Oftentimes, the albums that are often picked up and praised throughout a variety of internet outlets are huge, grandiose accomplishments of arrangement and songwriting. Even our album of the year last year at the 405, Active Child’s You Are All I See, was one of these albums--though largely the work of one man. It was gigantic, soaring and full of intricately intertwined vocal and harp lines and backed by outstanding songwriting. Just overall, it was a pretty incredible album on face value. White Fence’s most recent effort (his first of two this year), Family Perfume Vol. 1, is nothing like these sort of albums.

Tim Presley, the man behind the White Fence moniker and member of the Strange Boys, seems to have no use for the traditional conventions of critical praise. Simply put, Family Perfume Vol. 1 is a mess. I mean, everything Presley has put out thus far has been a mess. Last year’s Is Growing Faith despite featuring catchy songwriting throughout, broke up the flow of the album, quite intentionally no doubt, with the weirdness of tracks like the Madlib inflected ‘The Mexican Twins/Life is...Too $hort’. Yes, Madlib inflected. On an album of mostly 60s indebted guitar pop, Presley inserted a track of loop-based pseudo-rap not too dissimilar to the legendary hip-hop producer. It was a head scratching decision at the time, but seen through the lens of this new record, Presley’s intentions then, as now, become much clearer.

Tracks like ‘The Mexican Twins’, as well as the disjointedness of this new record seem to be Presley’s way of challenging the listener. Something like 'Balance yr heart' wouldn’t be to tough a listen, if not for the distinctly disjointed intro that completely disconnects the song from the context around it. It’s not an aesthetic choice that would be made to further the coherence of a record, so you’re is left to assume that Presley is antagonizing you--punishing you in some way for listening to his record. The cheaply pitched up backing vocals on ‘Do you know Ida Know?’ and the swirling outro to ‘Down PNX’ function in similar ways, taking what would be entirely catchy songs and bogging them down with tracks and making you work to enjoy them.

All this certainly isn’t to say that this is record isn’t likable, or even lovable. Early single ‘It Will Never Be’ is presented here in expanded form, extending the lovely Beatles inflected acoustic pop into some bizarro psychedelic jam that doesn't become unlistenable at any point. Likewise, the sundrenched psych of 'Take Away Lifes Endless Take' seems an appropriate tune for the recent change in weather. Presley proves again and again throughout that he is a pretty incredible songwriter, albeit one who insists on some near self-destructive production tendencies.

As a whole, Family Perfume Vol. 1 seems to have a kindred spirit in Guided By Voices now legendary Bee Thousand. Presley, like Pollard on that record, presents an incredibly well written set of songs, but doesn’t allow you to get too attached to them. Both in the sloppiness of some of the tracks, and in the production style, this record starts to resemble early GBV, although sonically remaining distant. Speculating on why Presley might choose such alienating techniques seems a bit pointless, these aural stumbling blocks serve most clearly to make the listen even more rewarding. At some point, after a handful of spins of the album, it takes on a transformation. What was once seen as a mess lends itself a coherence all its own. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. Maybe it’s not that the album becomes coherent, but that it becomes clear how glorious a mess Presley has created.