Now here’s a surprise: I received Koufax‘s “Strugglers” in the mail, and immediately noticed the album cover, which features photo of a crowd of dark-skinned folks who appear to be African. Expecting world music or something like Vampire Weekend, I popped it in and instead found a remarkably diverse collection of smart, indie rock toe-tappers. By now, many of you are getting ready to write me a comment about how stupid I am not to have heard of this group until their fourth record, and before you do let me say I agree with you. “Strugglers” is great.
The best thing on the record is the lyrics, but the music is close behind. Like Spoon, the band mixes a funky beat with broader, almost atmospheric synthesizers, and mostly uses guitars to mark time. A few highlights: the ironic “Drivers” (“A few more drinks, we’ll be ready to drive”) has a call-and-response fade out that’s sure to be a live crowd pleaser; the way that the vocal track is slightly off sync with the music on the chorus to “Facsimile;” the political sentiment of the ballad, “Roll the Dice,” which reminisces that although “the Bill of Rights/Those days were nice,” the singer now wants to “roll the dice” and “quit my wife;” and the ‘80s pop groove of “California Taught Us Well,” which recalls every arena pop band from The Cars to Journey. The piano drives the album and lends to it the only sense of wholeness; other than that, the music is so diverse here that it almost sounds as if Koufax were a collective rather than the brainchild of one singer/songrwriter, Mr. Robert Suchan.
I haven’t had enough time with this record yet, and it’s not an easy one to digest, but it’s looking like an early pick for one of the best releases of 2008.
For fans of: Voxtrot, Spoon.