I Used to Write on Walls & Other New York City
By Alexandra Edwards
Randy Garcia's other band, Nerd Parade, makes the kind of big
Southern rock that you feel down in your bones. But on his solo album, I
Used to Write on Walls & Other New York City Stories, Garcia blends
indie pop and electronic touches for a smaller sound.
There's only a few
seconds amidst these 10 instrumental tracks (well, 9 instrumental and one with
tiny, fuzzy vocals) in which you'd recognize Garcia as the guitarist from Nerd
Parade. "When Yr Walking Away" begins with a melody entirely reminiscent of the
band's The Span of a Life. The song veers into sunny pop, then comes
back, then veers again, but never quite escapes the feeling that Abby Wren
should start singing at any moment.
Aside from that song, the album is
filled mainly with industrial fuzz ("The Inquisition"), quirky electronic
percussion noises (something like snapping wires on "When Yr Waking Away"),
piano ("The L"), and even a little saxophone (provided by Travis Thatcher, of
Judi Chicago fame, on "Dumb, Ugly, & Horny").
The vocals on the
aforementioned singular track ("Every Trip Around the Sun") feel immensely out
of place after the steady groove of the instrumentals, but another song uses its
words to a startling effect: "Vampire Girl" centers around a long piece of
dialogue from an unknown movie, concerning vampires and their deeds. Atmospheric noise washes in over the sample, obscuring the words but almost
never covering them completely. By the time the drumbeat drops, the hairs on
the back of your neck will have risen. And when the sample reemerges to echo
itself in the song's final moments, I dare you not to get goosebumps.
But even this stand-out track can't shake things up for long. The
album's pace is almost painfully steady throughout: never really slowing down,
but never reaching up-tempo either. It creates a strange lulling effect,
wrapping the listener in its spell without giving much to consciously grab
onto. The final track, "Lady Cop," adds interest with its bells and plucked
guitar strings, but it doesn't feel like a closer. The song's cheery pop mostly
feels like an interlude that should precede something bigger.
to imagine in what context a person would sit down and listen to this album —
which is not to say it's at all bad, just calm. But it is easy to
picture these songs working well in their original form, as the soundtrack to an
off-Broadway play. If your life is in need of some unobtrusive background
music, you could do worse than to pick this one up.