Elvis Perkins returns with the follow up to the critically lauded, but terminally sombre 2007 debut Ash Wednesday with Elvis Perkins in Dearland - a ponderous and well-written surprise assault on both the happiness and sadness of every day life.
While Ash Wednesday marked a truly dread-ridden part of Perkins' life after his father died from a long battle with illness and his mother died in the 9/11 attacks, Elvis Perkins in Dearland finds this singer-songwriter caught in the middle between the push and pull factors of life; unsure to be joyful, downbeat or just an appropriate mix of the two. How does he end up coming across? He's going to just be happy and sad and goddamn it, he's going to be done with it - unabashed in the mixture of his emotions.
"Black is the colour of my true love's arrow" is an ominous lyric within the opening track of Elvis Perkins in Dearland. "Shampoo" is an absolutely stunning opener - it is resolute, determined and diligent in its urgency to overcome troubles. Despite the wonder of this opening track, there are few major standouts in the nine that follow. But worth mentioning are fuzz-pop jaunt "I'll Be Arriving" (with it's plodding and ponderous lyric "I'll be arriving 'til the day I die..."), and "123 Goodbye" a mathematical approach to emotion that evokes Dylan, Cohen and whichever other American folk hero you want to insert into this sentence.
Despite his unforgiving and dreary outlook, Perkins is not a man without friends: Becky Stark (aka Lavender Diamond) appears to make a vocal contribution along with trumpet-playing composer Noah Meites. Elvis Perkins in Dearland also marks the bringing of his three-piece touring musicians into the recording fold. They include Sono Oto's drummer Nick Kinsey, and the wonderfully talented Brigham J Brough and Wyndam Boylan-Garnett.
It's a record about emergence from the depths of sadness into the depths of just... being. This is a good record, but it's not a GOOD record. With a bit more luck and a bit more living, we'll get a GOOD record from this troupe standing in the shadow of folk artists past.