Faint Music//Ordinary Light is the third album from San Francisco DIY royalty, the Yellow Dress. It isn’t twee; after a cursory listen one might be ensnared by certain positive phrases or, hung up on the triumphant texture of many of the tracks, perceive a humorous nostalgia for Bruce Springsteen anthems. But it is not so, these songs can only be compared to Springsteen in that they are positive and triumphant in the way that Born in the USA is patriotic. Just such contrapuntal structures propagate and allude to the deeper and more elaborate contradiction inherent in the lyrics.
Against a back drop of mounting hope, the lyrics are not only mottled by chagrin and impotence, but also incessant planning and lists of theoretical self improvements–––the infernal self-preserving thing that quickly supersedes a suicidal notion. And songs that sound as if they contained an abject confession of love, a “let me count the ways”, in fact contain pleas to a lover, all too aware of the artifice of a devotion of everything from temporal commitments to material things in contrast to the debilitating search for answers to questions ethereal yet more pertinent. Thus it is nothing to give “everything” because the actuality trying to be realized is what disappoints the lover time and again. Consternation engendered by this twofold failure again induces planning and listing self improvement.
“Art is deception,” the dictum that old Nabokov harps on is presented in all its glory on this album. The lattice work of structures and themes offers a cohesion equal to any true work of art. After all this album was composed with an eye on literature.
The album gets it’s name from a poem called “Faint Music”. The poem starts with a description of a scrupulous self-examination for to find flaws and follow them to their origin hoping that in recognizing them, the flaws will resolve, and how in spite of it, the flaws persist through manner and impulse. “Tummy in the Blood”, the first song on the album, starts with the lines, “There is a note; there is one perfect way of being and I know that I will find it out someday. And there are times when I find myself repeating the thing I swore I’d never say.”
The poem ends, “First an ego, and then pain, and then singing.” In execution we find the ego of Faint Music//Ordinary Light. “FatherSunFunRun/Walk Towardson/Daniel Pennypacker”, a song replete with the album’s characteristic planning–––”live my life with a new urgency”––––presents itself with such bravado. We can be swept up in the planning for feeling on the verge of change is the most exciting part. “Follow Through” captures pain. Being one of the “I’d give you everything” songs includes pleas, such as “I’ve got my share of problems till you know there’s nothing I won’t do,” and then the requisite contemplation of intangibles and their consequences of inaction which only create more pleas. After pain gives us no choice but to jump from its final ledge, we wind up in the water, singing. “A Complete Lists of Fears Ages 5-28 (aprox)” holds none of the shame of discovery or malice of denial. It transcends the torpid cycles.
It’s an album that lends itself easily to infatuation, so call it twee because The Yellow Dress will just laugh and become crippled with shame.
Buy Faint Music//Ordinary Light on vinyl or digital download from their Bandcamp page:http://theyellowdress.bandcamp.com/