Librarians of Present Passed

Librarians are certainly different than the professionals they take their name from. Their recent material finds solace in its own untidy ambition as opposed to systematic convention, a flexible ideology that allows their plethora of influences to shed their skins most appropriately. Their second album, Present Passed, will likely be one of 2010’s breakouts due to this newly infused mentality, which was somewhat absent on their debut, Alright Easy Candy Stranger. While receiving plenty of praise, the lack of attention their debut received can be chalked up to a feeling of complacency that resonated throughout the album. Whereas with their debut it seemed as if one memorable twist in a song was good enough, Present Passed finds a band taking less pressure off themselves in regard to writing a song that will get them noticed. This excellent album finds albums full of adventure and capriciousness instead, even with short two-minute interludes like “Island Jam” that fit wonderfully in the midst of a subtly complex album full of varying atmospheres and styles (from tropical-tinged pop to brooding folk). Complexity is not usually so discreet, but as Librarians’ songs evolve and flourish in a surprisingly cohesive narrative there will be cause to replay several songs for the sheer reason of so many enjoyable things going on. For pop music this readily accessible, it is an incredibly rare thing.

I notice even already that it does not take much to sell people on Present Passed, especially those enamored with widely-received artists like Radiohead and Animal Collective that tread deep waters of innovation while still retaining radio-friendly melodies and structures. The latter two artists have little resemblance in their approach, but they often find themselves in the same sentence due to their impact on respective “generations” of music, so to say. They have continued in a style that coincides with their introductory demeanor a decade ago, but also fit seamlessly within what is relevant today. Radiohead have proved durable for nearly two decades, and now eyes are on artists like Animal Collective to follow suit. There will always be creative artists like this, but the question will always be how they adapt to stylistic expectations surrounding music at the time. Radiohead have plenty of bands that sound just like them, whether they bear resemblance to the riveting alt-rock of OK Computer or more glitch-oriented key-led pop of Hail to the Thief. To a lesser extent, the same can even be said for a relatively young artists like Animal Collective and Ariel Pink, who have re-ignited interests in bedroom recording based in both synths and guitars. As a result, it is natural that they fit in with a scene fueled by their influence.

Librarians’ Present Passed seizes upon the expanding classification that psychedelia has been granted lately. As electronica becomes more accessible and acceptable due to the aforementioned artists, utilizing synths is becoming more recognizable in a style known mainly for echoing guitars, placid rhythm sections, and studio innovations. Librarians fit naturally within this range of psychedelia, as their resourceful use of instrumentation from their orchestral flourishes to stabs of synths comes off exuberantly under the rich melodic croon of Trey Curtis, who somewhat resembles the rich tenor of Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste and is able to similarly transition from somber and retrospective to infectiously upbeat. The tone of the album shifts from track to track, in a cohesive manner of course, but still enough to make track-by-track comparisons somewhat futile. Lead vocalist Trey Curtis shines in an effort like “So What”, where the suave accentuation at each chorus’ end is part of the song’s majestic melody. “It’s like you’re always there when I need someone to talk to,” he sings in this moment. “I want to call your name and make everything new.” It is easily one of the band’s more accessible, coherent, but it sits alongside other tracks that are certainly more on the side of unconventional.

“Wait & See” and “Cranberry Palace” is essentially one song divided into two because of its excellent transitional effect, which sees the hurried and rhythmic jungle-pop of “Wait & See” collide with the serene psychedelia of its counterpart. The latter is particularly beautiful in its reminiscing of ’60s ballads and conclusion of falling synth arpeggios, while “Wait & See” should find great response in fans of Animal Collective’s fusion of high-pitched synths that resemble exotic woodwinds with gauze-y layers of soothing synth. The relaxing effect takes effect once “Cranberry Palace” emerges, and this part of Present Passed plays particularly well. “Candy Season” is also a very likable effort, employing a structure that finds evolving rhythm sections unfold over a brisk acoustic guitar loop. The build-up contained in song’s latter half, which is ushered in by a twinkle of keys, is easily the track’s most melodic moment, though the first half’s sugar-rush analogies are just as memorable. It serves as a nice summary of Present Passed, where most tracks begin with soaring harmonies and infectious rhythms before evolving into atmospheric, psychedelically coherent forms of post-rock that coincide perfectly with the success of artists influenced by these collection of artists that differ in style but not in approach, that being of staying true to one’s origins and molding the expectations surrounding them as a result.

RIYL: Grizzly Bear, Radiohead, Animal Collective, The Turtles, The Zombies, Clinic, Echo and the Bunnymen, Mogwai, The Helio Sequence, The Depreciation Guild, Leonard Cohen, Menomena, Fruit Bats, Stars of Track and Field, Explorers Club, Built to Spill, The Flaming Lips


Librarians – So What?



Librarians – Cranberry Palace



Librarians – Wait & See



Postfact Records



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].


  1. Great review. Thanks. Listened to the album a couple of times now and clearly Animal Collective (and Grizzly Bear) are a strong influence on these guys. “Wait and See” pushes almost too much into Animal Collective territory but on the whole this is a strong album with some nice grooves and tunes.

  2. does anyone know anything about this Heliotropes band they’re playing with on Sunday? it’s in Williamsburg and I’m thinking about going…

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