Townies    Reviews

The Apologetic Sound

Artwork for The Apologetic Sound

*  CMJ New Music Report (December 18, 1995)
*  CMJ New Music Monthly (February 1996)
*  Magnet (February/March 1996)
*  The Washington Post (March 29, 1996)
*  Puncture (Number 35, Spring 1996)
*  Oculus Magazine (June 1996)
*  Insight Magazine (Number 16, Fall 1996)
*  You Could Do Worse (Issue 7, Winter/Spring 1997)

*  CMJ New Music Report (December 18, 1995)

Review by Steve Savoca

     From the self-alienating moniker to the title of its second long-player, the spirit (anti-spirit?) of Townies is rooted in its vulnerable self-image, which is understandable when you consider its wistful dream-a-delia, emerging from the harDCore capitol of the East. A collection of fragile sketches, The Apologetic Sound is a soothing bedside beverage on a solitary morning: warm, and uplifting, but light and meditative. Drink references aside, the obvious points of reference are Codeine and Galaxie 500, though Townies employ a more colorful musical palette than the former and surmount the rhythmic limitations of the latter. What will earn Townies a spot in your stacks, though, is the unassuming manner in which they create a cozy musical environment, which is intentionally -- and effectively -- minimal, allowing the tracks here plenty of breathing room. The band's competent playing is disciplined enough to resist fits of masturbation, yet provides plenty of intensity that relies on dynamics, rather than on pedals and studio gadgetry -- Townies use distortion as a texture rather than as an instrument. And for all his modesty, guitarist/vocalist Michael Kentoff's swallowed murmur does not cloak his thoughtful words, which ebb and flow in a stream of tremolo-saturated guitar and delicate drum strokes. Apology accepted: "Sonny Sixkiller," a hazy, spiraling waltz; the John Lennon-inspired "You Let Me Believe," anxious and plummeting; and "Halfway House," shadowy and cathartic.

© 1995 College Media Inc.


*  CMJ New Music Monthly (February 1996)

Review by Jenny Eliscu

     Townies are not a band to get excited about. They will not make you jump out of your chair or make your pulse race. Au contraire; Townies are like pennies on your eyelids, or a stiff dose of lithium. The Apologetic Sound, the second long-player by this Washington, DC trio, is so dreamy that you should definitely avoid listening to it while operating heavy machinery. These songs are beautiful because they lull you into an overwhelming state of calm; Townies' delivery is tender and soothing while communicating a sadness that hangs like a dark cloud. Dulcet guitar lines, supported by simple, even percussion, float through the songs like rings of smoke that never lose their shape. Michael Kentoff's twangy voice is really laid back; though his inflection isn't all that varied, his phrasing certainly is, and his style is surprisingly emotive. Maybe it's because the band operates in low gear so often that every bit of umph feels like an emotional deluge. The lyrics are damn depressing, and Kentoff's tone of resignation is slightly unsettling, but it's all part of the formula, and it comes together quite nicely.

© 1996 College Media Inc.


*  Magnet (February/March 1996)

Review by Matt Hickey

     Washington, D.C.'s Townies come from the Codeine/Galaxie 500 school of slowcore, meaning they were taught early on to keep tempos at a melancholy crawl while piling on the dreamy jangle and sleepy strumming. Toss in the requisite self-reflection ("Every Turn of My Heart" and "Is It Because of My Voice?"), and Townies have graduated, albeit somewhere in the middle of their class. Call it alternative mood music. While the LP is certainly listenable and, of course, nothing to apologize for, it's quite inert in spots. The Apologetic Sound does rise above its limitations on occasion: "Halfway House" ("I always remember you as a brat/That's what attracted me") is cool and laid-back, and the building repetition of "Sonny Sixkiller" -- bonus points for naming a song after a Native American quarterback -- is borderline hypnotic. Even the awkward balladry of "Reverse Psychology" is charming. Just don't put on The Apologetic Sound before operating heavy machinery.

© 1996 PRG Communications Inc.


*  The Washington Post (March 29, 1996)

Review by Mark Jenkins

     Washington's entry in the how-slow-can-you-go sweepstakes, Townies make frequently jazzy, mostly quiet music. Like the work of Codeine or Low, however, the alt-rock torch songs on The Apologetic Sound are hushed but not gentle. Indeed, singer Michael Kentoff's guitar occasionally erupts: Passages of "Halfway House" and "Every Turn of My Heart" achieve a ferocity that belies their piano-bar ambience.

     Ragged guitar isn't the only thing that sets these melancholy ballads apart. The trio's lyrics, which successfully muster words like "counterintuitive," owe more to free verse than to assembly-line pop sentiments, and their mood verges on the haunted. With the help of producer Geoff Turner, Townies have given songs like the fleeting "Is It Because of My Voice?" a richly evocative sound.

© 1996 The Washington Post Co.


*  Puncture (Number 35, Spring 1996)

Review by Phil Pegg

     This DC trio exploit the same stripped-down, sluggish guitar-bass-drums approach that Seam, Codeine, and Galaxie 500 have effectively made into a self-substantiating genre. But Townies enlarge it in two ways: they imbue it with an unerring pop sensibility (they actually have influences that extend back beyond the last decade); and they've added an almost comically simpering attitude to the breathy, whispered vocals that stand out as a virtual narco-strum cliché. (Guitarist and singer Michael Kentoff's artless, nasal, barely audible singing is even stylized enough for the band to joke about it, calling their album The Apologetic Sound and one of the songs "Is It Because of My Voice?") To accommodate these departures from the norm, Townies, rather than performing the existentially fraught lullabies that characterize a band like Codeine, play an off-kilter variety of romantic ballad.

     "You Let Me Believe" shows the band at their most cheerful; it's a relatively upbeat rocker that, due to the broken-merry-go-round rhythm at its heart, manages to sound like it's just about to run down; the tremulous waves of effects-heavy guitar and Kentoff's (relatively) aggressive vocals serve only to postpone the inevitable tapering-off. The song's final sleepy strains perfectly capture the band's ability to project simultaneous images of ironic amusement and fragility. "Every Turn of My Heart," on the other hand, with its somnolent pacing, waltzing stagger, and eyelets of near-silence, is truer to form. Kentoff delivers up the mundane observations, filling his lyrics with a mix of nerdy vulnerability and jazzy insouciance. In "Turn," the closing rave-up of circular, overamped guitar highlights the seductiveness of this ensemble's retiring simplicity.

© 1996 Puncture Magazine


*  Oculus Magazine (June 1996)

Review by Robert Francos

     With a mellow, quiet sound, these post-popsters are reminiscent of the Cowboy Junkies or Julee Cruise in tone and energy level. Michael Kentoff's voice is not as smooth as the rest of the music, but his occasionally creaky vocals work because of the contrast. The songs flow and lull, more than rattle and shake. Cool stuff, but fave cut is "Is It Because of My Voice?"

© 1996 Oculus Magazine


*  Insight Magazine (Number 16, Fall 1996)

Review by Marcel Feldmar

     Starts off with a slightly upbeat Codeine sound and Sonic Youth soundtrack noise. Mellow and together, Townies have got that young innocent angstful slightly off-key voice down. There's a little psychedelia floating around in the rafters sometimes, and a strong red velvet smoothness that comes out in the stoned slow slight jazz drums. You never get over that Codeine feeling, but it does get mixed in with some twists. Blue moods and soft water and sonic flirts.

© 1996 Insight Magazine


*  You Could Do Worse (Issue 7, Winter/Spring 1997)

Review by Ad B.

     [Townies'] debut record in 1994, The Red Carpet Parlay of the Decade, was clean and clear, slow-to-mid tempo, a little jangly, small sounding, mildly tuneful and very introspective. These eight new songs differ in that the band never gets up to speed, makes use of much larger and louder dynamic changes, and the songs require a lot more listening to take shape in your head. A little too down and dirgy for me, but those who liked the last record might want to give this a try.

© 1996 You Could Do Worse


Reviews for The Red Carpet Parlay of the Decade
Reviews for Pluperfect/The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

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