Wednesday, January 14, 2009

dear john by loney dear

The music of Loney Dear is an amicable mix of bittersweet memories paired with addictive orchestral pop chords. This is the music of gray days when, rather than be depressed, your memories provide a backdrop for quiet nostalgia. Seeing as how I run on quiet nostalgia (and a little bit of tofu), this was easily one of my most anticipated albums of the year1.

Of course this time around, the quiet nostalgia honed to perfection in 2007's Loney Noir, isn't quite so quiet. Dear John (available 1/27) is, as the name might imply, a bit darker than previous sugar-spun outings2. The gray day has turned into a cloudless night. While you're tucked inside scribing emo rants into your journal (dear diary, stuff sucks...) lead man and brains behind the Loney Dear operation Emil Svanängen is out howling at the moon. And darn it if he still didn't sound pretty epic out there. And pretty. If only all artists could have such melodic demons.

In "I Was Only Going Out", there's an incredibly telling line: I wish it didn't bother me no more, all the things that made me dark for a time. But it still does bother him. It'll take you a few listens to get past the beautiful orchestration to the lyrics (this coming from and admitted word junky). But when you do, you'll quickly discover Svanängen's sorrow is an active one. He's lost, swimming, falling (twelve stories no less). Amidst all the activity he finds time to lament, I've got a hole in my head and a hole in my heart. By the time the haunting violin solo (preformed by Loney Dear tourmate Andrew Bird) on album midpoint "I Got Lost" kicks in, you'll find yourself wishing you were a bit to blame.

This isn't to say that Loney Dear's exploration of angst is in any way self-indulgent. Although, if I might be self-indulgent and pull out an art history term, Dear John can best be described as the auditory equivalent to tenebrism. In non-geek terms this is a fancy way of saying all the darkness only highlights light and beauty. Happy people are all the same. But using your melancholy (artistic or actual) to make others happy? Now that's magic.

Each of Loney Dear's albums make for an incredibly absorbing listen. But live? Breathtaking. Unless you're prepared to craft your sadness into indisputable art, I highly suggest you catch his current tour.

1. There may or may not have been girly squealing when I found it in the mail.
2. Don't worry. It's not you, it's him.

mp3: "Airport Surroundings" by Loney Dear

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