The Literary Greats: “Ocean, Meet The Valley”

I like how the beardy guy at the end just looks cold and angry.Album name: Ocean, Meet The Valley
Artist name: The Literary Greats
Genre: Country Rock
Released: October 2009
ZME Rating: 7/10

An intro: My inbox appears to have become some sort of primitive, text-based time machine. No less than two – TWO – separate e-mails have arrived recently, directing my bespectacled eyes towards albums that were released in the latter half of last year. Naturally, my hip-to-the-jive neophile tendencies led me to lazily scoff derisively; simultaneously, my quest to be the Laziest Man on Earth led me to lazily roll my eyes, lazily; until eventually, my music reviewing tendencies led me to download both of these albums, and quiver lazily with joy, for they are good albums. And look: my apathy now lies pathetically dashed against the puncturing crags of this unforeseen glut of fine musicianship.

Which leads me to the first of these albums: Ocean, Meet The Valley, by the Literary Greats. Allow me to quickly disparage their moniker, just to establish the proper atmosphere of levity and congenial humour. The Literary Greats: a band whose favourite writers are seemingly Jeff Tweedy and Frank Black. Band names, eh? Amirite?

Ah, that’s better.

If I were, while ambling down an unlit alley by night, to be asked by a burly masked man wielding a cudgel to describe The Literary Greats’ sound in two words, I’d probably say something like “spacious rock”, in between deep, heaving sobs of cowardice. The Texas band don’t write small – every song conjures up cavernous imagery. They do this both overtly (the opening track is called “That Mountain Yonder”. Incidentally, I appreciate any song that uses “yonder” in the title. It’s an underappreciated word. Anyway – ) and with more subtlety: the occasional moment where a bridge or a coda breaks the song wide open, like in “Dreadnought”.

They’re not without their potential mainstream appeal either, the young go-getters. The ostensible single – or at the very least, the track that the press release is pushing (and watch how I obey, timidly) – “Happens Every Time” reminds me of “This Too Shall Pass” crossed with a Kings of Leon guitar freakout. In other words, it’s the perfect song with which to drive Pitchfork writers into a cranium-creasing flurry of self-inflicted scissors-wounds. Hooray!
Literary Greats – Happens Every Time by CrashAvenue

But, alas, the band does run into a spot of bother with a late-album slump (seriously, the chorus of “Ocean Waves” features the lyric “I watch the ocean wave goodbye”. See how I insert these thumbtacks into your retina, guy) which is only alleviated by the introduction of some splendid harmonica in the unabashedly countrified closing track, “Hill Country Queen”. Also, they do struggle to find any genuinely memorable hooks – everything’s wonderfully listenable as you listen to it, but most of it disappears into the ether rather than shackling itself to your brain and prodding it insistently.

But! When it’s lovely, it really is quite lovely. The aforementioned “Dreadnought” is absolutely gorgeous, and besides that one grating chorus (the one moment where the Literarys Grate! What-ho!) there’s nothing remarkably untoward on display here. In fact, it’s rather a good album. Good show, chaps.

“Coyote Trax”list:

  1. That Mountain Yonder
  2. Show Me The Coast
  3. Happens Every Time
  4. The Black Bee
  5. Oh, Abilene
  6. Deadnought
  7. Emily’s Enemies
  8. Ruby Sapphire
  9. Ocean Waves
  10. Hill Country Queen

A NOTE: if republished elsewhere without due credit to ZME Music, do punch someone nearby in the throat.

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