Wednesday, June 02, 2010


I first came across Turner Cody via a couple of his tracks on the Boy Scout Recordings compilation "Thrifty, Brave and Clean" that was given out at End of the Road in 2007. I should have followed up on that initial intrigue there and then – it would have saved me having to play catch-up three years on. This year’s album “Gangbusters!” is his tenth release (although trying to find a definitive list of those ten, especially with several being self-released, proves to be quite elusive).

The tags on Cody’s page describe him as ‘anti-folk’. And there’s a degree of truth in that label but “Gangbusters!” has far too much variety and sophistication to warrant narrow pigeon-holing. This is the third album he has recorded with Herman Dune as his backing band and this is a good pointer of what to expect. Cody is anti-folk in the same way as the Franco-Swiss indie-folkers and on ‘The Only One I Had Is Gone’ sounds most similar: amiable, shuffling rhythms, flat, nasal vocals, lovelorn quasi-poetic repeated phrases and occasional touches of horn. And like Herman Dune, Cody can switch from wistfully romantic to maudlin at the drop of a neatly-brimmed trilby.

But across these twelve songs, Cody also toys with other musical styles and brings subtle but distinctive arrangements to each song (on record he is not the simple wandering acoustic busker he appears to be in videos like the one below). ‘Au Revoir’ is Francophile chanson, a wry kiss-off with tuba and trumpet accompaniment. ‘Forever Hold’ is genteel barbershop crooning. The rhetorical question of ‘Mon Amour’ (“Can you see me mon amour?”) reminds me of the curious (and equally rhetorical) folk-pop 70s balladry of Peter Sarstedt’s 'Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?'. But for all the strangeness of that record, Sarstedt never sang of “howling at a lonely moon” (I think). And ‘Jackson Heights’ and ‘When We Go’ have a outlaw country feel to their rambling narratives and neat wordplay. For a singer born in 1980 and a record released in 2010 that’s a lot of 60s and 70s references - but the record never feels dated or stale.

Part of what keeps it fresh is the subtle orchestration. Horn arrangements come courtesy of Jon Natchez and Kelly Pratt (of Beirut) plus there are occasional touches like the graceful strings on ‘Lost As Lost Can Be’ adding a melancholic chamber-pop feel. Towards the end of the record there are a couple of songs were the quaintness gets a touch too overpowering but with no song longer than three minutes the easy-going bonhomie is never too far away.

Cody is originally from Boston and now living in New York. However he sounds less like a resident of that city and more the globe-trotting, dapper gentleman-bohemian (cities and places mentioned include Cleveland, New Orleans, Santa Fe, Toledo, Baltimore, Paris, Dover, Stockholm, Monte Carlo and the Amazon river). ‘Lost as Lost Can Be’ he sings but actually he sounds like a man very sure of who he is and where he is.

Back In The Land Of The Living by turner cody

The UK release of "Gangbusters!" has been put back to later this month but you pre-order now. Cody is also giving away "Nashville Hits" a five track EP of country songs on his website. And finally for trivia fans: Cody plays Will Oldham in this video from Jeffrey Lewis.

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