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Self Help Serenade
     

Self Help Serenade

by Marjorie Fair
 

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With their flowery name -- it's a variety of rose -- one might expect Marjorie Fair's sound to be a pastiche of '60s psychedelia along the lines of the Left Banke or the Zombies. The lush harmonies found on the group's debut definitely recall Side 2 of Abbey Road, and a melotron

Overview

With their flowery name -- it's a variety of rose -- one might expect Marjorie Fair's sound to be a pastiche of '60s psychedelia along the lines of the Left Banke or the Zombies. The lush harmonies found on the group's debut definitely recall Side 2 of Abbey Road, and a melotron does makes an appearance, but the main influences seem to be Radiohead and Jeff Buckley. The brainchild of multitalented Evan Slamka, Marjorie Fair meticulously craft gorgeous epics with guitars that alternately sparkle, jangle, and soar. Self Help Serenade sounds like a million bucks, which is not surprising, as nearly every major L.A. session musician plays on it, from relative newcomers Jon Brion and Joey Waronaker to legendary keyboard players Kim Bullard and Billy Preston. Slamka's songwriting may not yet be up to the quality of the production and musicianship, but the album contains three flat-out great numbers: "Stare," boasting the kind of swaying chorus that disposable lighters were made for; "Halfway House," whose harmonies are as pretty as its guitar solo is smolderingly intense; and the near-perfect single "Waves." If the rest of Self Help Serenade settles for being merely very good, it's a compromise that is worth hearing.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Johnny Loftus
Self Help Serenade hit the U.K. in spring 2004, so it's been released domestically on a plush critical pillow, with bulbous sticker quotes bursting with words like "genius" and "classic." That's overstating it a little bit. Evan Slamka, the brains behind the band Marjorie Fair, has definitely written a pleasant collection of songs. They reflect the dusky light of his L.A. home, and his dream girl's figure is forever silhouetted against the sunset. But Serenade can't be marked a "classic" just because it taps classic pop elements (like the Beach Boys, for one; its album art even suggests Endless Summer), or because its contributors include crack session players Jim Keltner, Joey Waronker, and Kim Bullard, the piano and B3 of Billy Preston on the gentle "Hold on to You," and the work of Jon Brion, who's credited with "various custom sounds." No, Marjorie Fair's debut is just a pretty thing falling somewhere between singer/songwriter indulgence and clever chamber pop. "Empty Room" is an immediate standout. In lesser hands it'd be akin to John Mayer, but Slamka and his mates give it palpable depth and an unforgettable chorus. It's also the most upbeat thing here besides "Waves," and it's not even that upbeat. That's because Slamka prefers the slight twang in the waltzing "Silver Gun,"; he gives songs names like "My Sun Is Setting Over Her Magic." The snare drum in "Halfway House" is set to slow, and each piano chord resonates for a hundred years. It's an homage to sensitive '70s Northern California, but the contemporary era comes crashing in with a screeching solo of treated guitar. Same goes for "How Can You Laugh." It's beguiling like "Surfer Girl," but looks to the legacy of Pavement at the same time. So Marjorie Fair's debut isn't an immediate five-star classic. But its backgrounds are incredibly well-crafted (just look at that contributor list), and the songs' blend evening-sun comfort with a quiet forlornness that's somehow welcoming.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/18/2004
Label:
Imports
UPC:
0724357812726
catalogNumber:
748344

Related Subjects

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Marjorie Fair   Primary Artist
Billy Preston   Piano,Hammond Organ
Jim Keltner   Drums
Jon Brion   Bass,Piano,Drums,Mellotron,Sounds,Tack Piano
Kim Bullard   Keyboards,Hammond Organ,Pump Organ
Luis Conte   Percussion
Marty Rifkin   Pedal Steel Guitar
Patrick Warren   Harpsichord,Keyboards,chamberlain,Pump Organ
Joey Waronker   Drums
Justin Meldal-Johnsen   Bass
Roger Manning   Keyboards
Christophe Tristram   Bass
Evan Slamka   Organ,Guitar,Piano,Keyboards,Hammond Organ,Vocals,Wurlitzer,Casio

Technical Credits

Ray Cooper   Management
Joe McGrath   Engineer
Rob Schnapf   Producer
Jerry Finn   Producer
Doug Boehm   Engineer
Tom Biller   Engineer
Seth Waldmann   Engineer
Michael Gillette   Illustrations
Evan Slamka   Composer
Jeremy Snyder   Management

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