Lean Out Your Window
S.E.N. Records, 2010
REVIEW BY: Josh Allen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/20/2010
Over the last decade, Chicago-based singer/songwriter Frank Tribes has earned numerous comparisons to classic pop rock artists like Neil Young, The Byrds, and even The Beach Boys. While these influences clearly permeate his fourth studio release, Lean Out Your Window, they mesh into a distinct voice that is uniquely Frank Tribes.
Honestly, the front third of the album did not immediately grab my attention, sticking mostly to formulaic pop rock elements. The sunny, poppy “Find Yourself Alone” is an uplifting track with lyrics reminiscent of a self-help book, harmonizing vocals, and occasional glistening, reverberating guitar chords. Tightly structured “Sunshine Lane” grows on you, and the subdued and faintly sorrowful “Airplane, Anything!” is well-crafted. Neither of these is particularly outstanding, and the lyrics are a little uninspiring and occasionally puzzling.
Tribes throws a hell of a change-up with “Bitter Morning,” which is the most interesting composition on the album. An opening accordion feeds into a straightforward but infectious rhythm and melancholy melody that fits the song’s title. The chorus easily sports the most memorable hook on the album, “Don’t feel bad, you’re not shallow / I can see you’re one fine fellow / Have a laugh and drink until the bitter morning.” I dare you: just try and listen to the track once through and resist the temptation not to repeat it once or twice.
“Hanging Around” is another highlight, channeling My Morning Jacket, with its sonorous vocals and lean but graceful instrumentation, especially the gorgeous sequence shared by two acoustic guitars. Pizzicato strings behind the chorus are a subtle but fitting touch.
Throughout the album, the mood seems to feel fluid, which to me is a great sign. “Only My Voice” is downcast, with Tribes’s lonely voice accompanied by ghostly harmonizing vocals (“Falling, falling straight down / Thinking the end’s coming near”). Other tracks, by contrast, are decidedly more upbeat and charming like “Marilee” and “Now You’re Listening”, which features ostentatious Who-like drums and ascending guitar arpeggios to bring the album to a close.
Frank Tribes succeeds with Lean Out Your Window in crafting a solid, aurally pleasing album, carving his own style out of a conglomeration of influences from singers/songwriters’ and classic rockers’ past. It's a song or two away from greatness, but I’m sold that Tribes is a secret that the Windy City needs to share.