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The Coyotes in Review by Jesse Alejandro October 1st, 2008

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Protools session files available for the first track:
Eyebrows, No Eyebrows

The Earth Was Opening Over Me

Seattle, WA

Go to The Coyotes's MySpace. You'll see a violent vomit of connected images spew down the side of the page like a corrupted film strip. Aside from this image, the front page is empty of the edifying accouterments worn by most MySpace pages (no iLike and Facebook links, no verbose mission statements, no long list of “influences”). Similarly, The Coyotes's music intrigues with its successful evasion of clear genre classification. The Coyotes sound like a cowboy band playing Chinese funeral dirges. I tried to evict this nonsense thought, but once it entered my mind, it refused to vacate. The Coyotes evoke such confusing comparisons because of the unique timbrel blend created by their instruments and effects.

The album, The Earth Was Opening Over Me, is a mix of original songs and poem settings inspired by a slew of East German poets. Lead singer Pat Seick tells us that these works differ greatly from most other Western poetry. “We wanted to focus on something that is now completely worthless [the state of East Germany] and make something out of it.” Peter Huchel’s poems are the setting for the songs “Winter Billet,” “The Sign,” and “Psalm,” while Gunter Kunert, Sarah Kirsch, Wolf Biermann, and Johannes Bobrowski also served as influences.

Opening with the twitterpating zeal of a Tarantino flick, a sinister cornett quickly guides the poppy drum riff of “Eyebrows, No Eyebrows,” one of the band's lyrical originals, into a dirty song. With a triumphant lurch forward, Seick's vocals set a stadium tone under this layer of dereliction. Cue the Santana-aspiring guitar solo that enters boldly and is pulled down in elegance by dark bass lines that fade into a woozy refrain. This song is like crabs in a bucket, with distinct styles pulling each other into an absurd synthesis. With a vocals that at times channel Audioslave's “Like a Stone” and a horn that errodes into squeaks of free jazz, this track is representative of The Coyotes's delicate and nameless genre-transcending style.

On “The Sign” The Coyotes employ clean acoustic piano and classical guitar against thickly reverberating synth and harmony vocals. Riding atop this stuffed omelet of sound is a saxophone as juicy and sweet as a cherry tomato. On “Psalm” they opt for a Mark Knopfler-esque guitar sound that, when paired with lyrical references to a nuclear winter and a jovial sax bounce reminiscent of “Come On Eileen,” stick in the ear as sharp as a knife in the butt.

These surprising timbrel explorations are anchored by The Coyotes reliance on a bedrock of folk-rock-country composition. From the classical pop chord changes and the driving back beat on “Film Put In Backwards,” to the diatonic vocal harmonies on “Pagoda 710,” to the folk crooning that pervades all their music, The Coyotes remain close enough to America's root music to make their dissonant sections and instrumental experiments palatable.

Compositionally, The Coyotes are a mixed bag. The song “Psalm” is tighter than Cindy McCain's facelift and shorter than her husband's life expectancy. Unlike either McCain, “Psalm” is sweet and swift enough to demand repeated listening. But some of their other tunes suffer from an excess of vamping. And occasionally the classical guitar runs roughshod over everything else, like too much maple syrup crowding and eventually engulfing an entire breakfast plate, from the intended pancakes to the accidental slice of avocado (this is just me; maybe you like syrup on your avocado). This guitar surplus is especially hard to swallow because its timbre reminds one of the depressing stringed sounds employed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu in one of his movies when he kills a baby or forces an illegal immigrant into the desert. Not bad necessarily, just easily overused.

Regardless of their missteps, The Coyotes's music is pretty. Their peculiar sound pulls them through their soft spots and more than warrant a paid download.

Boaz Sender and Justina White contributed to this review.