The Invisible Cities
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The Invisible Cities

San Francisco, California, United States | INDIE

San Francisco, California, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative Pop

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"The Invisible Cities - Watertown"

It's amazing how decent albums will fly under the radar for so long. Case in point, The Invisible Cities' Watertown. Released all the way back in 2004, I chose to skip over this album to continually write about music I thought I would either like or just flat out hate. It's much easier that way. I promise, this isn't a judge-a-book-by-its-cover speech buy damn, I really sucked out by letting this one sit on the shelf!

Remember back in the day - let's say early- to mid-90s - when DIY indie was diverse? Albums were being pressed by bands who had an amazing ability to shift gears song by song. The people in these bands were unlikely suspects, yet when you heard them play, you just stood aghast, wondering why the fuck you hadn't discovered this band earlier. The Invisible Cities is this band for me. While Watertown is neither ground breaking or more than a blip on the indie radar outside of the San Fran Bay area, the album will grow on you with each listen. And for me, generally, albums do not grow on me, they move away. I cannot listen to them continually. They get a couple listens and find their way to my shelf until, a few months later, I decide to try something from the past.

The Invisible Cities are as close to being a dream-pop as an part-time folky, part-time rockin indie band can be. Much of this is due to the band's lyrics. For instance, while the lyrics are easy to follow, they make sense, are situational, yet do not have that whole inside story thing that leaves you bewildered. Singer Sadie Contini sounds much like Liz Phair before Liz got a boobjob and started wearing lingerie to sell records. Yes, that Liz Phair, back when we all though Liz was an edgy girl making great music. Sadie's bandmates also play an important role in their sound, as the band, from the beginning of the album to end, is tight to a T. The band, at times, seems to be directly influenced by the Breeders and the Pixies.

Not a single song on the album is weak, which is very unusual; there's no filler here. Watertown starts off with "Synaptic Gap," a short, cold, spacey number, then transitions into "Instaglo," which immediately brings to mind Liz Phair and Letters to Cleo, thanks to Contini's spot-on vocals. The album then continues to alternate between fast and slow songs. Once "Shooting Star" comes up, I am surprised to hear male vocals. I am not sure which member of the band sings this song, but it does remind me of Elliott Smith and, to an extent, Wilco with its alt-country sound. The band gets a little edgy with "Double Fisted," a song about drinking whiskey, but sounds a bit funny with Contini's sweet voice. The title track is another one that has male vocals, with Contini coming in during the chorus. This is probably the best song of the album thanks to it's lyrics and male/female vocals. I also like "Take My Picture," as I hear influences of Buffalo Tom and even a little Posies.

Watertown, although two years old, needs to be heard. I feel a bit silly raving about this album because it did sit on my shelf for so long, but hey ... better late than never, right? The fact that this band effortlessly combines almost a whole decade into one album is outright amazing.

http://adequacy.net/review.php?reviewID=6309 - Delusions of Adequacy


Discography

Meet The Lampreys - EP, 2012
Houses Shine Like Teeth - LP, 2009
Watertown - LP, 2004
Regret (New Order) - version online

Photos

Bio

Their first album, Watertown, was released in 2004 and made it's way onto some cool best-of-the-year lists. In 2005, they got voted Best Indie Pop band by San Francisco Bay Guardian readers, and in 2006 they made it onto the SomaFM Indie Pop Rocks! sampler. They have played at several local festivals: NoisePop, Mission Creek, piNoisePop 8, and APAture in 2003, 2004, and 2008. They feel lucky to have had help from Matt Yelton (Pixies, Frank Black) when they started recording Watertown, and from Jon Evans (Tori Amos) for mixing it. Their 2nd album, Houses Shine Like Teeth, is due to be released in April 2009.

The Invisible Cities got started when Han Wang and Sadie Contini met on Craigslist and began listening to each other's tunes, adding tracks, and sending them back and forth to each other. They continue to collaborate, often remotely, with Han's brother Gary and drummer Tim Bulkley in NYC, who shape their sound considerably. The Invisible Cities play in different configurations, letting the musicians reshape the songs each performance. People who have played an important role include Gary Wang (NYC), Tim Bulkley (NYC), singer-songwriter Goh Nakamura (SF), Wil Hendricks of The Lofty Pillars, Nick Mirov and Dan Baber of Love is Chemicals, and Dan Lee of Scrabbel.

Watertown Reviews:

"despicably infectious." -- West Coast Performer

"Few bands these days can create melodies like these folks, and even fewer are fronted by a singer as blissfully-voiced as the Cities' Sadie Contini. I'm tempted to fit this under the "bliss" category at times, though Watertown's mix of styles calls for a less typical tag like "sometimes dreamy indie pop/rock. But who cares about classification when an album is this enjoyable? At times loud, at times quiet, these twelve songs take the listener on a fun trip through the band's unique brand of pop songwriting.... As far as self-released indie pop debuts go, this is about as good as it gets. Don't miss out." -- Indieville.com

"Tonight's top new tune was 'Instaglo' by The Invisible Cities, taken from their cracking debut album, 'Watertown.' It's a classic indiepop album, full of thrumming geetars and honeyed boygirl singing. It's also very varied and full-sounding for a debut, sounds to me more like a third album in terms of the breadth of songwriting." -- Bzangy Groink (Jyoti Mishra)

Watertown and Live Show Review:

"[Watertown] has been in non-stop rotation at work and at home for the last month or so. Like I said before, this band has a huge talent and tons of potential. The live show covered all the same emotional territory as the album, and I was glad to experience in person the unique moments of reckless joy, doubt, humor and quiet resignation that made Watertown so special. The absence of some of my favorite cuts was mitigated by a run-through of what seemed like a newish song, "A Squared Plus B Squared." It's about triangles, among other things, so awesomeness immediately followed. Anyway, reviews (even informal ones) make it nearly impossible to communicate the nature of the music, so I'll again fall back on the tired old mainstay of accessible-but-still-slightly-insiderist comparison. Ahem: The Invisible Cities sound roughly akin to a mixture of Exile in Guyville, Life's Too Good by the Sugarcubes, and Yo La Tengo's mid-nineties LP, Painful. If that doesn't explain it, I guess I'm not surprised because writing it certainly made no sense. Anyway – buy the CD and do your best not to completely adore it, I dare you." -- New Plastic Weblog