album reviews

The American Analog Set
Set Free
Arts and Crafts (2005)

American Analog Set has had to overcome significant hurdles to release its latest album: the demise of its former record label Tiger Style, main man Andrew Kenny's intense Ph.D. studies, and the challenge of following up a solid pair of earlier albums, Know by Heart (2001) and Promise of Love (2003).

Unfortunately, those distractions and the strain of distance between band members are readily apparent on Set Free. Recorded in five locations across three states, the album feels inconsistent and unedited. While AmAnSet has always relied on repetition, Set Free takes it to an extreme. On "Sharp Briar," a handful of chords and a blurry arpeggiated riff lead to nothing more than a lyrical repetition of the song's title, and while a melodica initially gives texture to the instrumental "(Theme From) Everything Ends," nothing ultimately develops beyond a few unsurprising melody lines.

On a few occasions, AmAnSet re-creates the energy of its earlier recordings. "Cool Kids Keep" is the standout, with a catchy melody, buzzing organ drone, and driving percussion. But for the most part, the album flounders. The murkiness makes Set Free feel halfhearted, and it's no surprise that AmAnSet's upcoming tour will likely be its last.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: the Baltimore CityPaper: 14 December 2005
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