Rhythm & Views

Chad VanGaalen

Infiniheart is a compilation of songs--recorded by Alberta's Chad VanGaalen in his bedroom--that has been reissued by Sub Pop, and despite the now-cliché lo-fi bedroom-recording thing, the record starts out with sparkling pop ("Clinically Dead") and sleepy indie-folk like "After the Afterlife." What is evident here is that VanGaalen writes songs that rely on tried-and-true formulas, but still manage to be clever and sincere.

The record peaks around track six with "Blood Machine," but what a peak it is. The lyrics are reminiscent of social-disaster parables, kind of like Terrible Things, the allegory of the Holocaust involving woodland animals by Eve Bunting, or a Dr. Seuss story. The language is sparse, the instrumentation minimal and lo-fi, and the subject matter sublime. The song is about a town full of people who are attached to a "giant machine that could circulate blood," and as the singer approaches, "all they could say was 'please, please please, help us escape from the blood machine.'" The acoustic guitar slides up, and the drumsticks drag on the snare. There are bongos. Strings. Harmonic voices in the background. Somebody needs to make an animated film based on this song.

Everything after "Blood Machine" pales in comparison. It's a tough act to follow, but "Echo Train," "I Miss You Like I Miss You" and "Sunshine Snare Hits" continue in the folky vein of "Afterlife" and stand out among the songs that are decidedly not "Blood Machine" and shouldn't even be subjected to that kind of competition. Although one good song does not a good album make, "Blood Machine" almost defies that maxim for Infiniheart. Almost.

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