Unslushed because: Luaka Bop seems like a creative label. Colorful CD, albeit without liner notes. No other information, but a little graphic on the back says, “My Record Speaks for Itself.” So let’s see about that.
Factors not initially considered: This is Jim White’s fifth or sixth album; his first came out way back in 1997. He’s from the South, but then, so are a lot of people.
On further review: “Dixie is a scourge and a scar and a girl in my heart,” White sings in the opening lines to “Jailbird,” one of this mesmerizing album’s finest tracks. White’s Southern flavor is frequently described as gothic: After venturing forth from Pentacostal Florida to get his film degree at NYU, he apparently wound up depressed and broke—so it goes, I guess, when you trade one batshit environment for another. Then he surfed a lot, and then he almost lost his left hand on a band saw. At his best, all of that experience tumbles into the music: fervor, pain, bittersweet redemption, the smell of the city and the swell of the ocean, all encompassed by an assured cinematic vision.
With its found sounds and electronic blips, weird, dusty-sounding effects and gentle, songwriterly core, this is in the same musical territory as Virginian Mark Linkous’s Sparklehorse. But where Linkous acts out with occasional blasts of furious noise, White finds effective release through gospel-influenced tracks like “A Town Called Amen,” “Crash Into the Sun,” and “Take Me Away.” With the country “Turquoise House” and the sleek “Diamonds to Coal” offering further distillations of the long road White has traveled, this album just feels good—not because it’s explicitly uplifting or optimistic, but because it feels as if it’s made of all the good things music should be made of. It flashes with both intelligence and humility, to the point that it feels as if it has flesh and bone itself. And if the energy fades a little toward the end—the final three or four songs are pretty subdued—there’s a natural rhythm to Transnormal Skiperoo, a day-to-nightness, that just makes me want to play it through and start it all over again.
– Jim White MySpace (check out “Jailbird” if you’re feeling mellow, “Crash Into the Sun” if you’re feeling up)