Uphollow: Jackets for the Trip (2005) CD / DVD

Bio (from uphollow.bandcamp.com):
Comprised of four innovative multi-instrumentalists with a knack for bizarre song structures, and yet a keen understanding of pop elements, the Colorado quartet defies labeling. Ian Cooke’s cello tends to drive the songs, while Ian O’Dougherty and Whit Sibley take turns with the plodding, but interesting bass-lines. Justin Ferreira isn’t to go unmentioned — his role as a drummer is vital, but he goes beyond that, throwing in a tambourine here or bells there. The entire band, save for Ferreira, share the vocal duties.

Ian Cooke (voice, cello, piano), Justin Ferreira (drums), Ian O’Dougherty (voice, guitar, bass), Whit Sibley (voice, bass, percussion, guitar)

For those of you that follow Ryan’s Reviews, the musicians listed above probably sound familiar.  I have reviewed both of Ian Cooke’s solo albums (here), as well as the DVD that accompanies THE FALL I FELL (here).  Ian O’Dougherty and Whit Sibley appear on both of Cooke’s solo albums, and O’Dougherty is also 1/3rd of Eolian (review here).  Uphollow is where they all came together in the first place.  As Cooke explains on the DVD of TFIF, originally Uphollow was a band with two writers (Sibley and O’Dougherty), and they were looking to add a cellist.  Cooke became part of the band, and eventually the writing duties became shared among the three of them.

I always find it interesting when songwriting duties are shared among different people in a band.  Either they meld into one cohesive sound, or more commonly you can easily tell who wrote what song right away (think: The Beatles).  Uphollow is odd in that it is a little of both.  “Monster” is obviously a Cooke song, “Long, the Road” is obviously an O’Dougherty song, but then there are tracks like “Wine & Honesty” or “You and the Sea” which – other than the fact that they are sung by their writers – don’t really sound like a Cooke song or an O’Dougherty song… they sound like an Uphollow song.

O'Dougherty, Sibley, Cooke, and Ferreira

What does an Uphollow song sound like?  When I listen to JACKETS FOR THE TRIP I hear a little Pavement, a little Helmet, a little Nirvana, and a little They Might Be Giants (musically, not lyrically).  I would put them firmly in the “Alt Rock” category, with the nice addition of extra instruments (cello, piano, and I think I might have heard an accordion, though its not listed on the booklet).  Uphollow is heavy in places, but never hard rock or metal, light in others but never really radio-pop.  Like Eoilan and Cooke’s solo albums, the music is a bit more complex than much of what the average radio consumer would be used to, but it is not presented in a “look how musically talented we are, check us out as we switch time signatures, can you keep up?” kind of way.  If you know about music, you will recognize the talent behind Uphollow, if not you will still recognize that it’s good, catchy music.

An older (2007) image of Cooke

I liked much of JFtT, but there were a few standout tracks for me.  “This First,” an Ian O song that sounds like Uphollow not a solo track, was one of my favorites.  This track could be on any Alt Rock radio station and do well.  The cello folds seamlessly into the mix without being obviously different than the average rock song; the track goes from soft to loud easily and comfortably, almost like a Sonic Youth song if they added a cellist.  I also really enjoyed Cooke’s track “Wine & Honesty” because it is just so different from much of anything else I can think of from him.  It starts weird and trippy and moves into an almost jazzy beat, which drops out to toy piano and voice riffs.  It is an odd journey of a song that I really enjoyed going along with.
The lyrics on JFtT are good, but not as stellar as the later albums put out by these writers.  I expect this is because they have had a lot more experience, more time to mature as writers by the time we hear their output on Cooke’s solo albums and on Eolian.  Don’t get me wrong: there is nothing bad about the lyrics on JFtT at all, it’s just not as refined as these guys later releases will become.

Accompanying the CD is a DVD that is mastered in Stereo, or 5.1 Surround Sound by Bob Ferbrache (who also mastered the DVD for TFIF). This DVD is much less content-filled as the one that comes with TFIF.  There are no special features or videos or behind-the-scenes, it is just JFtT, beautifully mastered, and presented with “video collages” created by phi-phenomenon.com.  “Phi Phenomenon” is an optical illusion created by our brains; it is what makes animation work.  If shown a succession of still images at a high enough rate, our brain will translate that information into movement.  Unfortunately, this domain is now a Japanese PR firm of some sort (and oddly enough, uphollow.com is now a Japanese orthodontics site… how weird) so I was not able to get any info on who made the collages.  They vary in quality and interest; some, like “Monster” and “People,” were really cool and fun to watch.  Others, like “Long, the Road” I found to be pretty boring.  The nice thing about this DVD is that you can throw it in the surround sound, and put it on during a party and have not only music but also a little visual stimulation at the same time.

An older image of the band

Overall I really enjoyed JFtT.  It is not as polished, not as amazing as some of the later releases from these musicians, but it is a lot better than much of the indy music out there.  The fact that you can get not only a real (not CDr) album, with full packaging and great mastering for only $8 is impressive, but when you throw in that the package also includes a DVD mastered in 5.1 surround and an immediate digital download, this is a steal.

Overall 7 / 10

JFtT for sale: http://uphollow.bandcamp.com/album/jackets-for-the-trip

JFtT site: http://www.facebook.com/uphollow

Uphollow: Jackets for the Trip

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