Anyone can write a song, even more people can write a jingle, and your cat could probably have written most of what is played on the radio these days. The Westerner however is one of the most uniquely talented and prolific songwriters alive today, whose sound is so singular in style, that his name should be mentioned in the same breath with Stephin Merritt and his Magnetic Fields, and Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices. Anyone can write a pure quantity of songs, but this small handful of artists are genuinely talented enough to Earn the title prolific, as they write with such skill that the attention to detail they bring to the scope of their vision is very special indeed.
The first time I had heard the music of Daniel Huelsbeck, the creative mastermind behind The Westerner, was at once one of the strangest and most inpactful performances I have ever seen. Back in 1996 the band Slooth Nooget, a trio who wrote music that is way beyond description, played over an hour long set of music that they had written earlier the morning before the show. Having followed and collected his recordings for years, I've been astounded to discover the diversity, originality and left-field genius of some his early cassette-only releases as A Trapezoid to the more recent freaked out pop of Doy Bizo or even The Silver Pandas, a project so unhinged that it no doubt melted what was left of my personality, his music always speaks for itself.
The highlights of The Westerner's catalog are too innumerable to mention here, but even if you focus on the merits of some of his most recent albums such as I'll Win, I'll Win or Whoops! Money you'll find two instant classics of understated but immense emotional depth and wit. Fall 2007 brings us his latest release Acetaminophen 9 & 10, an epic pop album that finds The Westerner at the height of his lyrical and melodic power. The songs are still as catchy and quirky as hell, but the emotional restraint shown in tension with his rhy-wit are really what makes this album stand out. The sonic landscape of the record is even more unusual and broad than any previous release, recorded in his home studio and playing almost every instrument, it is clear that he understands the art of studio wizardry as well.
If you are a fan of television and you live in Portland you might have spotted The Westerner on channel PDX 49 during one of his performances with Michael Rockstar, who does their humors and musical station IDs. Huelsbeck has performed with so many other projects that he could be almost be known similarly as a Nels Cline or a Mike Watt from his collaborative performance work with other artists, an abridged list includes The Outpatients, Johnny Jerusalem, Mad Cap Laughs, Husbands and Wives, Jerrod Massuad Karimi, Pterodactyls and Joe Baker Combo.
(Pitchfork, Outburn, Kitty Magic, The Rockit)