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Posted June 30, 2008 by Mike Mineo in Features
 
 

Queen Victoria Wanders The Endless Night

Monday; it is looked upon as the day farthest from the weekend and the day in which all responsibilities are resumed. Yes, it can certainly be devastating to anyone who despises their occupation or growing list of dutiful tasks, but let us revert to optimistic thoughts if possible. It is inarguable that some music can hit enjoyably hard on the day of anti-rest, especially if the audible content emits emotions and melodies that are reflective of the somber circumstances at hand. I have been intending to mention Queen Victoria for the past few weeks, but sitting here on a Monday morning with an overcast sky above me discharging raindrops at a tranquil pace, the New Jersey native’s debut album sounds better than ever. Now, I am not recommending waiting until a rainy to listen to this lo-fi spectacle, but if these are your current conditions as well, you should seize the opportunity. Like heavily prevalent influences in the vein of Leonard Cohen and notorious recluse Jandek, the poignantly touching musings of Queen Victoria are complemented by gentle arrangements featuring the primary use of acoustic and electric guitar, keys, and percussion. The instrumental arsenal is not the most expansive, but within the style of minimalist folk, Queen Victoria’s The Endless Night discovers captivating success based on the strong songwriting and stylistic preciseness of the one man who leads it all.

The force behind Queen Victoria is Nick Malkin, a 22-year-old who recorded The Endless Night across a variety of bedrooms in Pittsburgh and his native New Jersey. Like some of us (including myself), Malkin’s level of productivity appears to peak during the exceedingly late hours of night. Using little more than a 4-track and a couple of instruments, all of the recording and songwriting was done during such late hours after his housemates had gone to sleep. About half of the tracks were written in New Jersey but Malkin claims that everything “definitive” took place in Pittsburgh, all while he was living in an unfinished basement. “[It] was oppressively dark and damp,” he explains of the living quarters. “That climate certainly affected the record to some degree.” Listening to the album, it certainly sounds like it was recorded in a dark basement late at night too, and I mean that in the most complementary way possible. As far as the intended style goes, Malkin pulls it off with ease, treating listeners to a subdued listening environment whose barrenness coincides exceedingly well with Malkin’s deeply soothing voice and the melancholic lyrical overtones he conveys. And while the style is done remarkably well, the aspect that has drawn me most toward the success of The Endless Night traces back to Malkin’s songwriting. It is not by any means an intricate affair, but he makes exceptional use of his instruments at hand. Considering that he was using nothing more than a 4-track, a few instruments, and two hands, the individualistic variety in the songwriting on The Endless Night is considerably impressive.

The self-titled track on The Endless Night plays as one of Malkin’s more interesting efforts. “The cries of insomnia let me out onto the street to take up my place in the chain of a midnight defeat,” he murmurs to begin the song, referencing his own artistic tendencies as much as the habitual inclinations of human nature. The introductory progression sports little more than a repeating acoustical progression that is complemented by the single note of eerie keys at the conclusion of each measure, but the track eventually expands into something that proves highly demonstrative of Malkin’s abilities as a songwriter. At the conclusion of each verse, Malkin adds some form of melodic variation to complement the preceding melody; at first it is in the simple gesture of percussion, but when the actual bridge occurs around the two minute mark, the style that concludes around the final minute makes the preceding use of minimalism that much better. He nearly transcends into a version of free-jazz with shuffling percussion and the exotic sprinkle of keys, remaining in a key of unruffled melancholy despite transitioning to a style that contradicts the initial repeated progression. Like several tracks on the album, it is an immensely enjoyable effort that becomes increasingly memorable upon each listen.

While the tone of The Endless Night is consistently solemn upon preliminary analysis, the latter stages of the album reveal a sense of optimism that first arrives on the transitioning “Up on the Rooftop”. Just before the two-minute mark hits, the expectedly brooding combination of keys and guitars transforms from a state of melancholic reflection to an effervescent burst of hope that is most evident by the increased usage of keys and vigorous strumming of the guitar. It is comparable to “The Endless Night” in that a stark transition arrives around the mid-point, though “Up on the Rooftop” sees an additional shift in both style and emotional tone. Also, though under two minutes in length, another track that caught my attention immediately was “Apology I”, the first of two concise instrumentals bearing the same name. The progression is simplistic enough but Malkin’s implementation of keys are both graceful and eerily invigorating, consequently crafting a breezy melody that ranks as one of the best on the album despite its apparent simplicity. Upon further examination though, The Endless Night is an effort where quality is not defined by intricacy or wholesomeness, but rather through the genuine emotions that Malkin delivers through some legitimately satisfying songwriting and a style that fits his voice to an extremely agreeable extent.

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Queen Victoria – The Endless Night

[audio:http://mineorecords.com/mp3/qvictoria-end.mp3]

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Queen Victoria – Apology I

[audio:http://mineorecords.com/mp3/qvictoria-apo.mp3]

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Queen Victoria – Up on the Rooftop

[audio:http://mineorecords.com/mp3/qvictoria-upo.mp3]

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Mike Mineo

 
I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine. Send your music to [email protected].