Avi Buffalo - Avi Buffalo

Bill Cummings 22/04/2010

Rating: 4.5/5

It must be some freak of nature that beneath an ash cloud that's grounded planes and forced people to trek across lands by road and sea, the April weather has been stunning. The sun shining through the trees and burning my nose: and what better time to enjoy California's latest Americana exports Avi Buffalo?

Avi Buffalo is the adopted name of Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg, a 18-year old singer songwriter with quite the most astounding new voice I've heard so far this year: a bittersweet tone that runs like water down the glistening Long Beach ravines, a tone that joins the majesty of legendary elementor of folk Neil Young and awe-inspired falsetto of Wayne Coyle of The Flaming Lips. Indeed, Avi's gleeful yet yearning vocals are so high pitched that sometimes your ears do a double take: is this really a male singer? The confusion is aided by the twin melodies of keyboardist (and ex-girlfriend) Rebecca Coleman. But more than that, with their self released debut album Avi Buffalo - Sub Pop's most exciting new signings - are purveyors of the kind of timeless melodies that are at once familiar and yet somehow fresh, exciting and sometimes quite surprising. Wonderfully tripped out and blissful Americana is underscored by heartbreak and uncertainty, and it very quickly becomes clear that this is the perfect soundtrack to our unexpected sunny spell in dear old Blighty.

From the snaking glacial jangle of 'Truth Sets In' with its hand claps and sighing dual melodies that manage to remind you of The Band and strangely forgotten guitar pop act Silver Sun, you're filled with the tingling realisation that you're in for a rare long playing treat. 'What's In It For?' brings to fore for the first time Avi's astonishing tone, like The Byrds meeting up for a waltz - the swaying country-ish beeze, the absurdity of the lyrics that flicker like the butterflies in your stomach during your first dance with that girl you like, it all gives way to a joyous refrain in the chorus. Meanwhile the simply divine, gleaming down tempo balladry of 'Jessica', with its keening heartbroken vocals, grasps toward the melody The Beatles' 'Sexy Sadie' and their work on Abbey Road, twisting it delightfully into an astounding four minutes.

While Avi Buffalo's debut may be rooted in classic American song writing, lyrically this is at times quite a bizarre album, catching you off guard with titles like 'Five Little Sluts' and 'Summer Cum'. The former builds effortlessly from gloriously weaving, tremulous Pavement-esque guitars and cascading melodies, unerringly juxtaposed against the guilt and paranoia emanating from a night with a prostitute. Meanwhile, a fumbling moonlit tryst fills the narrative of 'Summer Cum', Avi's uncertainty thrown into sharp insecure focus by its quivering vocals (“oh I can tell that you feel alive and I won't disturb you in your time of rebirth / Please if when taking your time with me / Just tell me that I'm making you feel weary”), all twisty, turny, rootsy rhythms and delicate finger-picked guitars.

“I've never written a love song/but I will for you,” sing Avi and Coleman, perhaps into each others eyes, on the album's stunning seven minute high point 'Remember that Time'. It's a tale of first love dappled by floating harmonics, jangling Rickenbacker guitar arpeggios and thumping drums, gathering up to sublime guitar licks in its climax that take it into orbit across a baby blue sky. Closer 'Where's Your Dirty Mind?' is simply gorgeous, Avi and Rebecca's voices intertwined like two friends staring into the future in this strummed paean for love. It creeps into the confused, nihilistic mind of adolescence and gives it a knowing word or two of life affirming advice (“Where'd you put your mind? Now you need it? It haven't been focussed in a while / don't you wish that you could smile/Try your hardest show 'em what you're made of”). Sedate yet graceful, it reminds me of Sparklehorse's best moments.

Avi Buffalo's debut is hands down the most timeless record I've heard this year. Musically it could have been produced at any point in the last 50years, but it's filtered through the eyes of uncertain teenage self-discovery, the confusion of first love, the first time you made love, and at times simple, unexpected occurrences, and thus Avi Buffalo and his band have produced an album of not just enormous promise but wonderful realisation. One of the most satisfying long players I've heard in 2010 so far, this self-titled debut might just be the soundtrack to a summer that's yet to come.

Release date: 26/04/2010