Review: Between the Waves and the Cardoons - Pointed Man Band

Between the Waves and the Cardoons cover

Between the Waves and the Cardoons cover

The first time Dan Elliott's Pointed Man Band made its way on this site, it was in a heads up nearly four years for a Kickstarter project I stumbled upon randomly.  The resulting album, Swordfish Tango, echoed Tom Waits not only in that album title, but in sonic construction.  The result was a weird amalgam of pots and pans and strings and a song that led me to include a tag for "fart songs about invisible ducks" in the post.  (Sadly, it's the only post on this site for that tag.)

The second PMB album Flight of the Blue Whale hung the jazz and Parisian pop tendencies of the debut onto a story of a red fox who works as a clock repairer and his adventures, which eventually involve a flying blue whale.  More focused thematically, perhaps, but no less weird sonically.

Now it's time for the release of Elliott's third album, titled Between the Waves and the Cardoons, and it's a straight-up dance-pop album with songs about how to brush your teeth!

Of course it's not.  It's every bit as oblique as the first two albums.  Conceptually, it's a story cycle with loosely-related songs about nature, moving roughly from Oregon's west coast ("The Waves," "Anchor's Aweigh"), up the Columbia River with the salmon ("Upstream"), and, after other songs about (actual) birds and the bees, eventually winding up with "The Cardoons," a celebration of family and community.  (Cardoons, incidentally, are a lesser-known relative of the artichoke.)  Sonically, this album is far less Waits and far more Decemberists, with Elliott emphasizing the orchestral chamber pop that his fellow Portland musicians sometimes use, though with far less death and betrayal than Colin Meloy et al often sing about.  String quartets, brass, even a harp, and a mellotron and Steinway grand piano thrown in for good measure, there's a lot of orchestration going on.

Between the Waves and the Cardoons is a picture book in multiple meanings of that phrase, but not a simple one with clear pen lines and punchlines.  I like those sorts of picture books, too, but like to have more complex, more challenging picture books thrown into the mix.  (This 30-minute picture book is probably best for kids ages 5-9.)  The album might not be everyone's cup of nettle tea, but if you've read this far thinking, I think my family might be interested in that, then I think your family will definitely be interested in that.  Recommended.

Note: I received a copy of this album for possible review.