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Book of Bad Breaks

Thee More Shallows

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Album Review

Recently signed to Anticon, San Francisco's Thee More Shallows take a slightly more dynamic, drum-filled approach to their third record, Book of Bad Breaks. The same processed guitars and layered keyboards are still here, but the album is less atmospheric music than quirky indie rock. There's a fair amount of experimentalism, with plenty of synthesized and effected sounds, songs breaking in and out of themselves from time to time, intermissions that lead into full pieces which then fade halfway through and become something else before returning to what they were originally. It's not actually as confusing at it might seem, mostly because Dee Kesler, the main force and singer behind Thee More Shallows, still concerns himself with song structure and melody. "Night at the Knight School," for example, while not exactly hooky in the traditional sense, has clear-cut verses and choruses, fast drums, crunchy keyboards, and catchy rhymes ("at the night school, night school, you doodle and you draw/anything, anything except what you're taught"), while "Oh Yes, Another Mother" has Rilo Kiley-esque lyrics over sparse beats that build into complicated, busy layers before ending in a 30-second neo-new-wave groove. Thee More Shallows is able to explore without leaving the boundaries of more "straightforward" indie rock too far behind, so even if Book of Bad Breaks will appeal more to the Anticon crowd (particularly fans of Why? or SJ Esau), it's grounded enough to not ostracize those looking for something more comprehendible. Not that the album is necessarily an easy listen — it definitely has its fair share of computerized droning, guitar feedback, and nonsense lyrics ("I feel like Charlton Heston riding a horse on the beach," Kesler, with his shaky, slightly out-of-key voice sings on "Fly Paper") — but it also doesn't ask people to dedicate too much time, too much energy, when listening to it. Is Book of Bad Breaks the most innovative record out there? No — what it does has pretty much been done before — but it's done well, and done right, and in the end, it's successful.


Formed: 2001 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Formed in San Francisco in 2001 when Michigan transplant Dee Kesler, North Carolina native Brian Fraser, and Californian Jason Gonzales met at a concert, Thee More Shallows (originally called simply Thee Shallows, a name they had to change when another group sent them a cease-and-desist order) wrote and recorded their debut, 2002's A History of Sport Fishing — Fraser and Gonzales played the drums, bass, keyboards, and added in samples, and Kesler did everything else — in rented studio...
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Book of Bad Breaks, Thee More Shallows
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