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Listening

The Badger King, The Tongue and Tooth

Don’t be fooled: yes, the first track of the EP, ‘The She Trilogy,’ begins just like The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley.’ It’s got all those synthesizer arpeggios. You know the bit. This sounds just like ‘Baba O’Riley,’ you’ll say. And then—GOOD GOD—this voice. Marianna Ritchey has pipes. She doesn’t just sing. Or la-de-da-de-da, I’m singing-a-song like the rest of us do: no, she belts. Make no mistake, this is a voice to be reckoned with. The other half of The Badger King, Jona Bechtolt, will blindside you with inspired electronic-pop-orchestral arrangements that mesh so well, so perfectly, so richly with Ritchey’s huge lungs, and this is quite a feat given the power of her instrument. At this point you’ll happily gather up all your comparisons and preconceptions and go toss them out the window.

Very, very, very original and unpredictable vocal melodies and musical arrangements are the cornerstone of this Oregon band’s assured future world domination. Exempla gratis, the song ‘Sermon of the 12’ features the following lyric (lifted thoughtfully from a poem by Anne Sexton):
‘Do not rely on February unless your cat has had her kittens / throbbing in the snow / do not use knives and forks unless the thaw / like the yawn of a baby / the sun in this month begets a headache / like an angel slapping you in the face / like an angel slapping you in the face.’
It’s a verse, repeated throughout the song, across a range of vocal registers and depths of arrangement. What any of the words themselves mean, well, you’ve got me there. But I’m sure that it’s beautiful, the way it all comes across, and that whatever it conveys is definitely…heart-warming. It could make you drop to your knees. It could make you change your mind. It could change your mind for the better.

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Andrew Womack is a founding editor of The Morning News. He is always working on the next installment of the Albums of the Year series at TMN. More by Andrew Womack

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