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Review: “If It Was A Smile”

Seasoned, Portland-based duo delights with indie-folk debut

Stephanie Blair | Editor-in-Chief

For fans of folk and indie rock, a must-hear album is coming your way — Joseph Demaree and the Great Smoking Mirror: a guitar- and cello-playing duo from Portland, Oregon, will release the band’s 10-track, debut album, “If It Were A Smile,” on Jan. 16, 2018.

The group is composed of frontman Joseph Demaree, who contributes vocals and guitar to the tracks, and Miranda Shapiro, who is featured on vocals and cello. The band describes their sound as “mellow and dreamy with an indie rock edge,” with influences spanning from Duke Ellington to Hank Williams, to The Velvet Underground, to Leonard Cohen named.

The album begins with dialogue that’s been faded and distorted with an effect that’s reminiscent of early 20th century radio broadcasts — this is a part of the story-driven element of the album, which reappears at the beginnings or ends of various tracks. After the initial bit of conversation comes the first song, which opens with the album title as its first line.

The album would pair with a melancholic montage in a Wes Anderson-esque indie film, or a rainy day of doing the dishes for non-cinematic persons. The tone of the album left this listener with an ache in her heart and the story, a longing for a resolution that would come in the final track: 10 minutes that left me only half-satisfied.

Those with a love for dynamic changes within an album will be disappointed. While the sound is pleasant, each track is extremely similar. Without the interwoven bits of theatrical dialogue between tracks, it could very easily be mistaken for one 46-minute long song. Every track on the album is a waltz, with most featuring the same drumline and extremely similar picking patterns on guitar.

The sound and story isn’t for everyone, but, if you would enjoy hearing a Johnny Cash/David Bowie/Ayreon collaboration album this is it.

 

Contact the author at journaleditor@wou.edu