Next up on the chopping block: Euros by The Oh Hellos. Cross your legs, align your chakras, and let’s get a little bit spiritual.
But first, an ad from our sponsors:
Are you tired of today’s pop songs, always drawing from the same grab-bag of well-worn tropes and tired-out lyrics? Ready to trade lyrics like these:
“I’m that motherfucker bustin’ heads,
Finna push it to the ledge,
Yeah, I’ve been smokin’ my meds
Ain’t got no love for the feds.”
– “44 More” by Logic
“I met up with an acrobat
In Brooklyn or some place like that
With life and taxis flying past
We tore that dance hall down”
“Fire Escape” by Andrew McMahon In the Cat Café or whatever his band’s called. I don’t even know why this dude makes me so mad… Hold on, I’m gonna take a second to Google him. This has been going on for far too long with no real, concrete basis…
See, my problem with McMahon began when I heard “Cecilia and the Satellite” on the radio, and it just really rubbed me the wrong way. It’s, like, if Buzzfeed created an indie lyrics generator; that’d be his music. Or, his popular songs anyway. Admittedly, I haven’t listened to any of his albums in their entirety, but isn’t that so often the case with the things we dislike? We never really understand them… anyway, then he calls his band Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness, and I’m like, “Ok, frèrot, but what do you really know about the wilderness?” Where is this dude from… Portland, maybe?
Oh, holy shit, he has leukemia. Oops, is he OK?
…still touring, cool. So, I guess he had cancer. Well, let’s wind this little rant down before the water gets too hot. If you’re feeling ticked off about me ragging on a dude that had and maybe still has cancer and wanna donate to LLS, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, you can do so – here – and prove to yourself that you’re a better person than me. And maybe you’re thinking, I don’t need to prove anything to you or myself, I didn’t roast a guy with cancer, well that sounds to me like you’re just trying to get out of donating.
Where were we? Right, so if you wanna trade out lyrics like that, for lyrics like this:
Then you should check out this band. I mean, these siblings really lay it on thick in this album. Let me put it this way: if these lyrics were the sesame butter, and this album was the sesame butter and jam sandwich, one bite of this sandwich would have you chewing for days, nay, weeks. You would drink a whole orchard of almond milk just to lubricate your mouth hinges enough to swallow a bite of this v i s c o u s lyrical sorcery.
So dive into this album with a glass of almond milk and your bible handy, because the Heath’s are notorious for their biblical allusions as well. They’re a well read family: the Heath kids (they’re older than me, I don’t know what I’m going on about, calling them kids) have listed C.S. Lewis, classical mythology and fantasy literature as an influence in the past. Dear Wormwood, one of their former albums, takes its name from the demon nephew in The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, a read which I would strongly recommend. Disclaimer: I’m only a quarter of the way through, though; so far, it’s not only been a cutting critique of the Church at the time, but also a philosophically ponderous epistolary novel. What I would recommend is reading Kandinsky’s On the Problem of Form, then diving straight into The Screwtape Letters. There’s probably a better pairing out there, but I like pretending that the Devil’s the leader of “The Black Hand” from Kandinky’s essay, and God is the Abstract Spirit. Also, if you (like me) are not a religious person, this might help you get more out of the reading. Just some ~ food for thought. ~
Let’s just quickly follow the breadcrumbs back to the original thread…
So, I started listening to this band about a month or two ago when tracks from Notos started popping up in my recommended new music playlist on iTunes. I’m not reviewing that album currently, but I would definitely recommend giving it a listen. Not to mention, Eurus frequently makes reference to and builds upon this work, so it’ll def elevate your listening experience.
Enough foreplay, let’s bust it wide open, one track at a time:
“O Sleeper,” (not the first time they’ve mentioned the “O Sleeper.” See “Caesar,” from Dear Wormwood) hitt’n you hard, right off the bat with some biblical imagery: floods, dunes and dales, and sacred rams? Actually, that last one is from Egyptian mythology, I believe. Sorry, breaking apart these lyrics for me is like trying to disassemble a piece of Ikea furniture if every screw required a different sized screwdriver. It’s like, in every line, I’ve got to go back to Google and type in shit like, “Sacred ram? Holy rocks? Pillars of an ancient empire?” and filter through death metal bands and satanist cults until I find the right screwdriver.
“Dry Branches,” tittering strings, the clacking of wood, a sort of stream-side chatter that crescendos and comes into focus over the course of a minute in this instrumental transitional piece.
“Grow,” which was released as a single before the album, plops us down in the living room, now a couple millennium removed from Ancient Greece. I feel like the first stanza paints a good picture of the creative process, or just what it’s like reading about ancient mythologies; maybe you’re reading the Odyssey late at night and your bed side lamp casts shadows that “look like a twisted apparition from the past.” It really sets the mood for a nice, long read.
Something I really like about this song is the way Maggie Heath leads the band into a verse. She leads the charge with the “You” in “You shout it down,” like a queen at the head of her army. I’m not a singer, and I’ve never tried to compose a song like this, but I feel like there’s a sort of lyrical complexity… a sort of, well, actually, je ne sais pas du tout. You know what? I’m going to ask someone.
Fast forward one day and ~ Bam! ~ That’s how time works and I’ve got an answer. How cool is that? We just traveled across time together! I feel like we’ve grown closer… you know? Temporally speaking, anyways. Here’s what pre-school piano teacher, choral sorceress, and my mother Cathy had to say about the song:
Ok, mom, well, looks like I might have been wrong about my previous claim. Oh for one, as they say some places at some times. But you know what? That’s just one opinion, let’s hear what the wonderfully talented jazz pianist, DJ and musical mage Hunter Brake had to say about it:
You read that? “Fantastic panning” and “wide yet realistic acoustic space.” Not at all what I was getting at, but I’m giving myself half a point for being a good sport. A lesser man would’ve edited out his mistake. Not me, though. Never me. I like to think these reviews are as much about us growing as individuals as actually reviewing anything.
There’s also a theme that runs through this song like a ~ river, ~ this idea of letting nature be, absorbing its wisdom without imposing any of your icky, sticky human-ness upon it. Furthermore, this image of the river running its course reminds me of the adventure of Siddhartha and his final apprenticeship with the ferryman, Vasudeva. Siddhartha was able to finally reach enlightenment by watching the flow of the river, by just being and learning everything he needed to know in the passing waters.
Please direct your attention to the line, “let the wild takeover;” there are numerous references to satyrs and the wild in general in this album and the general consensus over on genius.com is that the wild and nature represents God’s perfect work, or, if you like, a white light or spiritual energy that we should interact with only by observation and acceptance. Moving on with the tour, we’ve definitely spent too much time on “Grow.”
“Eurus,” a great song, lead by Tyler Heath this time, warns against the treacheries of materialism and greed, similar to the messages in The Screwtape Letters. Some helpful soul on genius.com added that Eurus, the greek god of the Eastern Wind, was considered unlucky, thereby demystifying the line, “as Fortuna sits idly by,” which ushers us into a brilliant scene depicting the narrator, driven to depravity in his quest of earthly fortunes, sitting under the goddess’ table and subsisting on her crumbs alone.
“A Convocation of Fauns (A Faunvocation, If you will),” another instrumental, and this time it’s a banjo that carries the melody. Hot dog, this album really tickles my fancy.
“Hieroglyphs,” We’re in the home stretch now, and the band is kicking it into high gear. Picking up the beat after the last crescendo of “A Convocation of Fauns […],” the whole chorus chants us into a hot and sweaty fervor of biblical proportions. We’re stamping our feet after an enemy that’s been killed off long ago, or so the story goes, and I think the band would like us to ask ourselves, “Did we ever consider these beats might not be coming from the drums of war?” Now read:
“Cause maybe you’ve been to busy thinking ahead,
Of where we’re all going after we’re dead
To maybe consider our bodies are worth
More than the dust that we can return.”
Which, I think is a refreshing perspective, and one that I, personally, was sorely in need of. Again, like all of their songs, there’s something in there for everyone, even if you’re not a religious type. Sometimes we just get caught up in thinking about our legacy in a very selfish way, and we neglect all the good and happiness we could bring about in the present. Think about it.
Side note, this is the song I snatched the quote from in the review’s illustration. Check it out again to refresh your noggin meat.
And what about that old wheel that keeps on turning? What is that all about?
Well, it seems to me, that the old wheel is the cycle of life and death; it’s a boulder that each of us, a mortal Sisyphus, begins rolling up our own hill the day we’re born until at last we die and the boulder rolls back downhill, the next generation picking it up again. We keep turning that wheel until eventually the sun burns out and we, the rock, and even the hill itself are all burned to ash and dust. So, maybe, while you’re pushing that boulder, take a look around, pick a flower along the way, and do a couple reality checks from time to time.
And here’s something else that’s interesting about Sisyphus: when you’re learning to do anything, artistic or otherwise, learning that craft feels a lot like pushing a boulder up some well-worn path. You pass by all the spots that artists before you passed and maybe, if you do it quick enough and long enough, you get a chance to see a part of that hill that all the other Sisyphi never saw. Just a thought.
“Passerine,” at last we’ve arrived. An ode to what is to come, a moment of reflection upon the current project. By the way, a Passerine is a bird; I didn’t know that and I don’t expect anyone else to know that, so, maybe I saved at least one person a trip to dictionary.com, the unofficial sponsor of my work. Returning to the album, “Passerine,” the song, makes reference to their coming albums in this supposed tetralogy, heralding the coming of Borealis, the Northern Wind.
Also, I like this idea of “purifying the holy rock to melt the gilded seams;” it’s a beautiful way of saying that they’re recasting their religion and forging their own interpretation, one that feels much more pure and spiritual than one that focuses on the very concrete, cosmetic Christianity we see gumming up the pews these days. I’ll definitely have to come back to these albums after I get around to reading the original ~ Good Book ~
So, how are we feeling about this album? I really like the juxtaposition of Greco-Roman mythology and Christian lore. I know I personally have a lot of beef with the believers, and I think that’s a shame, because like Siddhartha, The Bhagavad Gita, and a lot of good scientific literature, there’s a lot we can all learn from their work, and I’m a little annoyed that my past experience with people beating me over the head with it has turned me off reading the damned thing for so long.
So I give the album my first 10/10, because I can appreciate a couple of well-read people making good music and creating some art. Admittedly, it takes a lot for me to listen to anything falling even close to the brand of Christian rock, and this band got me there, so kudos to them. Anyway, I hope you liked the review, feel free to check out our other eight reviews on the site, and we’ll see you again next time!
Hey, you. Yeah, reader guy, or gal, or whatsit, or whoseit.
Let’s have a talk. Grab a seat; get comfortable; make yourself a cup of tea if you’d like. It’s been a long review, I know. Your eyes are tired, you probably wanna rest. Please, just stay up a little longer with me; what’s it gonna hurt?
A lot of readers munch on yummy content like what I’ve got splattered all up and over these pages and I know they don’t really expect a lot in return, but hey, here I am, and I wanna know: how you doing? I wanna know: where do you read these things? Maybe on your phone while you’re on the bus or in the metro? Why are you even reading this smut, anyways, huh?
I know reviews aren’t supposed to have emot—er, seasons, but episode ten of AF’s reviews is just around the corner and it feels kind of like we’re reaching the end of Season One of AF Reviews. I think that’s pretty cool… I mean, we’ve got a good thing going on, right? I write these reviews; you read them; what else really is there to it? Look at what we’ve accomplished too: we’ve got a voice now, a sort of style; it’s like, now you open these babies up, and you kind of know what to expect.
I guess what I’m trying to get around to asking is: what do you, the people, want to see reviewed next? I’ve got a lot of ideas for this milestone: a look at selected pieces of Vonnegut’s work, a review of the animated series Gravity Falls, maybe even a look back at my experiences with Francegiving… What do you want to see? Where should we steer this ship? Because I’m telling you, with the shadow of our tenth review looming before us, I’ll point the bow in whatever direction you want. We’ll take this boat right into the eye of the storm if that’s what’ll get your goose got; I’ll get as nitty and gritty as your grimy hearts desire. We’ll get weird. We’ll get real weird.
Leave your suggestions in the comments. À toute.