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2011/10/08 / monteurhulot

ALBUM // French Quarter – Desert Wasn’t Welcome

It remains to be seen if French Quarter will ever be a musical project to attain significant national recognition – as far as I’m aware, they’ve never been played on an NPR affiliate, nor graced the stage of a late night show – but there’s always that chance, which means that if you live anywhere on the West Coast you should take the opportunity to see a wonderfully intimate performance by the band while you still can.

Because, here’s a secret: surpassingly down-to-Earth Stephen Steinbrink, who sings in a peculiarly angelic voice, is at this point in his career operating at a level reached by only a few songwriters each decade.  Only last year, French Quarter released the excellent It’s Not Just Kissing, with another album released under Steinbrink’s name the year before that, and the 8-track Rennet coming early this year., which contained at least one of the best songs of the year. Among the other few-a-decade artists, Steinbrink may be closest to a golden age Isaac Brock, with French Quarter capturing a particular regional form of ennui as perfectly as Modest Mouse once did. Sonically, the bands are (fortunately) not identical. While both have a refractedly rootsy approach, the sound on display on Desert Wasn’t Welcome is much more gentle (at times, yea, verging on the smooth,) the instrumentation summoning the feeling of floating across the landscape epitomized by the Souled American song “Frozen.”  Steinbrink, no yelper he, is never as vocally or lyrically acerbic as Brock, both capture a sense of wonder at the existential strangeness of life in the rural and/or suburban parts of the Western United States. Brock’s Western Washington may have been a rundown place, but he did always have a forest in which to run off into, screaming. Steinbrink, Arizonan, has only a desert, buildings, and the puzzle as to why anyone would build those buildings in that desert, leading him, ultimately, back to the people around him. We could call it interpesonal alt-country, but that would just be to spoil a wonderful thing.

You can get Desert Wasn’t Welcome digitally, or pre-order it on vinyl. It will be worth it.



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