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Posted on December 21st, 2009 (4:50 pm) by Bo Smothers

Many great things are discovered by accident. Whether it’s popsicles, the good ol’ US of A or that you in fact can drive across the state to see your parents without changing your oil, safety manual be damned, all are made even greater by that tide of surprise felt at their discovery. It’s the same feeling you get when you find a dollar on the ground, the same feeling you get when that special someone comes unannounced to pick you up from the airport after a long time away, the same feeling you get when you hear a song for the first time you know you can’t live without, and it’s a feeling I hadn’t had in far too long when I stumbled upon one of the finest albums I’ve ever heard, Don Your Suit Of Lights, by The Mostar Diving Club.

Let me paint you a picture. It was the end of summer, August I believe, and I was in the middle of a musical dry spell. I hadn’t found a single band to shake up my own personal music scene in a month or more, and it was becoming a serious problem. To put it bluntly, I was in the pits. Then, one day, when I was walking through the park with a friend, a tendril of gorgeous, gripping folk music found its way through the trees and into my ear. I turned towards the music and began walking until I reached a field, where I met a raggedy man relaxing in the sun drenched meadow, with none other than “Vagabonds and Clowns” playing over his pair of speakers. I never learned this man’s name, I never asked what he was doing there, but from that chance meeting in the woods, I happened upon one of the most melodically perfect, stylistically diverse, and altogether best albums I’ve ever heard.

In his debut solo album Damian Katkhuda, the architect behind The Mostar Diving Club, wields staggering emotional clout with many textures—from drowsy, worn-in folk, to concise, uplifting pop—all of which usher the listener farther down the rabbit hole as he spins story after story with his song. After shedding the coils of genre he carried when playing with his first band, Obi, Katkhuda’s quirky musical imagination was let loose. He reaches dizzying new heights with Don Your Suit of Lights. Using his elegant, inspired melodies, he cuts swathes from all castes and creeds of the music world, and with his warm, tenor knits them together to create an album that feels familiar and comfortable and one that still manages to surprise you with every track.

There are songs like “The Medicine Show,” that from the beginning effuses good vibes as a muted bass, ukulele, and a simple shaker lead you into Katkhuda’s good-natured, passionate vocals, singing, “Come and meet me / by the sycamore tree / You can see all the sounds / you can fly for free / All aboard / for the ride of your life / everything’s going to be just fine.” The song only grows in scope from there, and as you are drawn in by the enchanting melody and lyrics, Katkhuda slips in a few of the eclectic multitude of instruments present on the album. There are the hopeful brass swells that accentuate the upbeat vibe, the childishly simple, yet delightful piano, and even a smattering of banjo picking here and there. Then, Katkhuda takes a neat sidestep into songs like “The Garden Of Forever” and “There Goes My Mind (Plastic Girls),” where his vocals and complex, athletic guitar picking take center stage. In “There Goes My Mind (Plastic Girls)” in particular, Katkhuda, with beatific bellows, lets slip evocative line after line Katkhuda positively shines, and we are gifted with a nearly flawless example of how emotionally riveting a simple guitar and voice can be, easily on par with the likes of Bon Iver’s Skinny Love. “There goes my baby, sweetest I’ve ever known / and when will she save me, from this heart of stone / and all I want is to bathe with you, in the oceans of my mind / I think of you baby, all of the time.”

Kathkuda’s trip around the music world doesn’t stop there though; there are far too many instruments left to be played, and genres to delve into. He steps into light-hearted summery acoustics with “The Honey Tree,” which more than any other song on the album, adds buoyancy and, without fail, manages to slap a grin onto the face of the listener, due to the uplifting lyrics. “Just another perfect day, I think I’ll walk this way / Where the trees do sing, I’m feeling part of everything / When all my troubles seem to fade away / they disappear with everything you say.” He dabbles in the melancholy with “Ghost Train,” the only song on the album not featuring his voice, and also the only song to feature only one instrument. Then, to top it all off, Katkhuda steps into the realm of orchestra and classical arrangement with “The Great Explorers” and “There Came A Thousand Elephants.” Finally, Katkhuda gives the listener a glimpse of what he is capable on a larger, more intricate level. Involving xylophones, bursts of robust brass sections, pervasive woodwinds, a noticeably more adamant drum kit, and piano, “There Came A Thousand Elephants” lifts you high, high above the drudge of everyday life, and transports you, if for a moment, into the wide open plains of the magical.

I have never, before or since meeting that man in the woods, found an album quite like Don Your Suit of Lights. I have never been so transported by, so enamored with, or felt so blissful because of any other album, and each time I sit down to give it a complete listen through, I find a new aspect or song to be fascinated with. The album, purportedly written in a small farmhouse in the South of France moves the listener in a way that most modern music simply cannot dream of. And at the end of the day, more than raising the question of why you feel the way you do when listening to it, Don Your Suit Of Lights asks why you haven’t felt that way before. With the listener finding a new favorite song with every listen, the debut album from The Mostar Diving Club is a masterpiece in every sense of the word, and is not only my favorite album of the year, but maybe my most cherished piece of music of all time. Give it a listen.

Track List:
1. In The Garden of Forever (3:28)
2. Ghost Train (1:46)
3. The Great Explorers (3:22)
4. The Honey Tree (2:17)
5. The Medicine Show (3:17)
6. Then Came A Thousand Elephants (2:44)
7. Tricky Hands And Radios (3:49)
8. Vagabonds And clowns (3:20)
9. With His New Armour (2:23)
10. You Be Me (3:05)

Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

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