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Not Exotic

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Album Review

As the story goes, Not Exotic grew out of vocalist/guitarist Al James' quiet home recordings. As contributors were gradually acquired, so did an identity for the project, and Dolorean was born. But even with the addition of understated percussion, shimmering synth and piano, and stately cello, the record still runs on James' sharply rendered lyricisms and quietly deliberate guitar work. In first-person musings like "Hannibal, MO" and the incredible opener, "Morningwatch," the spaces between chords linger like low-lying morning fog, and accompanying instruments drift in and out of focus, as late-night memories often do. This confessional or diary quality aligns Dolorean with avant folk, but it's not that simple. Tracks like "Traded for Fire" and "Still Here With Me" seem like slowcore as they surge quietly toward resolution; they suggest an acoustic Bedhead strumming along with Neil Young. It doesn't really matter where the characterizations lie — the album's rustic, well-appointed feel is just plain comforting. Friends pass easily through James' lyrics, just like they do as collaborators. Elsewhere, there's a sense of escape from life and love. "Sometimes I try to be a fighter pilot," he imparts over the barely ascertained wee-hours groove of "The Light Behind My Head." "And I'm always ridin' alone in the cockpit/If I lose my mind/I'll just press eject/And drift down/Like a lazy dove." The drifting metaphor is a key to Not Exotic's whispered wow and flutter. "Sleeperhold" might run a bit too long, but its formless wane is the only time the album looks too far inward. For the rest of its lilting yet crisply defined span, Not Exotic glistens like the ghostly circus organ winking in the depths of "Jenny Place Your Bets."


Formed: 1999 in Portland, OR

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Dolorean emerged from sleepy Silverton, OR, in 1999, after guitarist/vocalist Al James invited Standard keyboard enthusiast Jay Clarke to play on a slew of his quiet, avant folk home recordings. Sudden Oak, the duo's debut EP, appeared that same year, and Dolorean began playing out. By 2001, they had resettled in Portland and were a fixture on the local literati scene, accompanying poetry readings and the like with their understated sound. By this point, drummer Ben Nugent had also joined the fold....
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Not Exotic, Dolorean
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