by Dan Bolles
Damn you, Villanelles. First, you go on hiatus after releasing one of the better local indie rock recordings in recent memory, 2011's Kiss My Grits EP. (Which, for those keeping score, was an EP. In 2011.) Then, just when word leaks that your looooooong awaited followup is pretty much in the bag, your front man, Tristan Baribeau, up and moves to Alaska. Like, polar bears and Sarah-effing-Palin Alaska. Now we've gotta wait, like, three months until he comes back to hear it. It's enough to make a man… well, want to move to Alaska. But that's beside the point.
The point is: "Northern Exposure" was an awesome show.
The other point is that before he left, Baribeau was kind enough to release a new record under his solo-ish side-project sobriquet, Doctor Sailor, called The Greatest Lyric. We like. And we imagine anxious Villanelles fans will find a lot to like, too.
Dr. Baribeau is a touch more laid back and introspective than the frantic dynamo we've come to know and love as the front man for Villanelles. Doctor Sailor songs could be viewed as skeletal versions of Villanelles tunes, the bare bones under all that fleshy keyboard bombast and guitar jangle. But that's not quite accurate. There are certain discernable similarites between the two projects, especially melodically. But the fare comprising The Greatest Lyric generally falls closer to the folk and pop sides of the indie-(blank) hyphen than rock. It's a mellow but stylistically diverse and subtly complex suite of songs that finds a more contemplative, and at times wistful, Baribeau than Villanelles fans have grown accustomed to. That's not to say Baribeau is suddenly all mopey and serious. With his soft, high croon he retains his winking, boyish charm, even in more downcast turns. But there's an edge here that is darker than the Villanelles' typical playfulness.
Here's a track from the record called "Sunroom." The entire album is available here, for a limited time as a name-your-price download.