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Glasstown



Glasstown is a San Francisco sextet (which often features additional members) led by a published writer and featuring a French horn player. That in itself should be enough to pique your interest. They do lush, offbeat, complex pop music that stirs memories of eccentric pop stalwarts like XTC, Robyn Hitchcock, and Julian Cope. Singer Adam Klein, the aforementioned published author (with a collection of short stories to his credit, plus a monograph of the artist Jerome Caja cowritten with poet Thomas Avena), chirps and croons fragmented and surreal poetry over an absurdly lush and constantly evolving tapestry of sound. With the traditional guitar-bass-drums setup augmented by countless kooky synthesizers, exotic tiki lounge percussion, found sounds, robotic electronic noises and other sundry knob-twiddling byproducts, and a lazy French horn that sounds like the sun hanging low on a summer afternoon, Glasstown can take you through a lot of musical moods. Among these: Tin Pan Alley pop, Bacharachian baroque pop, late '60s Kinks-style Anglophilic pop, and '80s dance-pop. You've probably noticed the word "pop" appearing regularly, and that's because these guys most definitely are, but don't confuse "pop" with "conventionality," because Glasstown is anything but conventional.

How unconventional? How about their Branwell Brontë obsession? He's the forgotten Brontë -- the brother of the famous female literary Brontës, Charlotte, Anne, and Emily. In fact, they named their band after an imaginary utopian city of Charlotte and Branwell's youth. And more than one of their songs explore the relationship between Branwell and his better known sisters.

The seeds for Glasstown's ascent were planted in late 1996, when Klein and synth-player/guitar-plucker Michael Mullen were introduced by a mutual friend, who suggested they might want to play music together. Over the years that followed, collaborators came and went as Glasstown (called Aner until '98) performed sporadically to small local audiences. By 2000, with a regular lineup now in place, Glasstown finally recorded a debut LP, released in early 2001 on Bitter Stag Records. It's called Living and Forgetting, and features (as you may have guessed) the track of the same name, a song of epic strangeness and strange beauty.