When I first bumped into guitarist Jim Graff at a party, probably a year ago, I left with a CDR in a little envelope -- a few songs by his band, The Known World. Periodically I'd get another in the mail or at a gig, each with a few more tracks. What I didn't realize was that all these bits would eventually be sequenced into a full-length. For being recorded in small, discrete chunks over 18 months, A Year Assembled is a surprisingly consistent, coherent package.
Part of that is due to the fact that The Known World's songs are often pulled between competing latitudes anyway. Some songs seem like they want to be Counting Crows-type pop ... until a blast of flame-thrower guitar disrupts the melancholy. At other times, it seems like the band wants to be G 'n' R ... except, you know, without being total dicks.
The result is an album of guitar pop that flaunts a range of influences: some Foo Fighters and Soul Asylum, but also hints of Hendrix, The Roots and The Cure. There's a little Collective Soul in there, a little Verve Pipe -- the sound of that radio era in general.
Trade routes across the confusing topography of The Known World include Graff's professional, textured guitar arrangements and Nathaniel Minto's emotive, operatic vocals (admittedly an acquired taste). Minto's pipes work best on the harder-rockin' numbers; when he applies that falsetto to sensitive-guy material like "Come Slow," it's a tough sell.
Averaging between four and five minutes, most of the songs are a bit long and digressive for radio rock, but the swaggering "Pinwheel," the newest track, shows the band's development and gradual tightening of sound, structure and substance.