Ish Marquez is the hidden light at the end of the otherwise tedious anti-folk tunnel. He has the melodic gifts of Arthur Lee, but without any of the failed lyrical obtuseness. Someday there will be a compilation to sand over the numerous repetitions in his discography, and America will finally take notice of him. He will be placed alongside Paul Westerberg in the pantheon of self-sabotaging genius.
Marquez touts superb rhythmic techniques in his vocal delivery, and he can apply a lo-fi swirl when appropriate. When it isn’t, he doesn’t; he has no dogmatic allegiance to any production style. Marquez avoids the pitfalls of Anti-folk, the lines which purposefully don’t rhyme, and detail the endless petty narratives of shallow post-collegiate relationships and screeching hesitant guitar tones. All he keeps is a suspicion of overproduction and an allegiance to tunes. His connection to the scene, like a couple others, was mostly geographic; The Sidewalk Cafe was the epicenter of anti-folk and anything played there was considered Anti-folk by default.
Fall Into Shadow, recorded with members of Herman Dune, is an uneven album, but one filled with great highlights and Marquez’s nasally moody vocal stylings. That it manages to be his greatest album despite containing none of what I’d consider to be his best songs is notable in itself. “I Perceive Things”, “Approaching Su God”, and “Glow Yer Glow” are all spread across other cassette releases and proper albums (some of them multiple times.) Yet on the other albums Marquez is plagued by poor production and substandard background players that kill any cohesion possible in the listening experience. Perhaps the next best release is Goin’ Thru which displays Marquez’s penchant for psychedelia much more prominently.
Herman Dune manage to provide a background to let Marquez stretch out. While this occasionally backfires into silliness or unnecessary covers, such as “Moo Moo Cow” or “Out on the Weekend”, this otherwise provides consistent shifts in dynamics and rousingly loose renditions.
Marquez sees life as something dramatic, Verdi-like at times. He frequently ends each line with a strong downward strum and held note. The lyrics aren’t as strong as the melodies, though occasional gems pop up like on album highlight “Sound the Alarm”. “I’ll be the victim if you’ll play along,” he sings there. Rarely can one hear so many confused dynamics in one line.
Fall Into Shadow is a good Sunday chill-out album and, until a proper release of the first two self-released cassettes, the best place to start on Marquez. Hopefully he can pull it together and add some official releases to his discography.
RIYL: Elvis Costello, Neil Young, Ritchie Valens, Johnny Mathis, Love, Guitar Situations, Jeffrey Lewis, The Replacements
Ish Marquez – Is There Really Such a Word?