Ether Teeth is the second album of haphazardly assembled folk-hop from Fog, an alias for Minnesota solo act Andrew Broder. Glaringly apparent here, as it was on last year's self-titled effort, is the fact that Broder is no revelation as a songwriter; he is, however, an adventurous manipulator of sound, often disguising his structural and lyrical weaknesses in enough intriguing tonal tomfoolery to keep things interesting. Unfortunately, he just as often tries too hard, front-loading his songs with jarring, "quirky" layers of unpleasant noise. Example: I kid you not when I say that one track, "I Call This Song Old Tyme Dudes," kicks off with the lines, "Aw crud, what a dud/A fuddy duddy/That's funny, that mummy." Pile on a deadpan delivery of the aforementioned groan-inducing wordplay, a grainy recurring sample of the "which nobody can deny" section of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow," cymbals struck at odd intervals and some unnecessary scratching and out comes a song that makes for very disagreeable listening.
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It's a testament to the scattershot nature of Ether Teeth, though, that Broder can follow that borderline atrocity with something so lovely as "Wallpaper Sink or Swim," an 11-minute piano-driven track that peaks with the album's most lucid lyrical refrain: "We're goats, we'll eat tin cans/We're carp, we'll eat tin cans." "Wallpaper" best balances Broder's rural turntablist taste for explosions of found noise--be it chirping birds or a chorus of kazoos or the open-mouthed chewing of gum--and delicate, minimally arranged in-betweens. The more I listen to Ether Teeth, the less I like it, but songs such as the album-opening "Plum Dumb," full of gorgeous guitars and anarchic whirring backdrops, suggest hope for the future if the yet-young Broder can learn to better separate the wheat from the chaff.