The Music Tapes

Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes

BBC senior broadcaster Bill Giles once said the British are obsessed with their predictable, oftentimes dreary weather because of its standing as a reliable conversation starter. The Music Tapes’ Julian Koster isn’t British, but his meteorological themes on Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes play like strategic opening gambits. Koster has always seemed rather demure, both through his art (soft-spoken vocals; instruments and gear that gives the impression Koster is more cloistered collector than recording artist) and his lifestyle choices (living on an island off the Maine coast). Tracks like “Nimbus,” where cloud types are listed over rollicking saloon piano, and “Tornado Longing for Freedom”—the lyrical equivalent of a child crayoning a tornado with a face, arms, and legs—feel like quirky efforts to generate dialogue. And now that you’d like to chat, Koster has this for you: “Majesty,” “The Minister of Longitude,” and “Cumulonimbus,” which move away from gossamer lo-fi and towards more textured, hooks-laden songcraft. Koster’s whispery brand of pop solitaire is what earned him an esteemed spot next to one-person acts like Smog, but it’s this new material with real depth and force that’s more engaging.