! = recommended
* = all-ages
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Pitchfork and I parted ways a while ago. I think it was around the time they panned Night Canopy, showing a total lack of understanding of that band's dynamic. There was a rush of expletives hurled at my monitor before I finally just clicked "unsubscribe" in Google Reader. I'm sure they were crushed by the loss of my devoted readership, but I can ignore their arrogant statements in peace now 99% of the time. Nonetheless, in hearing that they'd reviewed - scathingly - Seattle's own PWRFL Power, I had to go see for myself. Clearly, I've missed nothing. A Pitchfork review of any rating is still an honor, a necessary evil nowadays for independent music, but Kaz (aka PWRFL Power) deserved better.
Sometimes brilliance can be hard to recognize. The first time I met Kaz, it was in the middle of a tiny, hushed venue. Another singer songwriter was sharing about failed love while no less than three ex-girlfriends sat in the audience. The tone was somber, reflective, and dead quiet. When Kaz walked in, if memory serves me, he was wearing a hot pink sweater. Possibly hot pink pants. Immediately upon entering he began dancing in the front of the room, arms flailing. Silently I thought, "This dude is insane." In retrospect, I see a certain magic in that action, toying with people's expectations about how one should behave. It wasn't to generate attention for himself; it was to make everyone else in the room stop and look at what they themselves were doing. At first glance, I didn't see anything extraordinary in the impromptu performance. It took further thought and examination, just as I believe his album requires.
Fast forward to seeing PWRFL Power play in April of 2007. I knew nothing about his music when I walked in, and wasn't prepared to be blown away. As I listened to the sweet confessional of his words, I was amazed at how he could be both so silly and so witty. Though I didn't know at the time that he was a classically trained musician, I stared wide-eyed at the skill he showed playing his guitar. I actually laughed in disbelief. When I left that evening, I thought about the fact that I wasn't there for the birth of K Records, that I wasn't there to witness something so unique and miraculous. But in a way, I felt like seeing Kaz play for 20 people was my own miniature version of that same kind of magic.
The 4.9 review P4K published last week shows that the writer didn't have such an awakening experience while listening to the album. He refers to PWRFL Power's lyrics as "presumably put-on ESL awkwardness, childlike nonsense, and whimsy..." It's the 'presumption' in there that demonstrates their lack of insight or connection with Kaz's music. I find Kaz to be almost painfully honest, baring his thoughts for all the world to see. There's a humility in admitting you've been punched for doing something wrong, and not wanting to hit someone else for doing the same - "My dad used to beat me up / Because I was holding them wrong / And I don't want to beat you up because / You're so pretty." I've never found this to be comedic statement, though I suppose it is amusing. His songs can be challenging, just as his dancing in the middle of a room was.
Pitchfork will continue to write reviews I don't agree with, and I will largely continue to ignore them. This review, however, disappointed me to a point where I couldn't hush up and move on. PWRFL Power, to me, is truly a presence befitting his name. There's power in his lyrics, in the way his songs are crafted, in the simplicity of his words. I'd hate for one review to rob their wide readership of the chance to listen a little more closely. Better yet, I hope readers see him live. See that he means it.
And see for themselves that Pitchfork, in their infinite wisdom, missed the point.