The Ants
Collette Carter
The Dismemberment Plan
The Frames
Ron Granger
Frankie Lee
The Lilac Time
Moth Wranglers
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Stars of the Lid
VA: Love From the Sun
Andrew Vincent and the Pirates
Denison Witmer

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of joy and sorrow
Denison Witmer
Of Joy and Sorrow
Burnt Toast Vinyl

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This is a sonically gorgeous collection of folk pop. It's produced in the style of California singer-songwriter records from the seventies, with tasteful instrumentation and spare but always distinct melodies. Listening to the songs inspires a certain peace within you, as if they're massaging your ears. It makes you feel good in a genuine, therapeutic sense.

Witmer's voice, which sounds a little like Jackson Browne's, is beautiful; I can't believe there's a cancer patient who'd prefer pot to the sweet sounds his band makes. This is my current soundtrack for when I'm in the kitchen washing lettuce, or when I sit on my futon and look outside. It's what I enjoy hearing when the news on television is too awful to turn the volume up, and I don't really want to think about life. That can, as we all know, amount to a lot of time these days. And so, as I thought about what to say about Of Joy and Sorrow, it came down to these few words: the disc is worth buying. You'll play the hell out of it.

This is not to say that Witmer is already a complete package. When a song induces a certain amount of reflection, as with "Stations" and "Simple Life", it's never the actual words inspiring it but the music of those words, the way in which the banalities come from his voice. Right now, Witmer plays an everyman. His songs paint in broad strokes, their feelings vaguely sketched or just plain awkward ("I will be your ears your secrets can confide"). They induce rhymes, but also a conscious desire to tune out that part of the song. I don't know why he returns to puppetry images ("I never meant to pull your strings so hard"; "Strings that I attach to things and drag around") that do nothing to titillate the imagination, but he does; this is the sort of lyrical conceit that Witmer would be well advised to abandon. Remember, though, that even the incomplete package he currently offers will make you feel very good inside. And this is only his second full-length...

Once more for effect: Of Joy and Sorrow is well worth buying. You'll play the hell out of it.

-- Theodore Defosse
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