The Idaho Falls
Record Review by Daniel Brody
L.A.’s Idaho Falls illustrate neatly the conundrum at the heart of most alt-country bands: How do you replicate the country tales of heartbreak and rusticity you love when you live in a hip urban neighborhood and have a MySpace profile? The answer, according to Idaho Falls, seems to be to blur the line where indie rock ends and country begins, and to sing about the city things they know rather than pretending to have grown up on a farm in a holler. The band takes the homespun sounds of bands like the Shins and Built to Spill and dresses them up with a lavish amount of country elements like pedal steel, banjo, and "Ring of Fire"-style mariachi trumpets, and the result is a pretty and heartfelt album.
Even within the sound of country/indie rock, this album is all over the place. "Dead Horse" and "California Day" are bouncy and boozy saloon numbers. "Lipstick Eagle" takes its cue from sixties garage rock, while "Jasmine" is a breathy Patsy Cline torch song, and "Canyon Walls" feels like an outtake from those grandfathers of L.A. country-rock the Flying Burrito Brothers. "Concrete Prairie" is the centerpiece of the album; it starts out as stomping honky-tonk raveup, with lead singers Raymond Richards and Heather Goldberg singing in wispy voices about the freeways and smog of our fair city. Then in an abrupt shift, the song launches into a gorgeously reverberating love song that wouldn't sound out of place on a Yo La Tengo album. Then a pedal steel guitar that sounds more like a theremin launches in to send the song back into the Tennessee Two boom-chicka that starts the song off. The influences mix seamlessly, and are the audio equivalent of the tumbleweeds rolling through Los Angeles at the beginning of the "Big Lebowski": it's not natural, but if you spin a good enough yarn it doesn't matter.
In the end, alt-country seems less of a conundrum than what mainstream country has become with its macho jingoism and cornball sentimentality. Alan Jackson may look less ridiculous in a cowboy hat, but Idaho Falls sound less ridiculous playing country music. Concrete Prairie is a beautiful album that makes L.A. twang sound like the most natural sound in the world.
More by this writer:
Au Revoir Simone - Verses of Comfort, Assurance & Salvation
Jeremy Enigk - World Waits
Her Space Holiday - The Past Presents the Future
Field Music - Field Music