Topeka "Land Rush" Lopie Records

Coming from out of nowhere and crashing in at number one, Topeka are all about the angular alt.Americana roots music of one Fletcher Harrington, the wonderful voice of Tanya Livingstone, and the multi instrumental talent of Brit Collins.
And if you can overcome the slightly nasal timbre of Harrington’s voice (often cleverly mixed into double vocal lines with Tanya), you will discover a wealth of impressionistic lyrics, musical textures and moods. Fletcher’s lyrics reflect a dark brooding psyche, the kind that was once explored by the likes of Loudon Wainwright, and might in contemporary times be almost best suited to a David Lynch style movie.

The songs themselves slip from a straight ahead folky feel as evidenced on the opening cut “Another Brilliant Day” and the very catchy Cymbaline, but in between there’s some of the most inventive, well crafted, delicate songs that its been my pleasure to hear for years. From the dense metaphors of “Sliding Scale” to the closing aching love songs “Ten Steps” there’s unrelenting craftsmanship at work. On top of that there’s also a clever inner structure at play with careful positioning of tracks based on tempo, feel, and pace.

The magnificent single “Winter 808” for example - complete with imposing repeated bass lines, percussion and echo reverb - hits a wonderful groove, and uses a late chord change to create a telling dynamic. The number is nicely juxtaposed by the edgy “Writing on The Wall”, and the sonorous “Like the Road That Rolls On by”. On the latter the accompanying restated chiming guitar riff, and beautifully muted trumpet manages to mirror the lyrical subject matter brilliantly.
Above all Fletcher is no ordinary song writer. His songs are undoubtedly based on a mix of personal experience, literary nuances, and personal melancholy that only he can really know about.
If you wonder for example exactly what he’s on, to come up with dense imagery of “Winter 808”, then he offers a teasing closing couplet to give you a part answer,

“Light a pipe, and cool your eyes,
Think like a panther on the prowl,
Drink another shot of Jim Beam
And drive a nail into your cross”.

Finally, a word about the band: If Fletcher with his delicate early Neil Young style vocals is the driving force, the band as I said at the outset is a very organic proposition with Tanya Livingstone adding haunting voice, and Brit Collins contributing intuitive guitar and keyboard parts.

Quite simply Topeka has produced a miniature classic. It could even be a macro monster but given Harrington’s weird take on things, he’s probably happiest with a micro success!

Here are some clips from Land Rush:
(CD quality)
(AM radio)
Another Brilliant Day
Winter 808
Like The Road That Rolls On By

Topeka were number 1 in the February 2005 playlist

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