Lingua Franca - Grand Piano (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Lingua Franca

Grand Piano (2005)


On my very, very long list of "things to do someday," there are certain things that will more than likely never appear. Among those, one would find such entries as listening to an entire Toby Keith album, spending 75 bucks on a pair of pants from Abercrombie & Fitch, or seeing a Broadway musical. I've heard some great things about them, but really, it's not something that I think could actually hold my interest. That said, I find it surprising that Lingua Franca's Grand Piano seems to present itself much like a musical, but it's actually very compelling.

The liner notes tell of this album being a tragicomedy in one act, and the combination of musical theater with Nick Cave-esque vocals through lyrics that read like a script would attest to that. "A Kind Of Dancing" scampers across its cold, seemingly desolate soundscape with an energetic resolve. Stephen Winsniewski's voice just breathes a certain drama into the music, an air of intrigue as he chants "And this city has eyes! / The city has eyes!" The harmonic guitars and subtle drum rolls further enrapture the listener until transitioning into the far less energetic "Murder Mystery."

The pace is far downplayed for the rest of this album, relying less on jazzy bass lines and over the top theatrics than subtle, spoken lyrics and the occasional pitter-patter of the percussion. The band is only a three-piece, but the array of sounds coming out of their instruments would lead a listener to believe there's something more to be found there. It's because of that instrumentation that rarely will you find a song that sounds like…well, a song. "A Thousand Birds" comes the closest, however.

Winsniewski's vocals are far more subdued and angelic on this exchange, crooning under some light twinkling and plucking of the strings on an acoustic guitar. The cold feeling that began the album is no longer present, as you're lulled into the narrations, and the operatic feel comes full course on the album's closer "Things We Know For Sure." The orchestrations in the background give a full feeling to an album that seemed a bit scatterbrained at times. The song ends wistfully between the lyrics and acoustic guitar that drove the song to that point. The ending is all too perfect, putting a fitting end to things, and wrapping up the themes that drove the lyrics to that point.

Maybe I'll have to do a little bit of rethinking after all. Possibly add a few things on to that list of mine, maybe broaden the scope of just what it is I want to do. Nothing crazy, nothing rash, but if I'm ever informed of Nick Cave's Broadway debut, I'll look into buying a bus ticket to the city, and actually attending one of those shows.

Besides, being in New York City would give me opportunity to cross a thing or two off that list. Bumfighting, anyone?