Siskiyou is a fascinating band whose debut album was released on Constellation last year. The main guy in Siskiyou is Eric Huebert, who was drummer for the Great Lake Swimmers. He quit the band and moved to an organic farm in British Columbia. And while farming he created this album (which is named for the California mountain range and is not, as a I imagined, a play of the phrase Sick of You (which I will still think regardless of the truth).
There’s a wonderful article at Paste about this album, where I learned a lot about the disc. The disc was recorded in stairwells (which seems so cool) and at field recordings on the beach. It was made on the cheap and very independently. And I love it.
It feels very much like a small solo project (although he is quick to point out that he had help from another Great Lake Swimmer, Erik Arensen, as well as his wife and some friends. But really, it feels like a vulnerable man singing in his wavering voice over some stark acoustic songs.
But unlike a poppy folk album, this one feels awkward. The melodies are beautiful, but the lack of polish and production makes the recordings feel more fragile than they might otherwise be.
Indeed, Huebert’s voice, while always on pitch, threatens to just collapse under the strain of recording that first song, the gorgeous “Funeral Song.” But it’s the second song that tells you this isn’t just a home recording. “Everything I Have” feels like a great Lou Barlow/Sentridoh song–recorded on lo-fi equipment, until you hear the gorgeous horns come in a play the simple yet very winning melody over the loud folk guitars. Again, if this had been over-produced it might have veered in cheesy, but the lo fi sound (and the cool lyrics) make this one of the best folk songs I’ve heard in ages (and it’s only 2 minutes long, too).
This is followed by two delicate songs: simple melodies, on either banjo or piano and shuffle drums. My favorite song is “It’s All Going to End.” Horns give it a kind of mariachi feel, but lyrically it’s wonderful: “I don’t like you one little bit, keep that shit up man, you’re gonna get hit.” All sung in his delicate wavery voice (and again, under 2 minutes long).
Another highlight is the “cover” of “This Land is Your Land.” Called “This Land,” it opens with a slow piano melody that doesn’t sound anything like the original. And then he begins whispering the lyrics–once again totally unlike the original. But mid way through he changes the lyrics, to a new type of song about how he is never going home. It turns the song mournful and rather powerful.
“Never Ever Ever Ever Again” is a wonderful song of repetition. And the two short (just over a minute) tracks, “Inside of the Ocean,” and “We All Fall Down” are charming interludes before the lengthy “Big Sur.” “Big Sur” starts with an upbeat banjo riff but then settles down into a slow (slightly out of tune) guitar piece. The slow pace is particularly amusing given the incredibly slowly sung lyrics “So let’s party. Let’s party. Let’s party. Party all night long.”
The disc ends with “Brevity and Insult” a song of static and banjos.
Typically I don’t like slow music, but this album adds so many interesting aspects that it doesn’t actually feel slow to me, it feels interesting and challenging and strangely uplifting. And I’m looking forward to their next release.
[READ: October 19, 2011] “Snake”
This (surprisingly short) story packs so many different ideas into it that it really jostles the reader’s emotions. It opens with a woman in a car. She’s in the parking lot of a supermarket waiting for her boyfriend, when she begins watching two boys. They are playing with something on the ground, although she can’t quite tell what it is.
After seeing them lifting a stick, she realizes that it is a mostly-dead snake that they are playing with. They don’t see her and she watches them decide what to do with the creature. They decide to play a prank. The boys test all of the cars in the parking lot and when they find an unlocked door they drop the snake in.
And then the boys wait, And the woman waits. They are all watching the door of the store to see whose car it is. And finally the man does.
But he is not amused by the prank. Indeed he’s not even slightly spooked. And when he hears the boys laughing, he yells for them.
Then the story turns again. The lady in the parking lot claims that the boys are her sons. The man turns his attention to her instead. But the boys, not sensing this escape from blame, argue with her and say that they are not her boys. The man is not sure who to believe and the story spirals into a remarkable scene.
For such a simple premise and such a short story, this was really wonderful. I didn’t know whose side I was on (and I couldn’t imagine the repercussions of claiming to be the boys’ mother), and I couldn’t wait to see how it would end. It was a magical story, especially with so few words.