant on found sound samples as the center of their songs–contribute to the seamlessness of the whole. You’re missing your remarkable standout track, but you can’t help but stand back and see that Kittinger has still constructed something memorable, at least on a debut’s standards.

It’s an album heavy on style, if a bit lacking in actual substance, but before you start to form any real negative opinions, you’ve reached the final chiming guitar lines of “Exiting (Outro).” What lies before is a record, though lacking in songwriting maturity, that holds a unique voice in an increasingly overcrowded genre. One might hear the name Bedroom and think of how accurately it describes Kittinger’s amateurish aesthetic, but at the intersection of youthful sloppiness and pure talent lies this debut full-length. It’s not a boundary-pushing record by any means, or even one that represents a fully formed project, but the promise hinted at in the overall construction of the record is enough to keep my gaze firmly transfixed upon Kittinger. He may not have changed the musical landscape in his first attempt, but the kid is 16, give him some time.


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