Sat August 13
Doug Fir Lounge
830 E Burnside
On one hand, it kills me that Jim White's music isn't revered on the same level as contemporary geniuses Björk, Beck, or Aphex Twin. On the other hand, one reason White's music is so thrilling is that in the eight years since his debut, his songs still sound extraordinarily personal and secretive.
Both of these notions may soon be rocked by Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, the upcoming documentary which follows White through his homeland—the Florida Panhandle and the deep South—exploring the terrain that informs his ethereal, southern gothic version of alt-folk/country. Jim White's South, like his music, is a conflation of paradoxes—primarily between marrow-deep evangelism and crunk-ass, Dirty South country sinners. In this surfer-turned-model-turned-cab-driver-turned-singer's depressed, lowland region, ghost stories mix with biblical tales and soapbox country preachers compete to be heard over gun-slinging bikers—all themes coursing through White's three CDs, in which he comes off as an agnostic, melodic descendant of Flannery O'Connor.
Instead of relying on the traditional rock quartet setup, White's downbeat songs of love and redemption are brought to life with hand claps, wind chimes, slide banjos, Wurlitzers, toy whistles, kalimbas, mandolins, and even an occasional turntable scratch. "A Perfect Day to Chase Tornadoes," a song as magical and infectious as any Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips track, starts off with two acoustic guitars picking off trance-like arpeggios that are joined by syncopated congas and backbeat finger snaps. Electric slide guitar and drums bring the rhythms to a whirlwind crescendo as White mourns through a bullhorn about Jesus being a Chinese opera, until the storm suddenly lifts and the beat is stripped back to its hooky, finger-popping premise.
White's music doesn't fit neatly into any category—it's spacey, dreamy swamp pop, filtered through hillbilly music, Van Morrison, Bible thumpers, and Ennio Morricone. And much like many other genre-defying notables, his work deserves considerably more attention. Can Jim White get an amen?