Video: Amycanbe – “Buffalos”

Amycanbe are not an obscure band, and “Buffalos” isn’t a new song — if you live in Europe, that is. This four piece has been getting good notices and racking up impressive international tours since 2005, when they released their self-recorded Yellow Suit EP. Their latest full length, Mountain Whales, hit the old world in 2011 — but, now, under the auspices of Feedbands it has a North American release as a limited pressing on colored vinyl, which makes this a good time to talk about Amycanbe and, especially, “Buffalos”.

Pop music is seasonal. There’s some bands that only make sense in the dead-heat of summer, others that pop especially in Spring, still others that only make sense when the skies are silver and the air is cold. Amycanbe has a real winter sound — the steady, unhurried bass on “Buffalos” courses between crystalline pianos and vocals that sound like the love child of Joanna Newsom and Wednesday Addams. This is a pretty good reflection of Mountain Whales as a whole, although “Buffalos” is by far the loneliest and most accomplished track on offer. File this under long walks and first snowfalls. Then look at the video. It’s literally a long walk on a cold night, which brings me to my issue with this record.

There’s one tone here, one ivory key on the emotional spectrum, and Amycanbe keeps hitting it again and again over the course of Mountain Whales. I like it, I enjoy it, and in the proper season and state of mind I can even find some resonance in it — but, somewhere, beneath the technical skill and the pitched emotion of these recordings, there’s a superficial heart. Winter nights don’t last forever and even the longest walk eventually ends, even if it’s just to sleep at a bus shelter or something… Where the hell are we going with all this, Amycanbe? I kind of want them to follow up this L.P. with some Gravy Train or Los Campesinos! shit and reveal that all this time we were headed to McDonalds, where everybody is going to fuck each other and party. At least it’s warm in there…

Look, I think you should buy this record, if you haven’t already. I think you should spring for the limited vinyl, if only because it’s gorgeous and Feedbands is an idea that’s so good it’s basically guaranteed to go out of business and become a weird fetish for degenerate record collectors. I think “Buffalos” is a great track, and worthy of some discussion — the central image reminds me of Frank Moore’s paintings of bison herding along the snowscapes of empty beds. But I also think you should carefully manage your enthusiasm.

This band is either going to get smarter, more fun or stay exactly the same. No matter what, they’ll accrue some fans. But unless they follow one of the first few tracks I won’t be one of them. Red pen on the white record sleeve: “B+, show more, alternate your Byron with some Kenneth Patchen or back issues of Thorazine.”

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