Jonathan Chandler really wants you to hear this album.
In a day and age where people can easily obtain pretty much any album for free if they choose to do so, Chandler’s decided to embrace a positive spin on the state of affairs and decide that money is nice and greatly appreciated, but knowing that one’s creation is being enjoyed and will perhaps lead to further financial investments down the road is gratifying. Thus, Amos The Transparent’s latest album Goodnight, My Dear… I’m Falling Apart is currently available as a free digital download straight from the source, with a mailing list sign-up.
I can relate to that sort of thinking. I’ve given a lot of my fiction writing away for free, simply because the enjoyment of it is a great feeling. Sure, I’d like people to pay for it, and some do, but I am also acutely aware of being in an age where even electronic books are passed around. Artists of all kinds are learning to roll with the latest punches or find themselves struggling. It’s a smart strategy.
It’s also astonishing to me in this case because this album is a tremendous artistic accomplishment. I went back to the website, looking for a ‘donate’ option. It felt wrong to take the album for free. I wanted to throw my money in the proverbial hat.
Cited as a “record about us coming to terms with where we are as individuals as well as a collective”, GMYIFA is an album with a loose story, a series of auditory vignettes. Allow me to take you deeper into the contemplative world of Amos The Transparent. Warning: I’m rolling without official lyrics. This could be fun, given my minor hearing issues!
Intro/You Were So Right: I love the intro on this because it reminds me of a live show – the one where a band slowly assembles and begins to jam as the singer comes out. Given the tremendous energy this band brings to their live show, it’s incredibly fitting. With an attention-commanding percussive signal, we’re brought into the lead song proper. The pain is palpable in this one, brought to life in crashing waves of guitar and perhaps a percussion-driven approach. Touches of strings add elements of quiet lament. “All these faces leave unrelenting traces of you/But all these words mean nothing if they’re not heard… You were so right.”
Says The Spark: An incredibly natural selection for a video/single treatment. Indie pop enough to slide into radio playlists, and yet still retains the flavour of the band. Brilliant employ of the multi-instrumentalist ensemble’s skills and vocal harmonies. Easily one of my favourites on the album, never mind a favourite track of the year. Deceptively cheery in sound, the lyrics are anything but when one looks beneath the surface. The softly repeated “You’ve nothing to lose when you’ve got a good heart” adds a moment of clarity that will pull a casual listener in to pay attention. The word ‘spark’ pops up throughout the album, here and there. Listen for it; it ties the theme together. “I’ve been losing sleep/I keep thinking I’ve got somewhere to be…The night leaves the sunlight and it’s gone without a trace…”
Convince The Mayor: This song’s so much fun, although it may be a grower for some people. With a bluesy folk-rock beginning, layered with harmonies and metaphor, it suddenly runs away into a hard rock/almost melodic metal landscape, only to fall back into the softer realm. A sonic bell curve. Whereas the first two tracks speak to personal responsibility for relationship failures and bad life turns, this one’s a delicious condemnation of people who play the victim perpetually and never go away. “You’re holding on to what you think you know/A time will come and you will open up/And see you pushed away everyone you loved/So keep singing, ‘Woe is me’.” Someone ought to send this album to Taylor Swift’s ex-boyfriends, because I’m betting several can relate.
Up & Out: Love the strings on this one. Just gorgeous. There’s a real sense of desperation and urgency in this track; the composition of every song truly suits the mood of the lyrics, which is so important for me as a listener. While discordance can work if done properly (flip back to “Says The Spark”), it’s a difficult feat. A song of reluctant closure, poignant and definitely one most people can relate to. “I was on your side hoping for one more try… Nowhere left to go in this town but up and out…”
As Far As You Can Run: A natural song to follow upon “Up & Out”, the lilting near-waltz of this tune evokes a sense of waves and drifting in a boat in the middle of a lake. I really love how this band takes full advantage of the musical toys in their box, so to speak. Percussion, strings, guitars and keys are all carefully utilized to bring characters to life, to evoke places and emotions. In this aspect, the band can fairly be compared to Arcade Fire without diminishing their unique voice. As I noted previously, songs evoke others throughout the album: “From the beginning there was no spark/No point in giving if it’s not from the heart…”
Lights, Cameras & Actions: A very soft tune, acoustic-heavy and delicate vocals, it’s almost a break from the surging passions of the album thus far. This one feels like a reconciliation between the life of a musician and life at home again, and the almost surreal nature of the experience and its difficulties. “How does it feel to be home? Some days, it feels like I was never gone.”
Coming Home: Described at a show as “my wife’s perspective”, this short and bittersweet acoustic number perfectly sums up the flip-side to “Lights” – the experience of the one left behind.
Sure As The Weather: Indie-rocker picks the tempo back up, with heavy blues elements, almost bluegrass, really. Introspective, “hindsight is 20/20” sort of song – that realization of a slow sinking into a breakdown, and yet at the same time, there’s a second voice here. I can almost hear a conversation between a musician and his lover, the one who tries to focus and centre the relationship back upon what matters most: their bond. Again, the song lightly pulls the theme together: “As the sun turns into stars, I will follow you to the dark/And if the world pulled from a spark, there’s no sense in chasing facts back to the start.” (I’m laughing right now because I know I screwed up a word or two, but you get the picture. I’m just going to sing it my way.)
A Song: A rocking, modern take on Carly Simon’s classic “You’re So Vain”, and I vastly prefer it. “I hear you wanted a song/Well, this is not about you/It never will be.” There’s a sense of breaking out of a box in the mood of this one, for lack of better descriptor. The melody has that “get in the car and drive away” sense of freedom.
Animal Wives (Host The Best Pity Parties): Coolest song title I’ve heard in ages. I knew I’d like this one before hearing it, based on it. Probably the most vicious condemnation of a cruel lover since Matthew Good’s “She’s In It For The Money”. This is a song where each listen, something else jumps out and sticks in mind. “I’ve seen it’s taken its toll/These things that you never know/How she breathes underwater is above me.”
Greater Than Consequence: This song previously appeared on their EP “My, What Big Teeth You Have…” in a mellower form. I happen to prefer this version by leaps and bounds. It’s a richer, more complete sound. It’s still very soft folk-rock in sound, but it feels more complete. Sad and contemplative song about letting go and moving on. “Hide yourself from all this consequence, because it seems much greater than defense… I was meant to go alone….”
The Catch & Release: If any song on the album sums up the entire body of work, I’d say this one does so very well. The title alone sums up love and life, doesn’t it? Life is a cycle of being caught and breaking free, of falling in and out of love, of loving and loss. The crescendo of voices and music is stellar. The ending recalls the album’s intro.
Goodnight, My Dear: A soft acoustic number, short and somber. An answer to “Coming Home”. Play the two back-to-back and see what I mean. A perfect ending for the album.
Final Comments: My favourite albums are the ones that hook me into repeated listens, picking and prodding away at nuances and lyrics I’ve missed on first go. It must also reach my heart with a sincerity and openness. Concept albums/albums with strong themes are hit and miss, dependent on the execution. When executed well, I’m captivated. As a storyteller, I enjoy being told a tale.
GMDIFA is an anthology of stories, a collected works of a band at a particular time and place. It’s an album that engages, endears and intrigues, one that provides layers of sound to peel back, thematic threads to unravel. It is an album that manages to speak of sorrow without leaving the listener walking away depressed. It’s auditory catharsis at its finest.
There’s never been doubt of the band as a talent; this album, however, establishes their sound and better captures the live show feeling. Like any good wine, Amos The Transparent has improved with age. I highly recommend imbibing – frequently.
Final Grade: A+
Because the band is amazing, they are offering Goodnight, My Dear… I’m Falling Apart for free right now at their official website. However, do me a solid: if you enjoy it – and I believe you will – consider purchasing a copy of it or their previous work (also fantastic) via iTunes or their store. Show the indie love; Amos The Transparent deserves it.