Why is it, then, that music critics feel the need to talk about the age of the members of Avi Buffalo instead of the music? It’s certainly not unheard of for a group of young people to get together and make music. Half the girls in America’s high schools think they can be the next Britney or Rihanna, or whatever is popular these days. So what’s the big deal about a group of people 17- to 21-year-olds putting out an album?
I think the problem critics have is that they can’t understand how people so young made an album so good. It’s rare that a band captures the feelings and thoughts of modern teenagers, mainly because the songs are written from memories about what it was like. Avi Buffalo has written an album about teenage awkwardness, love and sex while it’s still fresh in their minds. Wounds are still open and embarrassments are still in the foreground of their minds.
Avi (Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg) wrote songs that speak to everyone –not just kids in high school. This debut album is actually quite ambitious in scope. Nine songs and 42 minutes of a boy fumbling through life, trying to become a man. And he does it with eloquence and intelligence beyond his years.
One thing about the album that initially turned me off is Avi’s voice. Like Dylan or Oberst, you have to get used to it. And like Dylan, Avi uses his voice to convey his thoughts and feelings perfectly. Every crack and squeal is an added layer of depth to the words that he’s singing. Once you get accustomed to the way he sings, it’s actually quite enjoyable.
And listening is one thing you have to do if you want to fall in love with Avi Buffalo. His words, which he deemed “very silly” in one interview, are the main attraction for me. Check out what he writes in the song “What’s In It For?”
I can read but I won’t if I’m sleeping here without you
All these things that you learn, I’ve been knowing since my childhood
You are tiny and your lips are like little pieces of bacon
I can feel you on fire because you’re drunk and I seem too cool
Well, maybe the bacon line seems a bit silly, but the rest is very good, and it’s a great pop song.
Across the board, Avi Buffalo are talented musicians. Avi and Rebecca Coleman make some sweet harmonies together, and the band feels like they’ve been together almost as long as they’ve been alive.
There’s one track in particular that I want to highlight, only because of what it reminds me of. “One Last” is a soft starter that erupts into a beautiful sunshiny California pop song in spots. But listening to it made me want to listen to another song that I had all but forgotten over the years, “Santa Cruz (You’re Not That Far)” by The Thrills. I don’t know if Avi Buffalo drew any inspiration from the Irish band doing their version of laid back California campfire, but it sure seems like it on this one track.
And that, really, is what music is all about when you’re young. Hell, it’s what it’s all about when you’re old too. Paying tribute to those who came before you and making it your own. To that end, Avi Buffalo have succeeded wildly. They’ve taken indie pop/rock through the hallways and cafeterias of life and created something new out of all the best pieces of their influences.
- Avi Buffalo hails from Long Beach and is: Avi Zahner-Isenberg (guitar/vocals), Rebecca Coleman (keyboards/vocals), Arin Fazio (bass) and Sheridan Riley (drums).
- Their self-titled debut is available on the band’s website for $9.99 (mp3s), $12.99 (CD) or vinyl ($14.99).
- Avi Buffalo will be playing at Schubas on Wednesday at 9 p.m. with New Ruins and Whisker Music. Tickets are $12.
- For more Avi Buffalo, check out my interview with lead singer Avi!
“What’s In It For?” official music video