Film School

Brilliant Career (Me Too!)

Listening to an album for the first time can be like "hanging out" with someone new. You don't know whether an evening will end in a kiss or whether it's just a trip to the movies. Film School's debut LP, Brilliant Career, plays with that kind of uncertainty, toying with recognizable musical references and leading the listener to places that can't be predicted ahead of time -- which is part of the pleasure of listening to it.

Film School is, for the most part, Krayg Burton, an Oakland indie rocker whose songwriting would encourage the invention of the adjective "eclectic" if it didn't already exist. But don't be misled -- eclectic doesn't mean disjointed. This collection hangs together exceptionally well, given the diversity of participants like Scott Kannberg of Pavement, Fuck's Kyle Statham, and Mauri Skinfill of Glitter Mini 9.

Brilliant Career's first track, "American Turnip," starts out as a simple layering of electronic beats with acoustic guitar -- elegant, with a melancholy feel -- and then changes into something more complex. Burton adds louder and heavier guitar rhythms, interspersing them with a background sample of Johnny Cash describing how "it takes a lot of imagination sometimes to write a song" and comparing the process to "just picking flowers."

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The sample gets at the heart of the album. Burton's songs often start out sounding familiar -- in the style of, say, Sparklehorse, early R.E.M., or My Bloody Valentine -- only to turn around and refute those first impressions. Burton seems to be saying that if it takes a lot of imagination to write a song sometimes, listeners might have to go a bit deeper, too. They should ponder what is not the same in two songs of similar sound or structure, because change within repetition brings the possibility of something new (just as two "first dates" are never exactly the same, even if they resemble each other).

Film School's compositions are meditative and can have a lulling effect, but they are also challenging. The songs may rest in the background like soundtrack music, but they always end up earning your attention. With careful screenings of Brilliant Career, Film School's listeners will eventually realize that they have been on a date, and it turned out just fine.

 
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