Unpopular Advent 2014 - Day 15: Avi Buffalo ‘At Best Cuckold'
There has been much written about some perceived surge in vinyl as a preferred medium for listening in 2014. Ben Clancy did a neat job of debunking that particular myth, yet it did feel that there was something of a resurgence in the short-form album this year; a fact I consider may perhaps be as a result of groups writing and recording albums with a thought of vinyl from the outset. Perhaps too it was just one of those vagaries of fashion, yet in their ‘At Best Cuckold’ set Avi Buffalo certainly seemed to be another one of many who understood the appeal of the concise (in this case thirty six minutes) album with a symmetrical (five and five) split over two sides. Are such things important? Of course not. Which is exactly why they are important.
Now I thought that I discovered Avi Buffalo for the first time this year, courtesy of the former ‘Track And Field’ label mogul posting the truly mouth-wateringly delicious ‘Memories Of You’ on his Facebook page. It led me to picking up a vinyl copy of ‘At Best Cuckold’ in a record store in Totnes that very afternoon (it was the same day a man in a morning suit walked past me wearing a pumpkin over his head… which is Normal For Totnes, it has to be said). It was only later when I explored their past that I realised I that I was in fact already in possession of their eponymous 2010 album, downloaded in a frenzy of eMusic credit-splurging at the tail end of that year*. That it didn’t make much of an impression then probably says more about the pace of life than it does about the worth of the record, although listening back to it again this year there was certainly something lacking, particularly in the reflected brilliance of ‘At Best Cuckold’.
‘At Best Cuckold’ didn’t really lack anything. It had killer Pop instincts hooked up to a darkened, dirty mind. The afore-mentioned ‘Memories of You’ was Supertramp snogging The Sea Urchins whilst the gorgeous ‘Overwhelmed With Pride’ was Simon and Garfunkel smooching with The Shins (and yes, yes, Sub Pop label mates The Shins are certainly the group to whom Avi Buffalo seem closely related, at least vocally). ’Two Cherished Understandings’ was Neil Young necking with Wilco, and ‘Oxygen Mask’ started off like Terry Jacks singing about Anton Chigurh and ended with him dropping a tab of LSD and joining Charlie's Family on an extended psychedelic instrumental wig out (well, at the very least that were hints of Bobby Beausoleil’s ‘Lucifer Rising’ in there). Every last minute was marvellous.
*there are several difficulties with end of year lists and recommendations. For the compiler the primary challenge is the frankly unpleasant task of whittling one’s choices down to a manageable number (if you think choosing 24 albums from one year should be an easy task then clearly you do not buy/listen to enough music). For the consumer meanwhile there is the challenge of finding the time to listen to all those recommendations. All the things we missed and are desperate to catch up with… there just are not enough hours in the day, days in the month, months in the year etc etc. That said, the twenty four albums in this, the most Unpopular advent in the world, are clearly all worth you making that time available.