The Big Takeover - Greg Bartalos's - Top 10 Albums of 2011, Idaho - You Were a Dick clocks in at number 2.
2. Idaho – You Were a Dick (Idaho Music)
This actually is a close second, however this record and my number one selection could hardly be more different. If the Joy Formidable is brash and exuberant, Idaho is pensive and introspective. If the Joy Formidable wakes up the neighbors, Idaho resonates after the neighbors have gone to sleep. Best compared to a multi-layered sonic blanket that one can curl up in and hear new things in with repeated plays, the magic and mystery to be found here can take significant time to fully appreciate, like flowers slowly blossoming. Jeff Martin’s piano playing, efforts on the four-string guitar and his talky vocals require some patience but the rewards are massive. My admiration for Idaho has come late but its whole catalogue has recently been in heavy heavy rotation
PITCHFORK Review - Brian Howe; August 8, 2011 - * 7.8 *
"I hope you don't take it personally," Jeff Martin sings at the beginning of You Were a Dick, "that I disappear like that." He turns out to be addressing a photo of an old acquaintance on a computer screen, but those words also serve to extend an olive branch to his fans. It's been six years since The Lone Gunman, a somewhat out-of-character record heavy on cinematic instrumentals. A whole decade has passed since Levitate, the last Idaho album to feature the kind of slowcore they helped to define alongside bands like Low and Red House Painters. Between Martin's journeyman status and his quiet recent years, you wouldn't be surprised to find him in an aimless experimental phase by now. But instead, this charming comeback sounds like the work of a guy who knows exactly what he's good at doing.
Jeff Martin and John Berry were in high school when they formed Idaho in 1992, and they soon issued their Caroline Records debut, the dark and baleful Year After Year. Over the ensuing decades, Idaho began to release their own records, and the lineup shifted around the stable center of Martin, who now goes it alone. While the laidback cadence and emotively minimalist instrumentation of You Were a Dick are vintage Idaho, Martin's angst has mellowed into a pensive melancholy with a wry twist. His vocals radiate a welcoming warmth, with just enough coarseness not to float away. No longer straining against high notes, he sings right into the grain of his natural voice, which fits the gentle recriminations and consolations of his lyrics perfectly.
The music comes over as tiny and detailed. Most songs are structured around supple webs of cleanly chiming and pedal-sculpted guitars, or simple piano phrases, lightly dressed in electronic keyboards. But Martin draws many different aspects out of these common elements, from the ramshackle elegance of "Reminder" to the soft pastoral glow of "Structure". On the title track, what sounds like an EBow misplaced on a fret sends a shimmering buzz coursing through one of the guitar parts, imbuing its clockwork regularity with something a little nervous and wild. Martin is known for using custom tenor guitars, and in this spare context, those four strings resound like a miniature orchestra. He really lets us hear how his fingers move, with impulsive shifts in phrasing and inflection. The unique, unreplicable emotional character of each note and the snowflake-like differences between similar chords shine out in high definition.
These little loose threads keep the soothing vibe from getting monotonous, as do periodic wake-up calls like the quick-and-dirty instrumental "Impaler" and the booming pop-punk of "The Space Between". Thanks to the internal consistency of Martin's time-honed tone, the mystical Neil Young-ish folk of "Someone to Relate To" can sit comfortably next to a shaggy anthem like "Up the Hill". Again, he knows what he's good at. But even more importantly-- judging from this familiar yet fresh return to form-- he still believes in it, too.
The Inarguable Review, August 2011
Jeff Martin can do no wrong. From his band Idaho's inception in the early 90s, Martin's prolific output throughout the decade brought the world some of the most plaintive, heart-felt, beautiful songs that still go unmatched. Martin's unique take on a niche subgenre of indie rock, the somnambulant "slowcore," features expansive compositions, experimenting with a vast array of instruments and genre fusion, giving Idaho an almost cinematic feel. After years of musical evolution and having his own songs used in films (I distinctly remember HBO using the intro of "To Be The One" as part of a promotional campaign), Idaho's The Lone Gunman, an Eno-esque masterpiece, proved to be the band's last album. Martin put the project into hibernation and spent the rest of the decade scoring films and documentaries.
Earlier this year I heard whispers of Martin's plans to resurrect Idaho and release a new album sometime during the summer, but without any substantiated evidence I ended up forgetting the wondrous news until sometime last week when I stumbled upon Idaho's brand new BandCamp page, on which Martin had the entire new album, You Were A Dick, streaming. With a title like You Were A Dick, I was, to say the least, a little off-put and concerned, wondering if Idaho was going for shock value, only to remember that Martin had always had a bit of a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, imbuing titles such as We Were Young And Needed The Money or U Got That Gunman Thaang. Ultimately I found out the title is a line in the album's title track, where the narrator reminds a specific person that they "were a dick to [him] in high school." Yeah, he could have used the word "jerk" or said that the antagonist was "mean," but, in the end, if someone is a dick...that's what they are. Nothing is more powerful than lyrics to which I can relate, and if someone's "being a dick" to me I will probably tell them just that.
You Were A Dick, while still displaying the maturity in composition found in more previous Idaho albums, shows Jeff Martin holding back more, opting for a more minimalist approach throughout the album. All the textural nuances are still there, but the album has a more spacious, open feel that leads to a more disparate, nostalgic feel that is synonymous with other "90s" indie rock bands. Throughout the album you will hear nods to other, not really associated styles of music, be it the IDM-influenced electronic drums or the contemporary classical-meets-pop approach Martin takes to the piano. It's beautiful, really. You Were A Dick almost acts as the missing link between Idaho's more stark, brooding music found throughout the 90s and the lush, densely composed albums of the 2000s.
I welcome Jeff Martin back into the non-film music world with open arms. To think it had been six long years since his last release, yet he was able to pick up right where he left off. The genuine emotion felt throughout this album, coupled with Martin's relatable lyrics, makes You Were A Dick one of the more "believable" albums of 2011. No, I'm not saying that other albums aren't believable, but many artists couple the artistic ability with concentrating too hard on intelligence, thereby chipping away at the music's intended "genuine" emotion. Quiet, contemplative, beautiful and all-too-real, Jeff Martin's Idaho has made its triumphant return. We missed you.
Order this wonderful album directly from Jeff at his Bandcamp, linked above, where it is available digitally, on CD, or a limited-to-300 LP run.
MVRemix Review, Charles Sullivan
Los Angeles based singer songwriter Jeff Martin, who records under the name Idaho, has just released a new record, You Were A Dick. On this record, Martin puts a very personal spin on heartfelt, simplistic songs. At times the album sounds like you are looking through a kaleidoscope with all the different song parts moving and morphing into something unconventional and appeasing, but not always that captivating. At times, songs like “Weigh It Down” carry the same mysterious sound of the down tempo Radiohead songs via In Rainbows. Martin really doesn’t overstay his welcome on any one song, quickly moving to the next thought as if each composition is an individual chapter. This feeling is supported by some very nice instrumental numbers that act as intermissions.
The album is mixed very well, and the vocal layering and effects really move a few songs such as “Happiest Girl” and “A Million Reasons” to the next tier. Despite the amount of acoustic tracks on this record there is some surprisingly rocking moments. They tend to sneak up on you because they are buried deep inside the songs. The thing that brings the album down is the lack of diversity in the arrangement of the songs. This overwhelming parity really becomes unnoticeable toward the end of the record. Tracks like “The Setting Sun”, “Flames” and “What Was That?” are all very light precise pianos and acoustic guitars chords with Martin quietly pouring out poetic, melancholy verses. While not bad songs, the similarity makes them feel bland and lifeless.
Idaho is not bringing anything new to the table with You Were A Dick, but it is a decent album and a good introduction to Martin’s work. If you are into acts like Pete Yorn, Iron & Wine, Ray LaMontange then you will probably enjoy this album more than most.
SunOnTheSand Review - Vinh Cao; August 2011
With a 6-year breather between full-lengths, Idaho frontman Jeff Martin is finally fine-tuning his grasp on accomplishing more with less. The quasi-slowcore outfit’s latest album consists of 14 hushed, melancholy tracks that play their cards closer to the vest than ever before — an emphasis on mood is pronounced throughout shimmery instrumental ‘Impaler’ and the haunted bare bones of ‘Weigh It Down’, ghostly susurrations creeping out from behind the band’s core arrangements, our gaze fixed upon the moving shadows rather than the figures casting them.
2005′s The Lone Gunman may well have been the act’s gentlest, most intimate outing at the time, so it’s no surprise that ‘You Were A Dick’ favors a subdued lament over jagged jibes. “I hope you don’t take it personally”, Martin sings in the opening seconds. Amid twinkly, cinematic backdrops, his newfound vocal composure cultivates pathos through minimal movement on ‘Reminder’ and ‘Structure’. On the flip side, the languorous translates to limp on ‘Someone To Relate To’, a sleepy and formless cut that drags its feet in setting a course. Martin’s bandmates then drop the same ball on ‘The Serpent & The Shadow’, a muted wordless interlude that expresses nothing in particular during its 67 seconds. Jarred by the disquieting lull, Idaho goes on to reinstate its gait on ‘The Space Between’ and A Million Reasons’, the former pulling out some pure 90s angst whereas the latter’s eager drums find themselves strewn across the canvas haphazardly, disrupting Martin’s steady progress, wholly unwilling to abide by his cadence.
We’re never too old to learn, and for You Were A Dick‘s 40 minutes, Idaho is audibly feeling out the confines of its pocket, occasionally pushing with too much force or pulling away with too little of it. Paring back its songs has largely done the band a world of good though, as on the gorgeous twang of ‘The Setting Sun’ and skeletal, spacey lullaby ‘The Happiest Girl’. When that electric guitar slinks in atop the dusky expanse, its strums illuminate our everyday with the most tender and touching sparks, reverberating from bedroom windows to the furthest constellations in the furthest reaches of the cosmos. These days, a little is going a long way.
Floorshime Zipper Boots Review
You Were a Dick is the first release in 6 years from singer/songwriter Jeff Martin aka Idaho. The 14 tracks that Martin shares with us on this LP were worth the wait. Soft and dreamy, with understated vocals and lilting musical elements. Vaguely psychedelic, dimly lo-fi, hazily pop and distantly produced, Idaho's music draws one into a world where slo-core becomes its own aesthetic. Expertly crafted and meticulously executed, You Were a Dick should bring the attention back to Idaho.
Leicester Bangs Review
Idaho - You Were A Dick (idahomusic.com)
It appears that Idaho is now just one man, Jeff Martin, and this lousily titled album is a gift from him to you and me, though the title is just about the only thing wrong here, so don’t let it put you off. Effortlessly listenable, these 14 short(ish) tracks all have time to be nurtured, grow to a pleasing and genteel climax, and then gently curl up and sleep until the next time you play them. I suppose it is what we should expect from an Idaho album, it’s exactly what they’ve delivered on all their previous records since “Year After Year” back in 1993. Eighteen years after their debut, and six years since their last record, Martin has now pulled out his thumb and produced this peachy set of tunes that meander and flow so peacefully, and gorgeously.
I guess you might have to be a fan already, though, who knows? Maybe a whole new set of fans has been waiting just for this album. Somehow I don't think so, despite the wondrous mood of entrancing melancholia that pervades throughout “You Were A Dick” (well, actually, not quite, as "The Space Between", which occupies the album's mid-point, is unleashed with a spark that rapidly turns to flame, an outpouring of soul, a mini rock anthem. From Idaho... whooda thought it?). Back to the fan thing: Idaho have always been at the forefront of the slow, melancholic, contemplative sound, alongside bands like Red House Painters and their ilk, and they’ve never searched for an audience, it has always found them. These days, for many new music listeners, that’s just too much trouble, and it’s a shame. How much they miss out on, eh?
So, another album of introspective brilliance from Idaho, then, and if you think you don't need it then please think again. This is as necessary as any drug; it won't harm you... and its legal.
The Needledrop Review, August 2011
The Los Angeles-based band Idaho started out as part of the early 90s slowcore scene in California, with their 1993 debut and subsequent early LPs drawing comparisons to bands like Red House Painters, and American Music Club. While those bands either fell by the wayside or disintegrated into nothingness, Idaho soldiered on through the next decade, remaining in relative obscurity throughout their existence. It’s been 6 years since their last release, the experimental the Lone Gunman, but the band has now returned with a slightly more traditional sounding record, You Were A Dick.
Most of the album’s 14 songs are gentle, musically sparse compositions, with lightly processed synth, multi-tracked guitar sounds, and steady but minimal percussion. This palatable musical background works as a perfect stage for singer-songwriter Jeff Martin’s vocals and lyrics. Lyrically, he has an ability to make profound or at least emotionally affecting statements without saying much at all, lending itself to the album’s brevity. Few of these songs top the 3-minute mark, but none of them feel rushed or incomplete.
Vocally, Martin operates like an affected Mark Kozelek. He’s probably capable of reaching the vocal highs and lows of the Red House Painters frontman, but either aware that he doesn’t need to or simply to shy to do so on record. Either way, these songs benefit from that reservedness.
Most of You Were A Dick‘s sound is exemplified by the title track. “You Were A Dick” is not emotionally crushing or incredibly depressing, but rather it is sad in a very understated way.The band does branch out from this formula for some songs, however. On “The Space Between”, Idaho sounds relatively happy, even though this is mostly due only to the increased tempo. This track may stick out to some, but in my opinion it adds a needed feeling of variety to the album.
You Were A Dick is now streaming in its entirety on Idaho’s bandcamp page, embedded above. The record is available to buy digitally, on CD, and in a limited vinyl release on their bandcamp page as well.
The Big Takeover
Jack Rabid's Top Ten for July 2011
1. Idaho – You Were a Dick (Idaho Music)
Jeff Martin never lets us down.
2. Sam Phillips – Solid State: Songs From the Long Play (Eden Bridge)
Superb collection of her 2009-2010 internet download EPs.
3. The Decemberists – Picaresque (Kill Rock Stars)
Been rediscovering this 2005 third LP gem after the band’s impressive Prospect Park gig erased memories of their somewhat flat performance at Beacon Theater some months prior. Will miss them the next three years while they take a break!
4. Zounds – “Demystification” (7” single) 1982 (Rough Trade U.K.)
30 years later, Zounds made a spirited U.S. debut at ABC No Rio – that is leader Steve Lake and an all-American lineup including two close friends of mine. Talk about win-win!
5. Swervedriver – Mezcal Head (Second Motion) reissue
I don’t need an excuse to rediscover this LP, but the band’s blowout set at Irving Plaza, which centered on the first two LPs, did the trick!
6. The Wipers – Silver Sail and The Herd (Jackpot)
Timely vinyl reissues of albums 7 and 8 out of 9 of one of the U.S.‘s greatest all-time artists, the incomparable Greg Sage
7. The Mutton Birds – The Mutton Birds (Bag NZ)
Don McGlashan played some absolute classics off his old band’s first, 1992 LP at his two New York shows out of his long, great catalog of about 10 LPs. Nearly everyone at both shows was from New Zealand. At least his native countrymen know how great he is.
8. Let’s Wrestle – Nursing Home (Merge)
Another chaotic, noisy pop thriller on LP number two.
9. Sloan – XX (Yep Roc)
These great songs were even better live at Bowery Ballroom and Knitting Factory.
10. Joy Formidable – The Big Roar (Canvasback/Atlantic)
2011’s album of the year to date, still going strong.