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coverpic flag US - California - Full Moon 222 - 10/08/14

Avi Buffalo
At Best Cuckold
Sub Pop Records

When Avi Buffalo played Oslo last week I could not go. Of course, I really wanted to, and I was already on the venues guest-list. I was also hoping to do a brief interview. However,... I simply had to skip the gig. So, then I'd better dive into their/his (it is a solo project in the studio, but it builds into a band onstage) new album, At Best Cuckold. Avi Buffalo's second album, following his 2010 hailed and praised (by BBC, NME, Pitchfork, Drowned in Sound, Under The Radar, Filter, as well as numerous others) self-titled debut. A few years back Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg and his Avi Buffalo were, according to their label Sub Pop: '...busy making an off-kilter pop gem that eventually bowled over...'. Zahner-Isenberg and his friends' work was work of quality, and the result brought him/them to festival stages all over, including (in the UK): Reading, Glastonbury, (the Pavement-curated) All Tomorrow's Parties in Minehead, and beyond.

Avi Buffalo is lead and fronted by singer/songwriter/guitarist Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg (a young man still in his early 20s, who was nicknamed Avi Buffalo back in his childhood days...). His players (today) count long-time comradesse Sheridan Riley (drums), Doug Brown (bass player), and Anthony Vezirian (keyboard, piano). There has been multiple line-up changes (former members have included bassist Arin Fazio, keyboardist Rebecca Coleman, and former Girls guitarist John Anderson, who played bass on some of the sessions leading to this new album). Allmusic have said that Avi Buufalo's song writing '...amalgamates the pop craftsmanship of Burt Bacharach with the cosmic wonder of Wayne Coyne...', while their music can be filed alongside Modest Mouse and The Shins, or The Morning Benders, or even MGMT and Foxygen. Avi Buffalo himself/themselves list artists we also like such as: French Quarter/Stephen Steinbrink, Luis Gutee, Beached Whale, Fort Wife, (Kevin Litrow's) N.O.W, and the band's interests are described (on their fb site) as: 'analog to digital to digital to analog to random dog to pitbulls. At Best Cuckold was captured at Tiny Telephone, the 'analogue-friendly San Francisco studio run by John Vanderslice', and it was engineered by Jay Pellicci (who is responsible of The Dodos, Deerhoof, Sleater-Kinney, and several others). Artists moods (as described by Allmusic) are: 'quirky', 'bright', 'fun', 'silly', 'tuneful', 'amiable/good-natured', 'anguished/distraught', 'animated', 'bittersweet', 'ebullient', 'eccentric', 'irreverent', 'kinetic', and 'playful'. Quite a long (and silly) list. Anyway, Avi Buffalo balance on the lo-fi, quirky, indie-pop side of the scale. In addition, they do it with charm, pop-brilliance and enthusiasm. With loads of warm and wit on board: When asked by SXSW this spring 'Which evil villain would make the best President?', Zahner-Isenberg answered (without blinking) 'Phil Spector'. As described by Sub Pop, Avi Buffalo beam, or ooze out '...understated charm and sing-songy goodness'.

At Best Cuckold is an indeed fine pop platter. "I really like some of the ballad aspects of this record... it's kind of my tribute to the ballad,", Avi Zahner-Isenberg has said. "I predicted in an interview during the time of my first record what I was going to use in my next record, and I said a lot of major seventh chords, which, to me, sounded like laying down. And that ended up in the record, too." All major chords aside, Avi has come up with fine ballads as well as excellent pop music. When opener "So What" streams out of your speakers, it reminds me and makes me think of Kiwi-pop legends (who are back inside from the big Wherearetheynow) The Chills. But, also The Shins (plus old-timers The Hollies and The Zombies) come to mind quite suddenly, even though Avi Buffalo are something different than both The Shins and The Chills (or even The Hollies, or The Zombies). What they do have in common is grand pop music of the indie pop league. At Best Cuckold is a very, very fine listen, and I am sure that Avi Buffalo have been taking a giant step forward from their debut album. Check out "Memories of You", and the fabulous "Can't Be Too Responsible" (which could have been penned by Jeff Lynne). Or, check out "Found Blind" and "Think It's Gonna Happen Again", or the closing "Won't Be Around No More". Lyrically, the themes of the album are: They see Avi observing the world, and life itself around him, writing and telling stories '...about life, dealing with relationships and yourself, and trying to keep your head up and keep learning amidst whatever it is you're going through.' This is a massive pop attack, and you cannot avoid it. They will get you in the end. You will be turned. At Best Cuckold is an amazing, flowering record.

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