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"Snowglobe @ SXSW 2008"

I grew up in Memphis, a city with a lot of musical past, but a somewhat shaky musical present. Aside from Jay Reatard's hepatitic punk scene, one's options for a weekend concert in the Bluff City are rather few and far between. But for the past decade or so, Snowglobe has been our rock band, dance band, jam band, and any other musical niche that needed to be filled on a given Friday.

Well this Friday, Brad Postlewaite and crew brought a taste of the mid-south to Austin, playing a set of vintage material from their first album, 2002's Our Land Brains, with a smattering of songs from 2006's Oxytocin and a few new numbers. It wasn't quite the musical-chairs extravaganza that the old HiTone shows used to be, but it was still a blast from Memphis' past.

-by Tyler Grisham
- Pitchfork Media

"The Memphis Pop-Rockers of Snowglobe Fly"

Led by the raffish, romance-obsessed principal songwriters Brad Postlethwaite and Tim Regan, mop-topped indie-pop band Snowglobe looks like it might be the next big thing from the bustling Memphis music scene. With the recent release of its impressive debut album, Our Land Brains - released by the Athens-based label Bardot Records - the shaggy foursome may actually beat the giants of the gently-fading Elephant 6 scene at their own game with its tender psychedelic sound, twisting melodies and ambitious instrumentation.

"We try to make good honest music," says the 22-year-old Regan, half-jokingly. "I am not sure how much it is like the Elephant 6 stuff. There's a very elaborate and diverse scene in Memphis right now. A bunch of really good bands who are all friends and play together and help each other out, doing very different styles of music. Film people and artists. Plus, there are a very enthusiastic bunch of kids who come out to all of these events and support and partake in this scene."

Not as confrontational as Apples In Stereo, as psychologically indulgent as Elf Power, or as stripped-down as The Gerbils, Snowglobe plays intelligently crafted, not-so-fast orchestral pop that compares favorably with much of the Collective (and the '60s and '70s bands that inspired it all). With songs sung in semi-tuneful whines and moans, and backed by a band that effectively combines youthful exuberance with gracefully-aging musical ideas, the band comes across like astute chroniclers of the vagaries of modern, dysfunctional love.

The lineup includes bassist Brandon Robertson and drummer Jeff Halite who anchor things on the new album while Postlethwaite and Regan make good use of extra organ, piano, horns and strings. Robertson and Postlethwaite lived briefly in Athens from 1998 to 2000 or so.

The band recorded the 16-song Our Land Brains at its home facility in midtown Memphis, recording some tracks at the University of Memphis music building and some in the music building of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. As Regan puts it, the final result was "better than we imagined."

"Brad and I decided that we would get serious about this music and put out an album," he says. "He and I have been collaborating for 10 years, throughout high school and numerous bands... We figured that I had a bunch of songs recorded, he had a bunch of songs recorded, and that we would just put them together, fix some stuff, and record one or two more then put it out. Six months later we re-recorded just about every thing, interludes and stuff, and then took it to be mastered at Ardent [studios] in Memphis... and wayah!"

Snowglobe has already developed a loyal following in its home state. The Memphis press revere Postlethwaite and Regan as extremely talented singer-songwriters, with one writer of the Memphis Flyer referring to the band's tunes as "miniature dreamworlds."

The band plans to lug a pile of gear into the club this week determined to win over the audience with whatever ammunition it can conjure. Check out the Fender Rhodes, the Vox organ, the box of incidental percussion stuff.

"We have played Athens before with The Gerbils at somebody's house," shrugs Regan. "I don't really feel too different about this show. We play as hard as we can every night. We are going to blow it up though. I don't know how much I should give away, but it might snow..."

Ballard Lesemann - Flagpole - Athens, GA

"Record Review - Oxytocin"

There is clearly something in all of us that longs for harmony, whether it’s expressed in the beauty of a mathematical proof, a perfectly phrased sentence, a pattern composed just so or, as in this case, songs that hum with a deeply buzzing force. Nothing about the name of the band or the CD or the cover of the CD will quite let you know what you’re in for, but maybe the photograph on the back does: a picture of Brad Postlethwaite as a kid, buried in those colorful plastic balls they have at Chuck E. Cheese. That is, it is bright and multifarious and wants to swallow you whole.

Elements of the Elephant 6 crowd - tons of different instruments, mostly - show up, but so do those of The Magnetic Fields (pitch, commitment to melody, the darkish tone of the lyrics), Imogen Heap (the barely separated harmonic vocals on “Hide and Seek”) and Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles (most evident on “Dry”). But none of it feels druggy or self-indulgent except in the way it makes you need to listen to it over and over again, creating a self-sufficient cocoon of sound. There is almost too much to delight the ears on some songs, like “Rainbow,” which causes addiction with its “da da da" chorus, and “Happy,” which piles on instruments and vocals in a hook that makes you want to do nothing but breathe it in.

It’s all very much like being hit with a ton of super gorgeous bricks in slow motion, which is the feeling I'm always looking for from music and which makes it one of the best things out so far this year.

Hillary Brown - Flagpole - Athens, GA

"Flagpole (Athens GA) favorite albums of 2006"


Best album title ever. Oxytocin is the hormone some gland shoots into your brain to make you feel happy and satisfied post-coitally (as well as at some other key times), promoting increase in trust and social bonding. The scientific advance that made it available aurally must have been under-publicized, but someone must have come up with that invention, as this album’s full of it. The lyrics often belie the feeling of the best hug ever that the harmonies promote, but we can ignore those and wrap ourselves up in the pure mathematical beauty of the sounds. - Flagpole - Athens, GA

"Blurb - Oxytocin"

"Postlethwaite possesses a good ear for fine detail and he knows when to add that little bit extra to the mix, like Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous."

by Michael Edwards - Exclaim! (Canada's Music Authority)

"Record Review - Oxytocin"

Snowglobe was at one point a normal, cohesive rock band. But it seems that on Oxytocin, the band's third album, it's become more of a collective helmed by Brad Postlethwaite-- there's a message in the artwork claiming that this is the first in a series on "solo-directed projects by the members of Snowglobe." The sound is still huge, layered like a Bryce Canyon cliff face. It's the kind of music that strokes the nerve that makes critics and P.R. people compare anything with a musical saw to Neutral Milk Hotel, and the comparison holds to a point. The instruments are densely piled on-- and yes, there is a saw-- but Postlethwaite's songwriting aims for something less impressionistic. There's more of a sense of communal music-making, rather than a feeling of being trapped in someone's free-associating head.

Big vocal harmonies figure prominently across the album, and I mean big. Postlethwaite and a couple of backup singers layer their voices into freakily homogenous choirs. It plays well into the overall aesthetic, and the melody is never lost in the complex arrangements and exceedingly dry production. The best vocal arrangement comes on "December Ghost", a pensive song built on a series of patterns that jump from one instrument to another, beginning on acoustic guitar and ending on the violin. The harmonies waft in and out, and at times the backing voices separate from one another to sing brief melodic phrases.

"At Times a Nightmare" is a slow, country-inflected song that suddenly lurches skyward after three minutes into a second movement-- it's far too substantial to think of as a coda-- and after the vocal portion there's a minute of flat-out wailing on analog synthesizers. It's the most cathartic song on an otherwise even-keeled album, and the lyric "Never wanted this to end/ Sunday morning it was back to the mourning/ It was back into the pain again" is among Postlethwaite's best.

Little instrumental interludes are sprinkled across the album, and rather surprisingly, they offer some of the most appealing moments. "Intro to Dry", um, introduces "Dry" with a bit of broken-backed trumpet, "Cellos" is a dramatic, charging instrumental that builds from a quiet cello ostinato to a roaring pile of instrumentals and then breaks back down to just a bass line in less than two minutes, and "Piano" is a brief stab of melancholy before the floating "Caroline", which is like the Radar Brothers with less stationary inertia.
Oxytocin is full of little surprises and details that reward repeat listens, but very few of the decorations seem merely tacked on. As full as it is, there are certain moments on the album where it oddly lacks atmosphere, perhaps a side effect of the saturated production. That's a small complaint, though, and Oxytocin is a resounding success that makes me wonder what else is on tap in this solo-directed Snowglobe series.

-Joe Tangari, August 31, 2006

- Pitchfork Media

"Record Review - Our Land Brains"

In July of 2002, Bardot Records had the collective balls to suggest that Snowglobe, a Memphis quartet no one outside of Tennessee had ever heard of, recently recorded the "pop album of the year." The suggestion ran as a banner ad atop the Pitchfork front page, and was disguised in question format (i.e. "Snowglobe: Pop album of the year?"). If you're at all like this reviewer, you probably reacted to this blatant hype-evangelism with a curt, cynical hipster retort-- something along the lines of "Pop Album of the Year? Try 'Poop Album of the Year.'" Then you and your friends all laughed together in a warm spirit of bitter, self-righteous erudition. Hipsters, however, are notorious for reacting before thinking, especially to suggestions that something is actually good. So if you were one of those doubting this wintery 'Globe, then prepare to be shamed.
On second thought, shame is too strong a word. That is, unless by doubting Snowglobe you also got caught masturbating (unlikely). Prepare instead to be lightly corrected; your bitter cynicism is about to be exposed as false. By who? By Snowglobe, of course. And by me, who is writing about this wonderful quartet. Our Land Brains may not be the pop album of the year, and Snowglobe is definitely not the bandname of the year, but this disc sure is a dandy.

Whenever a band starts an album with three near-perfect pop songs, it's usually a good thing (that is, unless it only gets worse from there on out, but we'll tackle that issue later). Our Land Brains opens with "Waves Rolling," a 60s throwback reminiscent of the Byrds and the Elephant 6 posse. Don't think Beatles, though; their influence is present, but Snowglobe draw from a wider pool of resources, most of which are American. The second number, "Beautiful," opens with a simple, playful five-chord piano progression. Other pianos dot in and out of the composition, some pounding lower bass notes, others scampering down scales at the upper registers. Percussion is composed of sleigh bells, tambourine, xylophone and kettle drums. Then comes the voice: ladies and gentlemen, please say hello to Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. I mean that in the least derogatory way possible; somehow, vocalist Brad Postlethwaite and his comrades in harmony manage to bottle up a candy-sweet Beach Boys melody, replete with letter-perfect vocal reproduction and reconstitute it here for your listening pleasure.

Postlethwaite shares songwriting and lead-vocal duties with Tim Regan, who gets his first chance to display his wares on "Dreamworks," the album's third actual song. Regan's voice tends more towards a Pete Townsend timbre, and his songwriting takes on a dramatic, serious mood. Prominent instrumentation on the track include a strong, uptempo minor-key bassline, a mournful piano vamp and horns, and a wah-wah'd guitar that's afforded its own 35 second solo. The lyrics are nicely poetic: "Slip away from all you've known/ Swim out in the distance/ Catch a ride on the furthest star/ Colors bleed into your eyes, as you shoot through the distant skies of heaven." The melody, ascending into the upper registers for the chorus, punctuates the emotion in the lyrics.

After "Dreamworks" is through, however, the disc begins a descent back into the land of the pop mortals. Most of the rest of the album is well above-average, like "Adrenaline Mother," which falls somewhere between the Moody Blues and "Norwegian Wood," and "Muse," a sing-along-with-Belle-and-Sebastian-style melody. But some tracks plain fall flat, like "Big City Lights," a seven-minute tune with a few too many nonsensical twists and turns, and "Playground," where Postlethwaite's nasal delivery is epitomized, and his sense of melody is effectively disguised as a sense of the boring and clichéW

"Pop Album of the Year?" It's possible. Would have been even more possible had it been shorter (there are 16 tracks on this sucka). Even if it's not, though, I wouldn't go so far as to call Bardot Records a brood of vipers. Their lies will have been white ones-- helpful ones, even, lies that led the deceived to some fricking sweet-ass music with a few superb songs and massive loads of promise. Bardot Records, you bastard liars, we thank you.

-Brad Haywood, August 05, 2002
- Pitchfork Media

"Record Review - Doing the Distance"

Befitting its band name, Snowglobe works in pop miniatures. The Memphis band puts on so many musical guises so adeptly, it ultimately wins over the jaded chamber rocker. Snowglobe does it with sheer scope, sprawling from psychedelic bass-clad walls of sound to—gasp—hot-to-overheating guitar solos. Welding tracks together with orchestral arrangements of blaring brass, electronic embellishments and baby grand, Snowglobe clearly knows how to crawl to the brink of dramatic storytelling. (There are tales of childbirth, drifting sailors and city life.) Still, the band is wise enough to edge away from the canyons of cliché (and when it does go into freefall, the group calls it like it sees it, as on the shambling, sloppy “Rock Song”). The magnificently affirmative, pedal-steel-laced “Baby” and jubilant, tambourine reverie “Master Of Forgotten Works” should have Stephin Merritt, Win Butler, Colin Meloy and A.C. Newman shaking in their snowshoes and checking their bags of songcraft tricks to see if Snowglobe is partaking in their saucerfuls of secrets.

—Kimberly Chun - Magnet Magazine

"Record Review - Doing the Distance"

It's refreshing when a band doesn't just wear its influences like a baggy set of hipster thrift store threads but actually tailors them for a stylish and personal fit. That's exactly how Memphis quintet Snowglobe integrates its impeccable love of psych pop, prog rock and jangly baroque pop into its own uniquely contemporary indie perspective. On its sophomore full length, Doing the Distance, Snowglobe effortlessly churns out guitar-keyboard- and horn-drenched art pop that suggests Ray Davies sitting in with Neutral Milk Hotel on a post modern tribute to '70s piano bench shakers such as Todd Rundgren, Harry Nilsson and John Simon. Like its name implies, Snowglobe creates a beautiful little encapsulated soundscape that is both obscured and made more picturesque by the stuff it shakes up off its musical floor.

By Brian Baker - Harp magazine


Our Land Brains - (2002) - debut record (#39 on CMJ 200) ("Dreamworks" and "Beautiful" got the most airplay)

Doing the Distance - (2004) - peaked in the 70's on CMJ top 200 ("Regime", "Changes" and "Miss June" got the most airplay)

Oxytocin - (2006) - #65 in CMJ 200, 9th most added ("Happy" was the most played track)



Memphis's Snowglobe plays an entrancing blend of cosmic American music that owes as much to pioneering psychedelic country/pop legends like the Byrds and Gram Parsons as it does to modern-day fellow travelers like the Flaming Lips. Having played together since high school, the members of snowglobe have a unique ability create complex songs with a rich pallet of sounds in a seemingly nonchalant way. The Memphis based band continues the long lasting tradition of playing honest music for the right reasons. Many comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel, and Elephant 6 recording company have been made to Snowglobe, and as natural as that comparison seems, it seems to be an easy way out, but Snowglobe has advanced far beyond this. Snowglobe sounds like Mercury Rev, the piano balladry of Tim Hardin, early 70s Beach Boys, and the Kinks. Snowglobe is a band that takes from past genres and pushes those influences as step or two forward. This is a very song oriented band. The noises and kitchen sink extremities arent thrown in nonchalantly, they are precise and subtle flourishes that add texture.