Best Album of the Past 12 Months (2007)

The Willowz's Chautauqua

Anaheim quartet the WillowzRichie James Follin (vocals/guitar), Loren Humphrey (drums), Jessica Reynoza (bass/vocals) and Aric Bohn (guitar/vocals)formed in 2002 and shortly thereafter had a couple of their tunes on the soundtrack to director Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep. Rolling Stone and Spin are on their jock, too, but don't hold that against the Willowz. Heady accomplishments and kudos for such a young band, but the Willowz haven't let that inflate their egos or force them to bland out. Instead, they've rampaged back with Chautauqua (Dim Mak), a brash refinement of the slashing, tuneful garage rock of 2004's Are Coming and 2005's Talk in Circles. The Willowz understandably draw a lot of White Stripes comparisons: Both groups embrace rock's pre-Summer of Love innocence and bare-bones raucousness while showing respect for its blues and R&B progenitors. Follin's vocals resemble Jack White's, but the former's are even higher and more dynamic than the ex-Detroit star's; that could be down to the Willowz's habit of having Reynoza sing in unison with or slightly behind Follin's lines. Together, they cohere into that sexy snarl Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema mastered so well in Royal Trux. Thankfully, Humphrey is a better drummer than Meg White. In their earlier days, the Willowz busted a lot of familiar garage-rock moves, but did so with brash panache. The Willowz retain vestigial traces of that m.o., but they've clearly progressed, and in the process, they've positioned themselves as a unit destined to have a long, fruitful careerespecially if Michel Gondry keeps making movies.


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