14 November 2006
The only musical explanation for this name change would be an evident refinement in his songwriting skills. This album is much more coherent in quality and content than the two A Sandcastle Still previous one. If the influences are once again easily perceptible, from the Secret Stars to Minnetonka or Jen Wood, they are much better digested in a personal acquired style. As a whole and with his rough lo-fi indie folk tendencies – almost all the songs were written and recorded at the same time -, on this album Matt is never too far here from the early Mountain Goats albums.
If after a few listens, most of the songs of his two previous albums started to show their limits, here, there is a deeper authenticity, Matt seems totally sincere and in a state of grace on the whole record, it’s really pleasant to listen to it from begin to end, as it is well conceived and balanced. Even if there are 16 songs, for 55 minutes to spend with, none of them is a failure.
“The light fantastic” that opens the record is probably the most difficult song on the record. The sound of the acoustic guitar is very crude and rough; Matt plays hard and sings with tension, it’s almost hardcore on a folk guitar. On the other side you also feel washed by this song, ready to discover the album. But it doesn’t already start, a short instrumental, “anxious to get home”, will serve as an introduction. It’s like when you come back home at the end of the day, exhausted and longing for the calm, warmth and peacefulness of your home.
It’s on the third track, “the blue purple failure” that the album really starts. The melancholic, sometimes depressive, sometimes only nostalgic, side of this album flourishes and it won’t stop before the last song. This is true intimate music, what we call sadcore, with a contemplative and emotional dimension.
Fortunately some tracks are softer and brighter, with a light blue feel, like “Thunder class”, a song you can almost hum and follow with a stamp. After a short instrumental interlude, we have another instrumental track very repetitive but extremely moving and beautiful, “Bow (interrupted)”, probably the most disarming instants of the record. We go on with the pensive “Scarlett’s whisper to Irving”, a climatic and melancholic instrumental, “floating with fate”. The good surprise on “The way things are here” is the apparition of a distorted electric guitar à la Sebadoh. “The Leash” sounds like the typical Moutain Goats song, with Matt playing like if his life depended on it.
On the instrumental “Playing with pepper with you” we have this old typical lo-fi tape hiss the A Sandcastle Still songs used to have. A good occasion to calm down before the intensity of “from the top of the a framing”, the longest and the more troubled and desperate song of the album, a true sadcore jewel not too far from those ones Chauchat offers us regularly on his records.
“Journal” is also another extremely interesting song where Matt plays with the limits of lo-fi. It seems to have been recorded on a partially damaged handheld tape machine but as the song progress we realize that it’s just manipulated sounds creating a nice warm and cozy ambiance typical to the early 90’s lo-fi genre. Another exhilarating song à la Chauchat later, “Sailor”, and we have “All is sun”, a kind of ode to dawn, before the albums closes on “Wyoming” another gem, quite moving and desperate like trying to keep the sun from disappear when the night comes.