Homespun: Sean Renner

The Blossoms of Armageddon
(The UrbanSound Label)

From the first few moments of Sean Renner's latest full-length, the specter of Radiohead's Thom Yorke waits in the wings. Opening track "Rite of Passage" settles, however uneasily, into a miasma of spartan keyboard chords and metronomic beats – and like St. Thom, Renner nails the intimate but detached vocal style that is both intriguing and disquieting. Of course, these days it's nearly impossible to find an indie outfit not inspired by the avant-rock superpower, and Renner cherrypicks a few of the band's key traits. In particular, the creative stutter-step rhythm tracks and airy electric piano strains meld nicely with his singer-songwriter sensibilities. Icy, intricate production helps these simple guy-with-guitar tunes flourish.

Renner wrote and recorded The Blossoms of Armageddon during a stay in London, but aside from the superfluous "u" in the title of "Seven Colours," there is little to suggest any overt Britishisms (aforementioned Radiohead fixation aside). Instead, Blossoms sounds like it gestated in the warm caul of a bedroom, with alternating lush and minimal textures supporting Renner's breathy vocals. "Stay Back!" echoes the Rhodes-and-drum-machine formula of the Album Leaf's finest moments, though the song takes a left turn into more aggressive territory near the end. The Arctic beats continue on the slinky "Golgotha," which edges toward trip-hop with industrial clangs and double-tracked vocals. Blossoms' best bits reveal a songwriter interested in (and capable of) deconstructing the strictures of a rock song without going too far off the deep end. At times, though, the landscape can feel a bit bleak – befitting, I suppose, an album with "Armageddon" in its title.

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