The adjective most used to describe these songs is urgent. I would agree in the sense that the songs sound like something is going on, and shit a lot is going on. But from the middle class blues of “Price Tag” to the new wave/KISS jam “No Cities To Love,” this album addresses life in whatever we are calling this period. We could say that the end of Sleater Kinney’s indefinite hiatus has birthed a different, and perhaps better, band. It sounds like Sleater Kinney, but it is not a hash or an attempt, hell, it sounds completely different from any record they have ever done to the point that reference points are a little pointless. “Gimme Love” is a funk odyssey, punk funk disco, shit like that, I’m into it.
The words, “new Bjork album” have been known to strike joy in my heart. Bjork is one of the most important musical archetypes of our time, anything from FKA Twigs’ LP1 to Arca’s Xen (who co –produced here) is a testament to that. This album is a break up album, but it is a Bjork breakup album; it is bare and naked in places, while still seeming to travel through some mystic future. “Black Lake” is an odyssey of sound and emotion. “Our love was my womb but our bond has broken / My shield is gone, my protection is taken,” the song begins and only seems to unravel from there as it veers between electronic skitter and stringed ballad, with only Bjork’s voice as the figure walking on the nearly collapsed bridge. “History of Touches” is alarming in its honesty and intimacy, again sparse accompaniment, expresses an end of a relationship’s communion, the last kiss, the last touch. The lyrics are not steeped in metaphor — here Bjork is not singing to nature or the world, she is singing to and for him, going to and away from him. We are only there to whimper and cringe. It as if this was not for us to hear, but we are there, like a child in the middle of an argument. Yes, it is good.
The Earth is being destroyed by man and his need for treasure and souvenir, the desire to conquer all, so that we are all slaves to our barbaric selves. Maybe the album is about that, but then a song like “No Underground” informs us that “there is no underground, there is light shining everywhere.” Elephant Micah narrates these tales of demise and triumph, an imperfect world’s poems. “Rare Beliefs” a paean to conjecture, all that keeps us sane and insane, the need to be led and have a leader, even if that leader be imaginary. This world is fragile, this album is fantastic.
In the rich storied history of music there are those albums that remind of tradition, of song and story, the time when we were entertained only by the aural bliss of our makeshift instruments as a soundtrack to the prosperity or destruction surrounding us, which mattered more or less, depending upon the quality of the song. Classicism is something that would be evoked in describing this collaboration between the magnificent Steve Gunn and The Black Twig Pickers, mainly because there are no blips or bleeps or hip hop breaks, and it is mainly done with (gasp) guitars, banjos, fiddles, stringed instruments. However, maybe those things are the symbols of distraction and this is the sound of engagement, musicians in a room engaged. “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down” is the blues, classic folk country, but it is also story and the violence of existence in love and living, love as conquest and danger. “Trailways Ramble” is you on that mountain, on the back of that wagon, or pickup truck, or passenger side of that Fiat in the mountains, staring in the distance, pondering life or a grocery list; it is the place beyond.
Psychedelic music is blessed with imagination, to an extent the idea of a blessing is figment of a wonderful imagination. Eternal Tapestry’s Wild Strawberries is probably what the title insinuates. I won’t say trippy, because that imputes druggy, and I don’t think that is necessary to enjoy this album inspired possibly by enchanted fruit. The actual song “Wild Strawberries” is fifteen minutes long and all fifteen minutes are necessary in order to understand the voyage from biting into the strawberry to basking in its gloriousness. This is an album for looking out into, or cleaning your house while inadvertently checking for ghosts and mysterious voices. There are two worlds, two universes, the here and now, and that beyond the mirror, there is the self and the true self, wait, sorry, let me ash this.
Alasdair Roberts is telling us tales; he is presenting the scenarios and welcoming into his world. “The Problem of Freedom” is a folk song, a love song, a description of creed and familial dismay. Accompanied mainly acoustic guitar, these songs have feeling and color, it is the poetry of the lyrics, the environment and tone. It is an album that celebrates the lyrical tradition, the song and singer, the narrator and tale, “Roomful of Relics” is the tale of what we all will become, absent of physical body, but present are the souls and the effect of the lives we lived and loved (or hated), decorated only by the artifacts of pictures and souvenir.