01 July 2011

Idaho - you were a dick (2011, Talitres)

Eighth album for Idaho, six years after "The Lone Gunman" and eighteen years after "Year After Year", "You Were a Dick" is another step in a faultless career and offers enough gems to be cherished. Jeff Martin is alone behind the instrumentation and songwriting, recorded at home, with just a few backing vocal by Eleni Mandell.

With such a large, impressive, influential, intense and honest discography, it's a nonsense to try to compare him to other songwriters, but the way vocals seem self-absorbed, reflexive and luminous, with an obvious maturity,  ease and harmony, brightly backed up with piano, guitars and rhythms echoes in my mind the album "A life full of farewells" by the Apartments, the way it keeps me warm comfortable and emotionally melancholic.

I admit, the intro of the title and opening track, "You were a dick", took me by surprise and I felt speechless, just urged to rewind it over and over again. Of course, there is a little something of "Loro" by Pinback with the beats, but Jeff Martin touches the heart like no one else and you're left spinning for the rest of the song, shivering of melancholy. No need to go further, it is already a classic and not a derivative adaptation of an old splendor, there is new blood in it.

This song is installing the tempo of this album, soft and melodic, relatively comfortable with no sudden surge of intensity.  While most artists would produce something tedious that way, Jeff  Martin achieves something subtle, never devoid of interest, even on the less pertinent compositions such as "Weigh it down", "Impaler", "The Happiest Girl", "Someone to relate to", or "The Setting Sun".

And there are mostly highlights: "Reminder", with a quiet, whispered intensity, a twilight nursery rhyme with a light but deep melancholic taste; "Structure", so minimal as a suggestion with driving whispers and streams dragging you along the riverbed; "The Space Between" and "Up the hill" are reminiscent of early Idaho records with guitars and intense vocals but keeps the concentration on the very substance of the song, avoiding overflowing and even showing more plenitude and joy; "A million reason" seems like a follow-up to "Live today again" on the previous album, with appeasement, nostalgia and relief; "Flames" is a delicate reflexive and pensive piano ballad; "What was that?", the last track, is whispered at a low intensity while it could start to run and rise at almost every second, and the whole process just create a feeling of intimacy.

There is also a five tracks bonus disk, which is not really useful. There is one song which was maybe too intense and passionate, "Waited for you" to be included on the album but which could have been the last track. There are three pleasant instrumentals, "Rocket ", "Your Loss" and "Late Sun", which could have been used as interlude.  The only real bonus is a very nice live version of "Scrawny" - from the "Alas" album -, recorded in 2004.

As always, "You were a dick" is a quite good album, which keeps up the usual songwriting of Jeff Martin while showing that the fervor and brilliance are still intact.


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