I just checked my review of Chenaux’s previous album and it’s funny how similar it is to what I figured I’d write about this one: soporific, free-form, sweet, hard to get into at first but ultimately rewarding. Chenaux must be the most mellow person ever. His songs just sort of drift around without any real theme to guide them. Sometimes the chord changes even seem arbitrary. And Chenaux’s voice is so slow and gentle that it’s not always clear he’s even singing along with the music. But the thing about all of this is that it sounds very pretty (so he must know what he’s doing).
It’s not even worth me doing any kind of song by song evaluation because they are all pretty much the same–slow guitar with occasional keyboards and backing vocals. I find the disc maddening at times and yet at other times I find it achingly beautiful. My favorite song, the one with the most compelling melody to me, is “Mynah Bird.” I suppose it’s the most “obvious” song, very Nick Drake-like, but it’s a great way into this record.
The Ryan Driver of the title is a piano/synth/melodica player who contributes all of the accents to the record.
There are times when I adore this album. In the right frame of mind, this is simply a gorgeous record. But in the wrong frame of mind, this is just slow plodding dullsville. Choose wisely–and you will be rewarded.
[READ: January 4, 2012] “Final Dispositions”
This is another story recommended to me by Karen Carlson (see all of her recommendations in the comments to this post). Of this one she writes: “from her linked-story collection This Road Will Take Us Closer To the Moon, available online in The Sun, Feb. 2009. A little sentimental, but well done. Try it with S&G’s “Bookends” or Janis Ian’s “Hymn [as a soundtrack].”
I loved the way this story was set up. It opens with a woman, Margaret, who seems off somehow: “I am the oldest sibling. Always have been. I thought the years might mute the effect of that, but nothing so far.” Her siblings are deciding “what to do with her.” And after they have their confab, they call her up and ask her questions based on what they decided.
Initially you feel angry on her part, that her family is so dismissive of her. But it soon becomes clear that they feel she needs help. Interestingly, since the story is from Margaret’s point of view and she is lucid, it’s hard to know exactly what is wrong with her. She talks of depressive things and speaks very deadpan but then wonders why no one has a sense of humor.
There’s not a lot of plot in the story, but there’s an initial “subplot” point when Margaret’s sister (“Irene–I mean, Eileen…. I like it that I can never keep her name straight”–[I love this joke/telling remark. It is such a smart encapsulation of a person who is forgetful but still with it]) sends her husband over to pick Margaret up. Tom, her brother-in-law, was previously married and the beginning of the story focuses on that a bit–on Margaret’s prying into Tom’s past presumably to needle Eileen. The narrator soon finds out Tom’s ex-wife’s name and plans a surprise for her sister.
Shortly after, we see Margaret talk to God in her sister’s car and then to a “priest” in her house. But soon enough, she wakes up immobile on the floor. And it’s time for Eileen to ensure that Margaret gets the assistance she needs.
The story tightly navigates the love/hate relationship between siblings and ends on a note that really resonates.
The story had the possibility of getting really sappy, but McCullough Moore handles the terrain beautifully creating an emotional story that never enters Hallmark territory.