Melodic/Inertia, 2009

What’s unique about the British band Windmill should become apparent after about twenty seconds of the first track on their latest album, Epcot Starfields. Matthew Thomas Dillion, the main man behind Windmill, has a voice that screams niche individuality, nestled somewhere in between Daniel Johnston and Wayne Coyne. It’s almost as if Dillon’s not singing at all, but pushing the words like play-doh through different shapes he makes with his mouth, resulting in really unique juxtapositions with the songs’ beautiful instrumental arrangements. Off-putting lead singers are just another emblem for fans’ freak flags, and it can be a more rewarding experience getting past the initial brow-wrinkling that can come from bands like Wild Beasts, Why?, or Windmill and seeing the sort of fantastic music they’re capable of once the strangeness wrapper is peeled back.

And so it goes at the beginning of Epcot Starfields, with “Airsuit” setting up a slightly new age intro to Dillion’s whiny croon; an echoing piano plays two and then three chords over and over with strings and, eventually, variations on the singular chords. The melody, or fragmented bits of melody as it’s hard to distinguish with this type of singing, uses a simple A-B-A-B-A frame, and the song itself couldn’t be more minimalistic, but it’s still astoundingly pretty. It’s hard to imagine the record getting any more intensive after such an ethereal opening, and the second cut releases most of that pressure with a literal “big boom” from both music and lyrics. From here it teeters on expansive indie pop and emotive piano/keyboard-based storytelling.

This isn’t a concept album in the traditional sense, but it’s very close to this idea. The majority of the songs revolve around a trip that Dillion had made as a child to the Epcot Center. In the same way that so many of the attractions there are future-based, the music has a spacey feel that engulfs all of its songs.  This is even more quirkily arranged and sung than the first Windmill album, but it seems to be for this purpose of uniting the sound. It works since the album is condensed to only ten brief songs, and much longer than it’s running time could have been a distraction. It’s an album that plays best when it’s unbroken, and when the spirit and tone can be digested in one sitting.  It’s depth is a little more subjective, however, and some may find once the shock of the lead singer’s squeals has passed, there’s not much left to enjoy. Regardless of it’s profoundness,  it’s sure to be one of the most quaint records you’ll hear all year.