erasing clouds

Death by Chocolate, Bric a Brac

review by dave heaton

Bric a Brac is exactly the right title for the new Death by Chocolate album, in part because it feels like a collection of things we pick up along the way – memories, facts, places, feelings, fashions – and in part because that is expressed in a decorative way, steeped in our remembered and imagined notions of 1960s style.

It’s been a decade since their last album, and their essential approach to music is the same: a cheeky mix of retro-‘60s keyboards and guitars with little poems and sing-song tunes voiced by vocalist Angela Tillett. It’s all very sweet and cute and playful, but I’ve always found their music to be also both funny and, at times, unexpectedly touching. Unexpected because the lyrics often read mainly like lists of objects and notes about them, not laden with the sort of emotional or intellectual messages that people associate with songwriting.

Perhaps the driving emotion is nostalgia, but not for those of us born after the ‘60s. What I find so special about their music is how they weave something colorful and fun out of random pieces of the world around us, or – maybe more importantly – out of the way we imagine the world around us. That’s in the music, too, gathering scraps from our collective idea of the ‘60s, as much as in the lyrics, where a series of hotel menus sits near the periodic table (“Lithium is the lightest metal / and the least dense metal”) and the names of Russian cosmonauts, read off like we’re at a graduation ceremony. These things we collect in our brains and our homes are all brought together in the title track, which lists off objects (books, candlesticks, toys, etc.) and makes them seem bigger, more important and sadder than they are: “Here in my world are pieces of memories / a moment in time / just left behind…”


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