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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Album Review: Railcars

Railcars - Cities vs Submarines
written and performed by aria jalali*
recorded and produced by jamie stewart
engineered by jamie stewart and shaw waters
mastered by thomas dimuzio
album artwork by claudia o'steen (

*(tracks 2 and 4 - some percussion / mandolin: jamie stewart)
*(track 5 - glockenspiel: dasha bulatova)


Railcars is a one-man-band out of San Francisco. I know, I know, you're asking yourself 'why are you reviewing a band from San Fran, dude?' But it's been tough getting out to any shows lately and these guys (err... guy) were was nice enough to send me this 5 song EP with album art and photos and stuff.

Some background for you: These songs were recorded in the kitchen of Jamie Stewart, whom some of you may know from the band Xiu Xiu.

from the liner notes Aria sent me...
"cities vs submarines is a ten minute journey into aria jalali's most vivid, reoccurring dreams. railcars is an attempt to bring the images that have haunted aria's mind to life using drum boxes, synths, and noise pedals with sentiments recreated in lyrical form.

the current four member lineup for railcars' live performances was established by jalali when asked to play some shows with handsome furs in april 2008, however aria jalali mostly perfors railcars sets by himself, with only a laptop, guitar, a few boss loop station pedals, an ipod shuffle, some radio wires, some noise pedals and some broken keyboards."

I gotta respect a guy who does it all himself.

Full Review:
There is Ice; It is Blue
- This song consists of ridiculous amounts of synthesized electronic noise. I'm pretty sure I heard a cell-phone ring tone layered in there somewhere. The singer (if you can call it singing on this track) sounds like an angry drunk trying to convince someone that they are an asshole by yelling and puking at the same time. I liked this track. the louder you play it, the better it sounds.

Saints are Waiting for Me (Outside my door) - this song has a good amount of electric noise, and a driving drum beat. However, I just can't get into it as much as There is Ice. It seems disposable; in fact, it is about 30 seconds longer than There is Ice, yet it seems to be over a minute shorter. I can't put my finger on it, but this song is missing something; like trying to bake a cake when you forgot to throw eggs into the mixing bowl.

Concrete Buildings - The first song with recognizable guitars. This is very Strokes-like, which isn't necessarily good or bad. I guess that is a matter of personal taste. Simple beat behind it, the vocals sound like they are underwater, which is actually kinda cool. The best part is the ending; the song closes with this noise that sounds like some sort of electrical device being shut off. Jesus, that was a vague description. Think of the sound an old camera flash makes when it charges up - then imagine that sound in reverse.

Through the Trees Lay Smokestacks - 48 seconds of eerie coolness. I wish this was longer. It's just so... weird. In fact, I'm gonna play it again right now.

Bohemia is Without a Sea - An upbeat track with perhaps the greatest amount of lyrical content on the whole EP. This might be my favorite song out of the 5. There is a lot of stuff going on but not enough to be considered excessive to the point of detracting from the song.

Capsule review: An interesting listen with some unique ideas. Play it loud when drinking PBR or Heinekin at your scenester friends' house.

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