Pale Young Gentlemen – Black Forest (Tra La La)

Science of Sound

If some nefarious individual tried to pass off Pale Young Gentlemen’s sophomore album as a new release by Andrew Bird it wouldn’t be a hard sell. Sure there’s considerably less whistling on Black Forest (Tra La La) than you’d find on Bird’s Armchair Apocrypha say and the album features more cello than violin but most of the other touchstones remain. The quirky arrangements the fascination with old-fashioned musical styles from jazz to classical the voice — Michael Reisnauer’s croon is a dead ringer for Bird’s. It’s almost eerie.

Of course resembling one of the most consistently entertaining figures in modern pop is no flaw and Pale Young Gentlemen do provide their own spin. “Coal/Ivory” kicks the album off on a driving note with a bass-drum pulse and urgent guitars while the piano-driven “Marvelous Design” contains traces of both Cole Porter and Rufus Wainwright. “We Will Meet” is as lovely a bit of chamber pop as you’re likely to hear this year. Actually the whole album feels like it’s emerged from some parallel universe where Victorian elegance never gave way to the casual carelessness of the 20th century. It is meticulously arranged and fastidiously performed — an album for those who wish an anachronistic world would replace the banality of modern rock.