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The Ortolan

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Album Review

Straight outta Silver Lake come the Deadly Syndrome, the newest arrival on California's ever-burgeoning punk-folk scene. Their unbridled live shows garnered immediate attention, as did their music, referencing the likes of Wolf Parade, Arcade Fire, and even Badly Drawn Boy. Their debut album, The Ortolan, should now transform them from West Coast heroes into American darlings. The title track is an exuberant instrumental ride through a classical fanfare detouring into Latin lands, all set to a zippy dance beat. Keyboardist Mike Hughes handles that number with such insouciance that his bandmates obviously decided to put his talents to the test on "I Hope I Become a Ghost."Here he begins in midtempo, slowly picking up speed until the rest of the band slams in at full tilt and pushes him to the very limit of human endurance. "Ghost" is arranged '60s style, leaning toward R&B; "Heart" similarly so, at one point evoking the Yardbirds before transforming into an anthemic punk-tinged rocker. "Emily Paints" has all the glamour of the '80s new wavers, and a tattoo of a rhythm to boot. "Eucalyptus"'s rhythm is more of a boots-and-braces stomper, with a rousing melody shared between guitarist William Etling and a xylophone. The folkier and more downbeat "Wolves in a Garden" takes a similar stance, with the melody lilting from acoustic and electric guitar, xylophone, and organ. Then again, Deadly's arrangements never cease to amaze: "The Ship That Shot Its Selef" aptly echoes a sea shanty; elsewhere the band dips into Americana, country, and country & western. Dipping and soaring overhead is singing bassist Chris Richard. Sublime throughout, his sweet, emotive falsetto is powerful enough to belt out the rockers or hit the heights of whimsy as required, his gorgeous tones raising shivers as he floats overhead on "Ghost." "Now you know my tricks," he insists on "Animals Wearing Clothes," "I oversimplify a bit, and break things down until they're small and friendly." If only! In fact, his themes are often obtuse, his lyrics quite cryptic and oftentimes surreal, but never less than fascinating. All told, a stunning debut, leaving one to wonder where the band can possibly go from here.


Formed: 2006 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

The Deadly Syndrome is an indie folk quartet from the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles. Native Californians Will Etling (guitar) and Jesse Hoy (drums) met at the University of California in Santa Barbara, where the annual Reel Loud Film Festival (a UCSB tradition featuring student-made silent films accompanied by live music) resulted in their first musical collaboration. After mutual friends introduced the musicians to Christopher Richard (vocals) and Mike Hughes (keyboards/drums), both of whom...
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The Ortolan, The Deadly Syndrome
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