Pomona Seniors Quartet Shines in Debut EP: Taliesin West by The Monikers

The Monikers, a four-piece band hailing from Boston, recently debuted a five track EP entitled Taliesin West. Peter Chiman PO ’12, The Monikers’s guitarist, began playing with bassist Tim Marchetta-Wood and singer/songwriter Francis Anderson in high school. Drummer Erica Warner joined the band after the trio went off to college. The band began playing shows in Boston in the summer of 2010 and put together their EP this past summer. According to Chinman, Taliesin West draws on the extensive songwriting work of Anderson.

“[Anderson] is a prolific song-writer… At this point he has written over 500 [songs]. This EP was selected from that huge catalog to give some sense of the breadth contained in it—which is why the EP seems perhaps eclectic. Some of it might be right up your alley, some might not. But it’s different for everyone,” Chinman said.

The EP begins with “Surfa Rosa (Pink Waters),” a light falsetto-driven melody stuck between short and twirling electric-guitar riffs. The bell-like guitar tones coupled with the simple snare and tom rolling drums immediately bring to mind a sound very similar to Vampire Weekend; the resemblance becomes unmistakable when the song breaks into the bridge composed of cello and viola riffs and the droning presence of a watery angelic synth pad.

Following “Surfa” comes “Opportunity”, a piano, bass, and overdriven guitar ballad accompanied by a looping saw wave synth riff and some light vocal sampling. The two latter elements give the song motion, especially at 1:22 when a chilling sample of laughter claws through the mix. Perhaps the best part of the song is the brief breakdown which calls, “take me higher” through a gridlock of alternating guitar plucks and cymbal rides.

From here, the album moves away from the happy, carefree vibe on which it was riding before, switching gears to the non-love song “Somebody New”. Alternating between minor tone sine wave arpeggiated bass lines, reverb-laden guitar noodling, and lyrics declaring “no, you’re not my type and I’m not the type to try and make pretend,” the tone invariably becomes delightfully melodramatic eighties.

Breaking from the presence of synthesizers and sampling, Taliesin West turns to the lonely and desolate sounds of acoustic guitar riffs, floating melodies, and stand-up bass with “Fountains Long Forgot”. With poetic and hypnotic lyrics about decay and a mellow yet directed harmonic rhythm, “Fountains” is perhaps the most convincing track on the album. There is something extremely desert-like to it, a presence of some ghost which is hard to pin to the wall but very easy to feel whispering on the back of your neck.

Next and last is “Poison,” a hissing and spitting song beginning with staccato viola plucks, piano hits, and mellow cello bows. This initial portrait is strongly smashed open with biting guitar hits and size mono bass lines. The lyrics are equally spitting, accusing a girl of stupidity and negligence. Eventually the song fades out slowly with viola, violin, and cello, all playing off of each other with truly maddening staccato riffs. Taliesin West is one of the more versatile albums making the rounds today.

Well-recorded and produced, and chock-full of lush ideas, the overall sound is captivating yet seems not to care what the audience thinks. What this short EP could use is some stretching out into an LP; taking the many ideas crammed into three-minute songs and giving the right ones the right time could be the best ploy. Taliesin West deserves a good listening-to, yet there is something that needs to be squeezed out even more, and the EP proves to be a 7/10. Once the sound has enough confidence to truly let go and go wild, things will get interesting, even dangerous.

“We don’t really expect people to love all of it—but we hope that they can recognize that there is something there in each of them and maybe open themselves to that—give the song a space within them for it to enter and grow large—to let themselves loose and dwell within the songs enlarged spaces,” Chinman said of the EP.

As for the future of The Monikers, Chinman is both optimistic and prepared.

“This summer will mark the beginning of our first extended time together as a band. Our plan is to move to New York in the fall and start pursuing this in seriousness,” Chinman said.

In addition, he feels that his experience at Pomona has laid a foundation for future endeavors, although those endeavors may not be typical.

“Being at Pomona has given me the confidence to say, you know what, I’m not going to go start my ‘career,’ I don’t want to go fulfill most people’s vision of ‘adulthood’—I want to do this, I want to make music, because it’s very important to me… I feel very strongly that this is something I need to do and I think that my experience at Pomona has given me the strength… to really pursue that” Chinman noted.

Check out Taliesin West at themonikers.bandcamp.com.

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