Preston School of Industry

On Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted, Scott "Spiral Stairs" Kannberg and Stephen Malkmus defined the indie rock aesthetic. Any sense of proficiency was thrown out the window in favor of near-shoddy sound quality, absurd sing-speak lyrics, jackleg guitar, and very loose musicianship, all gobbled up by the grad school slacker set. Upon listening to Kannberg's second album with his Preston School of Industry project, it seems Spiral Stairs (an inside joke of a nickname) never really grew out of that phase.

Where Malkmus and his Jicks come off as a bit more mature and ambitious, Kannberg seems content to produce nontechnical guitar licks, mellow acoustic country trim, jangle pop, and off-key vocals. Monsoon, with guests Wilco and Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5), echoes Pavement's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain nexus, where melodies, a stoner's rhythmic pace, and a decent recording budget elegantly came together. Surprisingly Kannberg's songwriting and vocal mimicry of Malkmus is as charming as it was a decade ago. Compared with current trends, it's even a bit refreshing. Call it nostalgia for an era when just about any verbose college kid weaned on Camper van Beethoven with a detuned guitar and a four-track was heralded as a genius for his neophyte approach.

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Jeff Skruck