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Central Falls - Latitude

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Artist: Central Falls

Album: Latitude

Label: Truckstop

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

Ben and Adam Vida are best known for their frequent appearances and affiliations in Chicago’s improvised, instrumental, and ironic music scenes. However, on Central Falls’ debut album, Latitude, the brothers Vida apply a fine sense of subtle melody and gentle movement to craft deceptively complicated pop songs. As with his work in Town and Country and Pillow, Ben Vida’s delicate guitar whispers arpeggios and lengthy lines, many of which are nicely layered with thickness. Entirely unlike his work in US Maple, Adam Vida croons softly along with his easy-going, country-tinged tunes. The album creeps slowly and sweetly, rarely breaching whisper. But while its plateaus are consistently high, its peaks are few and far between.

In mood, Latitude bears much resemblance to Sam Prekop’s 1999 solo album. Songs move slowly and easily, Ben Vida’s guitar gently drifts and plucks while Adam Vida’s voice wavers with innocence. Adam’s lyrics are fairly obtuse and run the gamut of topics: loneliness, love, boredom, the world…you get the idea. “Travel” begins with hushed vocals backed by whispered vocals that delicately singing “when you go / turn out lines for telephones / set your glance / rate times time is your distance.” This gives way for punctuated drums and bass, resulting in a lovely contrast. Adam’s voice is not terribly strong, but he uses it well, shifting easily between sobby vibrato and confident smoothness. His vocal melodies build with the subtlety of a jazz singer, but resolve with the grandeur of a pop song.

Latitude’s first four tracks creep along uneventfully, but by the fifth song the album picks up considerably. On “Leave Into,” Adam’s voice begins to increasingly resemble Jeff Buckley. The song rises and falls excitingly as Ben alternates between whispey plucking and hearty strumming. During the bridge, Ben’s distorted solo, the only on the album, is surprisingly reminiscent of the spastic Stephen Malkmus, both in timbre and in tone. Guitar does not give way to vocal, and instead both Vidas interact with fantastic and rare excitement. Again, melodic quality slowly shifts from being jazzy to twanged folk, but never fully crossing into either.

“So Lovely,” the poppiest and catchiest song of the album, is another highlight. A familiar and touching testament to futility in the midst of beauty, “So Lovely” begins clearly and sincerely as Adam sings “God damn it / It’s such a bore inside this room / God damn it it’s such a bore.” It rarely ebbs or flows, but Adam’s later cry of “And I’d like to set this place on fire / So lovely, so lovely / Are you” does a fine job of bringing it to a head. While there is nothing on this album that is notably fantastic or overwhelming, it certainly is so lovely indeed.

By Sam Hunt

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