04 November, 2008

Music Review: Humans, Nature, and Human Nature by the Loomis Fargo Band

My buddy Pilly is one of the most outgoing, hardworking creative talents I know. In conversations with him, I have always noticed his constant concern with imagination and creation; he always has a well thought-out idea for a film or a song or a comic book--and not just ideas, either. Since I met him in the ninth grade, I've seen notebook doodles grow into vast, sprawling collages of epic ink artwork; I've seen live musical performances in cozy homes with guitars, keyboards, chimes, and triangles. He's always writing, always devouring culture and exploding out new creations, always using his artistic inertia to propel his cynical humor and catchy, memorable ideas. I wish I had his enthusiasm, and I'm very satisfied to see that his latest effort has, so to speak, made it big.

Humans, Nature, and Human Nature is a quiet yet melodic album that falls somewhere on the spectrum between alt-country and folk rock, at times evoking Andrew Bird and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. The lyrics are dryly ironic, looking backwards on lost loves that were never that beloved, looking outward on a world transforming at a different pace than the viewer, until the world, the viewer, and the viewer's ideas of himself are all strangers.

In "You Used To Be A Tree" transcendence is subjected to apathy; breezy stars explode in the opening seconds as a whispering voice croons, "You used to be so green." The you is an expired lover perhaps, or even an abandoned childhood--a sprawling, vibrant, mysterious foundation on which the childlike speaker climbs, begs, touches, and explores. It could be sexual adventure, or it could just be adventure itself. What's important is that it's long past, faded into a pile of dead leaves, and that the separation is so advanced that the speaker observes the loss no longer with mourning or anger but with yielding detachment.

There's a lot of resistance to the cyclical nature of life in Human Nature, an ability to see progress amongst changes that come and go through ups, downs, and repetitions. Summers and lovers flee, taking with them their sunny thoughts and dispositions. The past becomes a psychedelic trip, an oasis of foreign memories, as in the musically-tripping "I Miss You," where the perceived loss of games like hide and seek--itself a strange play on war, refuge, escape--is an emphatic reminder that the good days are gone. When the thoughts, places, people, and events you cling to, the ones that made you you, slip away, what becomes of you, lost in an unfamiliar wastescape, trying to find something to belong to, with which to connect?

Sometimes defeatist, sometimes courageous, always just slightly bordering on bleak, the lyrics never slip into the emotive realm of self-pity or nostalgic sentimentalism. A cynical humor pervades, a wit that is accepting of its metaphysical angst, willing to walk around in it and try it for all its worth. "I spend my nights like the day / Dreaming my whole life away," is a key line in "I Sleep 'Til Noon." The music, too, is usually chipper, with trilling pianos and soft, strumming guitars, upbeat church organs and spacy feedback, accented by singer Michael Boswell's daydreaming Virginia twang.

If there's one criticism it's that Humans, Nature, and Human Nature sticks to the game of playing it safe that many debut albums adhere to; it's all perhaps too polished, professional, and clean, and I personally would love to hear some crazy experimentals, some epic lyrical quests into darker realms, some occasional violent leaps out of genre, in addition to the tried and true. I know its there waiting to explode out, and I'd like a taste of it in the next record.

Humans, Nature, and Human Nature by The Loomis Fargo Gang is available for purchase in an edition beautifully illustrated by Michael Pilapil, emphasizing the mathematical constant that guides the seemingly divine, random beauty of sunflowers: "Each seed settles into a location that turns out to have a specific constant angle of rotation relative to the previous seed." Summer turns to winter, children grow up, and flowers age and die. The momentum is unstoppable and the progress is predictably fatalistic, but in that progress is all the beauty of the world.

Whether that's fuel for wonderment or sarcasm is a question the Loomis Fargo Band lets the listener decide.

Humans, Nature, and Human Nature
The Loomis Fargo Gang
(Michael Bosler, Tyler Nash, Michael Pilapil)
15 Apr 2008

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