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Joan of Arc - "Love Life" | Music 2011 | SXSW

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Published on Apr 13, 2011

Although most bands struggle with distancing themselves from the seemingly infinite number of musicians who have come before, when Joan of Arc set about writing its new record the innovative group had only one past example to compete with: itself. "I think it's harder for a band to make a tenth record, than it is to make a first record," says Tim Kinsella, who remains the one permanent member of the Joan of Arc lineup. "There is more freedom to be daring, but there is also your own standard to live up to and surpass." It's obvious that Kinsella has succeeded in doing just that. Given the unconventional music style that characterizes the group's discography, Flowers pushes new boundaries by housing 13 songs that seamlessly glide together in a unique fashion. Here, the band weaves organized, structured pieces with frequent instrumental stretches to create a very natural flow from start to finish. To complete this collection of songs, Kinsella and the latest incarnation of his live band entered the studio with no instruments, and hardly any completed songs. Instead, the group simply did what felt right, using what was available to all the musicians who had recorded there previously "pianos, acoustics, and synthesizers" to create a new batch of music after only two days. The song "Fasting"is one of Flowers' more expressive instrumentals. A consistent, electronic droning illustrates the mood and paves the way for the following track "Explain Yourself #2." This song is strikingly opposite with a concise, driving drum beat matched with random bursts of guitar and organ. Kinsella sings, "No one wants to die with a couple hundred bucks still stuck in the sock drawer." Wanting to counteract the raw emotional overtones of Boo Human, Kinsella describes Flowers as "more like sculpting a garden as a whole. Even before we started, we knew Flowers would have to be a little cooler and more formal." That's not to say this record doesn't contain the unique characteristic staples Joan of Arc is known for. On songs like "Fogbow,"Kinsella dabbles with gargling electronic synthesizers while stating the painfully obvious: "Some people try not to eat too much. Some other people try to eat enough." These contradictory associations are what Kinsella illustrates so well in Flowers. Just as the title Flowers could suggest the album is an offering for everything in life 'love and death, celebration and consolation," also could be read in the sense of growth. Birthing new forms and techniques are what make Joan of Arc who they are, and Flowers illustrates this idea of maturation perfectly. Over the course of a year in four different sessions with four different lineups, Flowers evolved into what it is now. Recorded and mixed by Graeme Gibson (Califone, The 1900s, Catfish Haven) at Chicago's Clava Studios, Flowers encapsulates the idea of improvisation and growth perfectly. This experience summarizes the spirit of Joan of Arc. It is a mentality that embraces contradictions and tears apart common musical structures only to rebuild them without a blueprint. Joan of Arc continue to succeed in doing what many strive for with a new album: creating an obscure combination of familiar, obvious ideas while sticking with the notion that "if it feels good, do it."

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