The indie-rock superpower Pavement was not especially known for asking poignant questions, but the 1997 single "Stereo" contained one such query: "What about the voice of Geddy Lee / How did it get so high? / I wonder if he talks like an ordinary guy." One could ask the same question of Jumbling Towers singer and keyboardist Joe DeBoer, whose voice is not so much high as it is manicured and overwrought. In his songs, nearly every syllable is given some kind of emphasis, either with a lilting vocal glissando or a spittle-flecked snarl; they're not so much sung as they are delivered. First-time listeners face an immediate choice: Accept DeBoer's manic, convulsive singing style in all of its performative glory, or write the band off as overly preening and pretentious. Pick the first choice, music lovers, and enjoy some of the most tightly constructed, convincingly performed indie rock in town.
For the Classy Entertainment EP (available as a free download on www.jumblingtowers.com), the band amplifies the best traits from its self-titled debut and does away with the slower bits. The keyboard is still the focus on these songs, though DeBoer has moved away from relying solely on the Rhodes electric piano and incorporates acoustic piano to drive "Sal" and analog synth stabs to punctuate the EP's title track. Kyle McConaghy's guitar moves around more on Classy Entertainment, particularly in the demented surf-tones he emits in "Fortune." J. Christopher Hughes' production gives these six songs room to breathe while providing a crucial element of restraint. An almost industrial-sounding layer of ambient noise hovers above "Apartments," giving the song a palpable sense of doom while suggesting an Eno-esque amorphousness.
At six tracks and seventeen minutes, it's hard to think of this as a stand-alone release; it feels more like a collection of new songs being tested for a forthcoming album. And as such, it succeeds in illustrating Jumbling Towers' still-evolving sound and reminding listeners that there is still good reason to be excited about this band.— Christian Schaeffer
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