Elvis Perkins In Dearland

Quite a stark turn-around from previous sentiments.

They frequently say that leopards can’t change their spots, and while anatomically pretty true, for music it’s not quite so black and white. For Elvis Perkins was the raggedly affecting adult haunted by his years previous with ‘Ash Wednesday’: an album so caked in grief it was hard to welcome into the fold, but once there nigh impossible to deny.

With ‘In Dearland’ as a collective and an LP, it is a new face of Perkins, so to speak, as he affronts, “I don’t let Doomsday bother me / Do it bother you?” it is quite a stark turn-around from previous sentiments. Where two years ago the world seemed to be ending on ‘Ash Wednesday’, here being surrounded by a band certainly seems to have done him well, putting the colour effectively back into his music: A great number of tracks on this album open up from grand Mariachi rhythms or group ‘oh yeah’s.

‘Shampoo’ finds Elvis in a more experimental mode with his voice, still as pitch-spanning as ever, but for this effort it comes thicker, faster and jerkier. Sometimes laden with harmonica, as on the latter bars of ‘Shampoo’ but equally in‘Hey’, which is danceable with emphatic pianos gliding around too.

‘The Night and the Liquor’ version two comes in the form of ‘Hours Last Stand’, with its slow waltz and brushed snare. The sweet and cautious lyrics return as in the debut, but are presented as the reverse of the self-conscious starter; here Perkins relents that “I am now awake”, having daydreamt up death. It’s oddly positive. Still occasionally, we find our songsmith concerned with religious figures, stories, and imagery, and the finale to ‘Hours…’ could almost be part of a poignant film score. As opposed to the frequently gaudy and comical usage, here the accordion is used to fill out harmonies and sustain a sense of ringing reverence for the vocal – complemented well by the bass notes of the piano.

There is an incessant quality to ‘I Heard Your Voice In Dresden’ with a more slip-sliding punctuation in the vocal and whirling drumbeat whipped by snippets of maracas. The pick-me-up of ‘Send My Fond Regards To Lonelyville’ materialises itself in sweetly struck acoustic and growing accordion beneath. Likewise, a stout trombone and some more celebratory woodwind emerge like a military ragtime. Despite these embellishments the central theme, as with much of the material here in, is wandering until its return to the opening refrain, each time reformatted, until the final bowtie rounding-off of the harmonica.

Where the subtle meeting of these minds can create swells of dreamy timbre, so too can they replicate the tricks of others, whilst giving Elvis the much-needed navigation of his words. Thus, ‘Hey’ could very easily be slotted into ‘I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning’ (Bright Eyes’ rising star of an album) – such is the female sustaining voice of Becky Stark very much like a hauntingly ‘barely there’ Emmylou Harris, who intonates on the former. Its country ramble is similarly Bright Eyes and the giddy bass drum and piano work to the same ends.

Despite the sweeps of string on ‘Chains, Chains, Chains’, it stands as the least logical track on the album, giving way to a brass interlude, needed to really to bring out its inner melody. The album is certainly more lively, as Perkins himself owes to the process of democracy in the studio – presumably why ‘I’ll Be Arriving’ gets away with a wailing Hammond, crashing metal percussion and a vibe not all too distant from Arcade Fire messings. Low vocal setting into the fuzz melts beneath the blues drive where a slightly ‘Ghost Town’-swamped trombone solo moves in, to clutch the full character of breaking up in monotonous pace.

So with a new band name and collective conscious towards a newer (at least happier) sound, it seems the rose-like quality of Perkins is still evident: retaining the scent, smelling just as sweet. Who knew you needed friends to drag you out of your misery and steer you in the right direction?

Tags: Elvis Perkins, Reviews, Album Reviews

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