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CD REVIEW: Oami - Day in the City
By Chip Withrow - 10/30/2006 - 02:13 PM EST

Artist: Oami
Album: Day in the City
CD Review: I receive a lot of CDs. I have a day job, so what I try to do is arrange a time when I can sit in front of the stereo with a stack and just keep feeding them into the player.

One afternoon, it seemed that every darn one of them sounded like too-serious versions of Dave Matthews. I’m a lukewarm, at best, fan of Dave Matthews, and I was getting frustrated.

Then I popped in Oami’s Day in the City. Right away, I was intrigued. The pedal steel leading into distortion on “Misunderstood” – very swampy and visceral. "Misunderstood" also has a soaring chorus (with percussively plucked banjo in the background) and an ethereal, jazzy ending.

The second cut, “Typical Reaction,” is just as interesting. A simply arpeggioed acoustic riff leads into power pop (that’s what we called it in the ‘80s, and it’s still nifty). Thea Vorass plays understated cello, and James Bagley provides big electric guitar chords.

“The Surgery” is spooky and echoey, with simple yet cryptic lyrics. It builds to a big dramatic finish with flourishes of trumpet and falsetto singing. Tomer Oami is a gifted vocalist, and “Surgery” is a showcase for that talent. He’s dramatic but not too over-the-top angsty. Another song later in the disc, “Shine On,” has a similar tone with more of a cool-jazz feel.

The off-kilter "It's OK," with loopy bass by G Villavicencio, slippery guitar, and Dixieland trumpet, reminds of a bit of Morphine, Beck and a band called Minimal I reviewed a few months back. It’s weirdly hooky, like the Beatlesque “Always On My Mind” a few cuts before.

“Corinne Corinna” is pretty – just Oami’s acoustic guitar, vocals (I admire a falsetto if it’s done well) and bittersweet strings with light percussion toward the finish. (Sounds like I’m describing a glass of wine.)

“So Far So Long” just lodges itself in your brain. So many nice quirks to this one: sing-alongs, swooping cello licks in the chorus, and a couple of really weird lines about angels and a penguin. It’s one of the best examples of Oami’s textured acoustic/electric interplay.

I don’t mean this in a disparaging way at all: the title cut again reminds me of the alt rock of my high school years, when MTV was just starting. I dig the pounding syncopated drums, atmospheric vocals, and chiming-yet-fuzzy guitar.

“Mechanical Flowers” builds to a grand chorus, and it was on this song that I realized how creative yet rock-solid drummer Steve Vorass had been throughout the album. And then comes the powerful, “Story About Love.” Simply put, it rocks, and it has this sweet line: “I saw you playing your guitar at Aristotle’s Coffee Garage.”

Oami’s Day in the City is a trip to my past, but it’s also like nothing I’ve heard lately. Nice combination.

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