Jack’s Jams: Pillowfight
Published: Monday, March 11, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 11, 2013 21:03
I tend to go to Rainbow Records once every two weeks to pick up albums that sound interesting. On my last trip, I found the debut album by San Francisco band Pillowfight sandwiched in between the classic stuff. I don’t know if it was the cool album art or the fun name (everybody likes pillow fights, right?) but I wound up buying it.
The band includes hip-hop producer Dan the Automator, who worked on the first Gorillaz album, and songwriter and violinist Emily Wells. At first I had buyer’s remorse, but after listening to the first song, “Used to Think,” which sounds like it takes cues from both 80s hip-hop and 40s jazz standards like Billie Holiday, I was confident in my decision. The second song, “In the Afternoon” sounds a little like P!nk meets The Flaming Lips, set to a DJ beat. “Rain” has a bossa nova drumbeat that blends well with Wells’ vocals, creating a sound similar to The Cardigans. “You’re So Pretty” has an all-around amazing beat and the instrumentation on the song is so strong it could do without any lyrics. Wells’ voice, while not terrible, takes away from the power of the music on this track.
“Get Your S*** Together” has a more traditional hip-hop flow, which is reflected in the jagged way Wells churns out the verses, in the same vein as Christina Aguilera’s “Ain’t No Other Man.” This is the standout track for Wells to show her vocal talents. “Redemption” is a throwaway song in my opinion—from the first note, it didn't strike me as a memorable tune. The album redeems itself with the next song, “Get Down,” which has a distinct early Sheryl Crow-esque feel. “Get Down” is the best song on the album. “Darlin’ Darlin’” has a beat out of a Tarantino film, perhaps “Kill Bill,” but that’s the only reasonable thing that can be said about it.
“You Don’t Need Me” and “I Work Hard” have great beats and good choruses, but the verses are just white noise, lost in the beat. “Lonely City” combines beat and vocals to make a sound that paints a picture of a dark, disturbing tale. The final song, “Sleeping Dogs” has a great 90s hip-hop sound, and Wells adds to the song by turning okay vocals into something strong with her light, raspy voice.
Overall, this album has good, sultry beats, quality vocals and strong lyrics, but it doesn’t combine them nearly enough to make this a great listen. It is good, but not much more than background music for whatever you are working on. The band plays at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas this month. They should build a fan base while they’re there and work on a sophomore album. Maybe the group can work the issues they had with this album there.