'The Places' Autopilot flies itself into critical acclaim
By MAUREEN SMITHE
Scene Music Critic
With her hushed vocals and thoughtful lyrics, Amy Annelle, lead singer of The Places, shines on the band's first release, The Autopilot Knows You Best. In one of the best independent releases of last year, Annelle and her band serve up music reminiscent of no one else, but surely capable of influencing those who come after them.
In a style reflecting the lush landscape of their Portland, Ore. home, The Places plant seeds of thought in the listener's mind with this placidly beautiful collection of songs. The simplicity of the Northwest nature that surrounds them is apparent the first time through the album, but the many complexities the album tackles head on don't hide for long.
Most of the songs have the quality of a cool lullaby, capable of keeping you up at night pondering the many themes presented in the album's 11 tracks. You wouldn't want to go to bed when you could be listening to The Places.
The album opens on a strong note with "Own Your Own Home," in which Annelle urges the listener to "Hold out for more/ Something bigger than you or me/ Place where we can rest our weary heap of bones." From her first fragile note in this song through the end of the album, Annelle timidly exposes her many hopes and experiences.
The album's second track, "Lazy Days and Castaways," is one of the most inspiring pieces, not necessarily because of the lyrics ("Cast your shadow long halfway into his arms and you know you don't belong here"), but rather because of the utterly beautiful backup instruments, including a true accordion and a viola. The track proves the band's efficiency and intricacy at the same time.
On "Mission Impossible" the band successfully hooks the listener. Like the songs before and after it, it is a very strong piece, both lyrically and musically, and when compared to the more sterile lyrics found in today's mainstream bands, the lyrics on this track read like a piece of modern art. "A see through soaring lucid true girl writing stories on a floating blue world." Add in a catchy background beat, and it makes for a very addictive song.
The band ups the tempo a bit with "Mouth to Mouth," a song capable of becoming one of the album's big singles. The drums, guitar, bass and keyboard all join with Annelle's voice to create a solid song that is hard to get out of your head — but that doesn't matter because you don't want it to leave.
"Love Song for a Comet," "No Mystery" and "Will Try" share a similar airy quality, making it easy to get lost in the beauty of Annelle's voice and lyrics, only to realize she never leads you astray.
Samples from a 1950s era radio documentary run throughout the album, introducing an idyllic element of a forgotten past. It seems as though the band is contrasting the simplicity of that past with the complexities of the present. The sampling creates a powerful sense of cohesion that runs throughout the album.
The release is a beautiful tribute to what music should be, and Annelle's artful lyrics are what really bring the album into focus. The infinite wisdom found in every song makes Annelle the big sister everyone would want.
All Scene Stories for Tuesday, February 6, 2001