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Grampall Jookabox: Ropechain


Born from Joyful Noise Recordings and Asthmatic Kitty Records (home of Sufjan Stevens), Grampall Jookabox's second album, Ropechain, is an apocalyptic combination of sincere humor, old-timey hauntings, fear of the great end of it all, and maybe every dark thing you wished the new TV on the Radio album would have done but didn't. Grampall Jookabox (Moose Adamson), a proud Indiana native, plays the majority of instruments for the recording, which includes, basically, anything he found/borrowed from his musician friends in the area. Though the instrumentals are beautiful, what shines are the vocals. In the liner notes, Adamson gives credit to The Star Choir, which I suspect is actually just helium-filled "synthetically angelic choral" tones of Adamson himself, all recorded in a vacant insane asylum. "Ghost" is a perfect example, heralding an odd Depression-era folksy vocal loop, invoking the ghost, the "Christian man like me" and the destruction of the world. All of this is blended with a distant, breathy train whistle and synth vibration tones. For all this dark content, though, Adamson has a sense of humor, especially on tracks like "The Girl Ain't Preggers," for which Asthmatic Kitty designed an online game in which Grampall must jump over babies and collect dollar bills to survive. Fortunately, Ropechain never abandons its sincerity for the easy ironic route. Even on "I Will Save Young Michael" (as in Jackson, also an Indiana native), Grampall croons of saving a child, his overdubbed vocals choir-wailing like the shape-note singers of the South. Most importantly, though, Adamson knows how to write a catchy song. And the album feels cohesive. Songs like "Old Earth, Wash My Beat" require a head bob and hip shake, with its marimba-timed Senor Coconut-esque rhythm section combo-ed with the odd bell tones of a children's glockenspiel piano, while tracks like "Strike Me Down" need a sit-down listen. For what it's worth, Ropechain is about madness, and the echoes and distortion around us, which more than vaguely reminds me of Roky Erickson. So Thirteenth Floor Elevator fans beware: you may have found another kindred dark soul.