Present Tense
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Present Tense

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Automatic Happy
Present Tense
8 1/2 out of 10


I know no one has noticed, but the Los Angeles quintet Present Tense has been quietly releasing some of the best underground rock their respective scene has to offer. With the release of their third album, Automatic Happy, they've solidified themselves as a distinctive voice amidst a throng of screaming retro-punkers and carefully-styled New York rock chameleons.
Their previous release, Childish Things, a profound collection of progressive rock gems divided its listeners into either rapturous admiration or confusing appreciation. The complaints of the confused were not without merit. Lead singer and co-songwriter Amanda Rowse's lyrics were all but buried beneath the studio trickery and intricate arrangements.
Childish Things utilized her vocals as another instrument, painting a landscape with the music more than taking control and leading the accompaniment. One was left with a sense of atmosphere and nuance more than a tune left bouncing around in their head. Certainly, for a band attempting to woo a mainstream audience, this was not the release to do it.
Fortunately for their critics, Rowse and co-founder/bassist/programmer Thomas Stillwagon has heard their complaints.
Automatic Happy is an uncompromisingly pop album showcasing Rowse's soulful vocals and infectious melodies that manages not to betray their progressive-rock roots. An album in which both novice radio users and snobbish independent gurus can both take pride in having it on their iPods.
New guitarist Vincent Martinez (of Death & Taxes) shades the melodies with equal parts distorted foundation and scale noodling that allow Rowse's melody and lyric to transcend landscape and take charge of the arrangement.
His guitar work drives with careless abandon through songs like Connect, rescinds to the background in tracks like Homewrecker, and authoritatively demands attention in 13:45 and Let Me Be.
It's a good thing Automatic Happy allows Rowse the ability to deliver her words for she is a crafty lyricist, using everything from a narrative reminiscent of the subtle melancholy of Paul Simon's Duncan in Five Years Ago, "...the lonely Rosalee sat stoic at the counter of the corner station / her old schoolmates would come in filling up their SUVs and carrying their children..." to the bluntly emotional repetition of, "...I see you everywhere, I see you in the cold night air / I see you in everything, why won't you let me be..." that joins a perfectly placed string quartet sample for the seven minute Let Me Be.

It is not without faults, that is to say it is not exactly the second coming of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. There are a few dynamic queues that could've been hit a little harder to elevate the impact and a few songs are a little too short, but effective none-the-less. For all the retread, disposable offerings mainstream radio is offering, it's a shame this record will probably never receive the exposure it deserves.
That's the American music business for you. - by Josh Mauldin http://honestlisamusic.blogspot.com


Discography

2002 - Present Tense (full length)

2003 - Childish Things (full length)

2006 - Automatic Happy (full length)

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Bio

Present Tense formed in 2001, and emerged onto the Los Angeles music scene with their self titled debut album shortly thereafter.

Since then they have played numerous shows throughout the area including appearances at The Scene, Mr. T’s Bowl, and The Gig, and their albums have received growing media attention. “Eyes In the Back of Your Head" off of 2003’s Childish Things has recently been featured on the David Lynch Foundation’s 2006 David Lynch Birthday CD.

The band has recently released their latest album, Automatic Happy, featuring “Homewrecker" and "Connect" as heard on KXLU 88.9fm and Indie 104 fm. They can also be found as the Indie Artist of the Month of December on Spread Radio Live (hosted by Dave Navarro).