I'm a sucker for a good concept album, so I have to admit being very intrigued by this newest effort from Reclinerland. Entitled The Ideal Home Music Library, the disc is supposedly a compilation of tracks culled from lost (and recently rediscovered) tracks that were stuffed into a crack in the wall of the American Institute of Musicology. Discovered by a Ph.D/custodian and then passed along to one Michael Johnson (aka Reclinerland), who has recorded the songs for posterity. With extensive liner notes and a very extensive back history for each track, it seems like it could possibly be the real thing, but modern touches in the lyrics and a scan through on a trusty online search engine prove it to be elaborate fiction.
Subtitled Volume 1: Show Songs, the release definitely has an early Americana feel, and the list of singers and musicians who contributed to the release is pretty impressive (including Colin Meloy of The Decemberists and Chad Crouch of Blanket Music) as well. While the instrumentation and songs are fairly interesting and unique, the release unfortunately really loses steam in several places, as tracks really do feel like show tunes that didn't make the cut for a reason.
As one might expect for music loosely based around things written in the early 20th Century, the majority of music on the release is written around the piano, and while it works well in places (like the alternately thundering and understated album opener of "Give Up Your Film Career (Lenny's Theme)"), it also feels a bit limiting in others (there are far too many tracks that meander around with wanky sort of lounge-jazz backing).
As could possibly be expected, Meloy gives his all and the track he contributes to ("The Lady From Riems") is a standout on the release. Bouncing along with a ragtime feel, the lyrics float back and forth between English and French, and it's 2 minutes of pure charm. Overall, the album ends up being a little too clever for its own good in large part. There's some great music to be found here, but too much of it moves in similar ways. If you're a fan of piano-based indie pop or even quieter stuff by retro-inspired groups like Squirrel Nut Zippers, you'll probably dig.