As listeners, we all have our prejudices. It's not that they're impossible to overcome, just we tend to be more receptive to certain things, especially on a first listen, and more easily dismissive of others. I got a copy of the new album by Roman Candle, called Oh Tall Tree in the Ear, and I like it. I just don't know why I like it. On paper, they commit all sorts of fouls against what, for better or worse, I would call my standard musical preferences.
1. First, there's The Bob Dylan Thing. I don't hate Bob Dylan or anything, but as a rule, anything that comes off as overtly/overly Dylanesque is, to my ears, years late and dollars short. And way too often, bands seem to think that the way to ape Bob Dylan is to get all meaningfulcore and soul-searching and honest about it. This is usually disastrous, because you shouldn't go trying to make something sincere out of something calculated.
2. Speaking of sincerity, there's the Earnestness. I am a big fan of a certain kind of earnestness in music--namely, the dejected, defeatist kind. Generally speaking, though, I'm not a big fan of the "we're a little bit smarter than everyone else and just as unhappy as we sing over this jangly shambling" kind of earnestness. (See also No. 1, above.)
3. I'm also not a fan, broadly speaking, of namedropping your influences in a song that's about listening to the radio, and how music used to be so much better back when your influences were making music, and how, implicitly, your music is better than today's music because you've aligned yourself with influences from the past. This may be an unfair prejudice, but that's the nature of prejudice.
And yet I like this album. Maybe it's the Rilke reference in the title. I don't know, but they won me over. Go check out Roman Candle's Lake Fever Session, then check out Michael McCall's feature in this week's paper, then go see the band next Tuesday, May 12, at Mercy Lounge.