::The Lost Patrol::



Best CD's of 2010 - January 2011
Samuel Smith

Dark Matter

The best CDs of 2011, pt. 2: Platinum LPs


The Lost Patrol - Rocket Surgery

This isn’t the first time The Lost Patrol has made an appearance in my year-end Best of list – in fact, it’s becoming something of a habit. Which is a little odd when you consider the challenges facing artists trading in narrowly defined styles. TLP is known for an ethereal, twangy spaghetti Western sound that invokes the likes of Duane Eddy, Enrico Morricone and Angelo Badalamenti. TLP provides soundtracks for cinematic, empty badland vistas at dusk, and it’s an oeuvre that’s not quite like any other artist I know of. One would think such a tightly defined sound would be inherently limiting and that after awhile it would all sound the same. Unlike the average indie band, there’s no way of veering off into something a little different without it jarring the expectations of the listener. If a Ben Gibbard wants to experiment a bit, the reaction is “hey, Death Cab is being experimental.” If TLP tries something off their established brand, the reaction is going to be “hey, where did TLP go?” It’s a whole other dimension of challenge than most bands face.

Somehow or another, though, The Lost Patrol has managed to remain who they are while finding interesting ways of growing and expanding. It’s hard to fully credit the enduring creative and technical genius of founder Stephen Masucci, and Michael Williams, who’s primarily the rhythm guitarist, shoulders a lot of responsibility in the way role-players always do in successful bands (I imagine this is especially true live because they seem not to travel with a rhythm section. Not that I’ve ever gotten to see them live because they never stop in Denver. Hint, hint)…

But a huge part of the reason for the artistic success of Dark Matter arises from the emerging versatility and songwriting prowess of Mollie Israel (whose mom is Amy Heckerling, by the way – I just found that out). This is the band’s second disc with Mollie at the mic and she has really made the gig her own – not bad, considering the band looked as good as done when previous vocalist Danielle Kimak Stauss departed after 2007's excellent Launch and Landing. It’s unusual for a band to lose its defining singer and make a successful transition to a new front, but TLP has done it, and spectacularly.

Dark Matter is seductive in ways that bypass the consciousness. It’s intensely personal and shiveringly tactile, driven by Masucci’s epic, otherworldly guitars and an emerging gift for storytelling (such as we see in Israel’s “Justine,” my favorite track on the disc; there’s a level of maturity here that we tend to encounter only in artists who have been at it longer than Israel, who’s only 25. Oh, and sweet gods, the guitars – crank this track up to 11 and listen to what happens at the :53 mark).

Perhaps the thing that makes The Lost Patrol so vital is that there is literally nobody else like them. Their music is a unique, evocative experience that’s as sexy as it is starkly iconic.

Now they’re hard at work on what may well turn out to be a 2011 release. That kind of energy is fantastic news for the band’s fans.







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