Sittin’ Pretty: an album review of The Elwins’ And I Thank You

Album: And I Thank You

Artist: The Elwins

Release Date: 21 February 2012

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My reaction when I heard The Elwins’ album finally came out: aw fuck yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes, mutha fucka! All expletives aside, I must justify my excitement by saying that if you’re looking for something groovy and exciting, a record—or one good song for that matter—to instantly lift you from the dankest doldrums, The Elwins are the men you should call for that.

            About a month ago, I noticed something interesting about music, particularly rock music. In the documentary A Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake, close friend and music producer Joe Boyd talked about one of the  most interesting aspects surrounding the arrangement of Nick Drake’s songs from the album Bryter Layter. Even though his songs were fully-fledged, in their own right arranged songs (in all tense and purposes, it could be considered a rock album—even though it is assuredly folk), the epicenter laid completely with the guitar. Being a folk musician, Nick’s primary instrument of choice gave the cues to the other parts that made each song. With or without the bass, “Chime of a City Clock” is as powerful as an acoustic rendition. With or without the strings, or harp, or whatever, there is a sense of urgency that is still manifested through Nick’s music. I would consider his method to be the antithesis of group music making. This can be seen if we think about The Elwins’ And I Thank You as a foil to Nick Drake’s music.

            If you listen to tracks like “Stuck in the Middle,” “Forgetful Assistance,” or “Out on Your Doorstep,” you’ll notice a type of playful unity that is demanded by a good alternative rock song. From top to bottom, each instrument not only fits together, they play off each other by offering something distinctly different—counter melody, poly-rhythms and such— yet  they still mesh in a way that makes sweet, fun love to your ear drums. In the guitars alone a nicely developed foundation is exhibited by the rhythm guitar, played by frontman Matthew Sweeney, and lead guitarist, Feurd Moore. The other parts that make up the ensemble are far from non-extraordinary: Travis Stokl and Christopher Shannon only add to the amazing music making on drums and bass, respectively. Old adages like “we need a drummer or bassist,” said in a way that deflates the purpose of their importance in rock music, are revamped when talking about the serious heat the Elwins happen to be packing; instead, one should say “we need a drummer and bassist like Travis and Chris!

            Sounds I’ve never heard before, string arrangements I never thought possible, and melodies that keep me singing in my head all damn day are just three of the many musically innovative things I’ve never experienced before listening to And I Thank You. I can’t say I have a favorite song off this album (yet), but there are some tunes with which I have had months to familiarize myself. “Propinquity” is one of them. What gets me from the get go about any song I like are the lyrics and “Propinquity” is no different, but there is something special:

            I sure hope that you’re not riding on a bicycle for two
            I’ve seen my share of girls and well, there has been no one like you
            Your smile makes me forget my worries while your eyes say I love you
            My heart is jumping arms goose-bumping and it’s only been a minute or two

            I can’t help but wonder if you will slip away just like the rest

            What if we had met from the start would my words come out then fall apart
            It feels like when you’re around it’s a good thing I have found
            And while we’re mingling I’ll hold you near to me
            Because it feels like when you’re around it’s a good thing I have found

And “Forgetful Assistance:”

            I won’t budge I won’t fight, roll it on ‘til it’s right
            Makes it hard and it’s tough, hand to hold teeth to brush

            And I’m happy to say, that I’m going this way
            I don’t need to forget with assistance, you know it’s true

            That nothin’s ever gonna change
            Nothin’s ever gonna change
            Things’ll be stayin’ the same we aren’t gonna change
            But you’ll be back again

 

The amalgamation of melody and musical syntax is what’s especially indicative of this album’s finesse. Of course words on a page aren’t going to really give you any clue about my view, so the best way to see through my eyes… or hear through my ears, is by clicking the links to the songs and reading the lyrics while listening to ameliorate my points and shit.

            There’s something fun, funky, and groovy about this music. The versions of the songs I had already heard through Youtube were live performances. These studio versions offer me the opportunity to develop a new relationship with the song. I feel like I’m on Scooby-Doo during one of those montage scenes. I would gladly take any of these songs musically narrating my attempts at thwarting the villain/monster thing. There is invention in this music and because of it, I would recommend this album to people who are adventurous in their music listening. I’m rambling now, but this album is fun. I want to frolic through flowers, get chased by monsters during a Scooby-Doo montage, or  get day-drunk and lie in the grass. So enjoyable. And I Thank You is a musical breath of fresh air and for that, Elwins, let me thank you.

Future favorites = highly recommended songs:

Paper in your Pocket

Sittin’ Pretty

On your Doorstep

What a way to start March!

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Caro Emerald- that man

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