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The Cost of Living
Artist: Tell Tale Heart
10 tracks/41:31 minutes

Think about the first time you really listened to the Police or U2. High praise, indeed, but the feeling you get from Tell Tale Heart's full length debut, The Cost of Life, brings those bands to mind--different, fervent, quirky, full of jumps and spins, starts and stops--a free-form dancer lost in the sound, with direction and tunefulness at the heart.

First you get the sense that Tell Tale Heart is really a band--a sum of the parts. The sound would be very different without Andrew Carter's style of drumming--almost marching band military style at times and always driving over the yellow line, taking chances, but steady as can be. Or Joel Dodson's guitar. Making as much of the beat as Hammond's drums, he coaxes and wrings every bit of life out of his instrument. Then adding his love for classic jazz, Andrew Hammond's bass loosely anchors The Cost of Living like a kite in an ambiguous wind.

Still, at the heart of this release are the songs. Dodson uses his lyrics and vocals as a rhythm instrument--guiding, pushing, with careening falsettos and mellifluous choruses. Whether taking on his favorite pattern on "Polka Dots" or calling for "reign" to fall, his delivery convinces us to enter into his joy. And this is joyous music! A sense of wonder, adventure and excitement steeps each and every song on this project. There is hardly a chance to come up for air throughout the entire album. Like a fine workout, the last two instrumental tracks, "Survive This" and "Farewell," let you catch your breath and give you a chance to think about what you just heard.

"We Make Plans" is loaded with future hopes and dreams and features sweet harmonies and a completely inventive guitar break. "Harmony Will Happen" pounds out of the gate like a bronco and settles into a distinctly Police-like flow with echo-ey, squirmy leads.

There is a great tension created by the sober, realistic lyrics and the exuberant music and vocal presentation. Things do tend to run together after a bit, but overall, The Cost of Living gives a lot to think about and many reasons to return.

Bob Felberg  August 20, 2008


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