I like sad-sack, spare acoustic music… Nick Drake, you know? And it isn’t just spare, sad sack acoustic music, although there’s plenty of that here, and even though they cover sad sack king Leonard Cohen’s great “Take This Waltz,” which I like, but only really because it’s a Leonard Cohen cover. “Amsterdam” sounds like the Decemberists! And “Oh! My Kingdom” kicks the tempo up considerably! So it’s got some variety, which I always appreciate from an album, and it’s in a general style I enjoy.
And, well, I just can’t connect with it. There are individual aspects of it I really enjoy – the vocals are strong and very emotional (“Waiting for You” and “Whispering Willow” are, if nothing else, quite well-sung), and I really like the way the guitars and harmonicas sound here. I’m not such a big fan of the songs on this album, but at least this band has a cool sort of sound. And they do pull things off every so often. I like the Cohen cover, although that might just be because it’s a Cohen cover. Meanwhile, “In My Time of Dying” is raving, intense, fast-paced country gospel reminiscent of 16 Horsepower; it’sa great song, and this album could’ve used more of those.
Because, as it stands, a lot of it just completely falls flat. Maybe if I listen to it more, I’ll realize that not just “In My Time of Dying” but everything else here bears a gothic country influence and fall under its spell afterwards (and I certainly hope that happens… I mean, I like liking albums, you know? Especially ones that seem as though they were made with me in mind). As it stands, however, this album is more a collection of individual ideas I like than songs I like. I mean, “Please” and “Puppet Strings” have very nice-sounding guitars that don’t really go anywhere, and “Tricks to Magik” and a couple of other songs here have female vocals, and…
Well, I’m repeating myself, because this album doesn’t really give me a lot to say about it. It’s stark and it’s sad, which is a quality I often find myself enjoying, but I’m more or less indifferent to the songs themselves, because the melodies just aren’t engaging enough or… I don’t know, something like that. I really wish I could give this one the “it’s not you, it’s me” treatment, but all things considered, I wish they’d put as much effort in making the songs good as they had making them sad. If nothing else, now I know how other people must feel when they hear this sort of sad sack music.