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Michael Zapruder Rains Heavy With Paper Dragon Frogs

Posted by Scotio on December 16, 2008

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For this year, Indie music has seen some remarkable highlights float down the path. One of those golden moments comes in the form of Michael Zapruder‘s Rain Of Frogs band and the Dragon Chinese Cocktail Horoscope album. Zapruder is one of two male siblings with a penchant for lyrical offerings and musical delivery as his brother Matthew is an acclaimed poet, an editor and also a guitarist. But, this review isn’t about his family history as much as his album isn’t about boars, rats and oxes(Chinese Horoscope animals, people). The album has, justifiably, garnered buzz in the indie/college market. Allow me to break down why the album should also hold conference with your ears and attention for, at least, forty-three minutes and forty-five seconds.

“Ads For Feelings” will, somehow, feel the most at home song to you. Not for the fact that everyone will relate to the lyrics that he states with an eerie level of coolness, but because of the melody of the music. The music, with playful woodwind additions during the chorus section, adds in a sense of nostalgia that most of us haven’t recalled since childhood(unless, of course, you are a parent/guardian of a child). The reason for that being that it sounds like a grown-up’s version of a Sesame Street tune. I apologize for all the people that will begin to feel uptight at this point, because I’m not insulting the song. In fact, I tip my hat to it for the fact of bringing forth such a remembrance of peaceful and playful yesterdays while still holding an air of confidence that isn’t obtained until later in life. You would think that the low toned sing-talk that Zapruder does on the song would work against it. Instead, it works with the song. No, for the song. Simply because it allows the music to hold the foreground for the listener and let the lyrics play the assistant to the task of luring you in. It’s an extravagant piece that, out of all the songs on the album, needs to be heard by anyone who’s ever counted to 10 with a muppet.(Note: if he could/does do a video for this, it would be beyond awesome to throw some Jim Henson characters in there)[Ed: as you can see, the video is at the bottom, no muppets, but still houses a Sesame Street-esque video style)

On “Black Wine,” Michael utilizes a more western style for his approach. With it’s mezzo-soprano choir of voices, lonely 1-2 percussion pattern and acoustic guitar being plucked in cowboy fashion, it’s hard not to want to grab your stetson hat and take a ride into the sunset. The song is also the longest out of all of them, clocking in at a whopping 8 mins 54 secs. It’s easy to say that this track will not be released in single format. Though, I find it hard not to believe that Michael didn’t use this track to close a show or 2 due to it’s more broody mood and dark style. Surely, anyone who found a liking to Tom Morello’s Nightwatchman side-project would take fast to this one.

Easily, one of the most interesting songs is “Bang On A Drum.” The Rain Of Frogs crew create such a lo-fi two-step danceable piece, here. Zapruder comes on the perfect combination of Andrew Bird meets Jack Johnson. The percussion section of this track is the most intriguing. Housing a wide array of different “drums” from all over the globe, the total sound can become intoxicatingly sway-inducing. But, just when you think you have the song snagged and set in stone, you’re treated to a homage to the country that of the people listed in the album’s title. Giving their best rendition of a Chinese parade, Michael and company strike various drums that leaves you looking around the room waiting for fireworks and a paper dragon to take center stage. The lyrical content, though, gives the drum theme a totally new and serious meaning, regardless to how smooth they are sung. Talking on the affairs of the world and its people’s warring pseudo-nature. Michael croons “Fool them once, and shame on them/Fool them twice . . . Fool them twice and that is just not nice/ It’s hard to make paradise/ Killing people is good business.” The method of execution and the intelligent remark of banging on a drum being a symbol of marching into war just does wonders and could snake it’s way into a lot of avenues that won’t outright catch the meaning but would love the tempo. It’s hard to say that the song only fits the USA/Iraq situation as it holds true to almost any “world power” that seems to want to extend their reach at the sake of damaging others.

“Experimental Film” stands out as one of the two most electronic track on the album. Due to it being composed of more instruments that require an outlet to be played rather than being blown in or banged, it instantly catches your curiosity. To me, he couldn’t have picked a better spot for this song than the album closer position that he chose. It perks up the ears of the listener enough to have them backtrack through the album to try and pay more attention. That’s a sign of true working trickery. It does help tons with the song actually being very well done and head nodding. By the time the organ solos kick in, you’ll be sure to feel like you’re in a lo-fi church of funk. The other most electronic piece is the, interestingly, the album’s opener “Happy New Year.” It’s an sad piece that completely contradicts it’s title. Seeming more like a narrative of a night’s stroll by a man whom seems to be reduced to only being able to shrug at life. It’s dark and isolated feeling helps you to recline back and better take in the wild ride that lies ahead of you with this album. If this has become a live performance favorite, I wouldn’t at all be surprised with the news. The album is filled with a wide collection of various styles and genres. An example of that is the lounge-styled song “White Raven Sails.” Zapruder’s voice, accompanied mainly by a piano and few other instruments, has a way of lulling you down. There is beauty in solitude. The smoky smooth tune waves a flag for the hayday of lounge music when it wasn’t a jokeful genre of putting tips in a big glass container, but something that was heralded to the point of people picking out the smokiest clubs just to catch a listen of some dynamic minimal music.

Rain Of Frogs might share it’s name with a strange meteorological occurence and even a “sign of the damned,” but only the former holds a stronger similarity to the work of this album. It’s a strange and strong collection of songs that range as greatly as most people’s musical libraries. There are few, if any, missteps on this album, as all the songs can individually stand on their own merit. Couple that with the fact that most people are going for collections of tracks of one particular genre that is characterized only by the person compiling it, and you have an album that can properly argue itself as being a full out album. Sadly, the collection of songs seem to be too “radical” for mainstream media, but a few songs would work wonders for some indie movie scene background music. That isn’t a bad thing, though. It allows the true fans to not have to worry about a group of hipsters flocking to it only because MTV has deemed it the next level of cool, because it goes too far over their heads to even grasp it enough to diminish it. And, to you growing number of truesters, I say that whenever you hear of Michael Zapruder and his Rain Of Frogs group coming to an area near you(which will obviously be a much lengthier pursuit than the 2 weeks it took to create the album) . . . you get to that area to witness him in action. Then, you grab his album to relive it as many times as psychologically and astrologically allowed.

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Ads For Feelings Video:

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2 Responses to “Michael Zapruder Rains Heavy With Paper Dragon Frogs”

  1. cool!!

  2. spacedout said

    this video is cool!

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