Some Ominous Words
Bad Writing

Long Beard: Sleepwalker

If I say this is a slight, girlish album, it may seem to be a putdown. But I don't mean it that way. Girls and girlishness may be sweet, sensitive, gentle, introspective, dreamy, whimsical, winsome, moody, and many other things which are quite charming (except maybe moody) if they don't get out of hand. And of course pretty. And most of those adjectives can be applied to this album, including pretty in the sonic rather than visual sense: it's full of very pretty tunes.

It's mainly the work of one young woman, with a bit of assistance on some tracks from a drummer and bass player. I don't have any idea why she chose that misleading name for her project. The image that the name brings immediately to my mind is of ZZ Top, than which an opposite to Long Beard more perfectly centered on 180 degrees is hard to imagine.

I call it a "project" because it's not exactly a band, as she is the vocalist and writer and plays the guitar which constitutes the main instrumental sound. Or, I should say, guitars: a lot of shimmery multi-tracked guitar, sometimes processed to the point of noise, but always a gentle, hazy noise. 

"Gentle" and "hazy" are pretty accurate descriptions of the whole thing. In addition to the guitars, there are a lot of beautiful multi-tracked and processed vocals which are either actually or effectively wordless. The lyrics are only half-intelligible at best to my old ears, but the artist has kindly put them on the Bandcamp page for the album, and they have the same slender, quiet quality as the music, simple and even prosaic, but suggesting much.

time it takes to grow old, on your porch
is it long enough
to get over you
summer rain brings your voice
to my ear
I'll stay up all night
just to hear your voice

It seems a suburban middle-class work--one song is called "Suburban Sunset"--and I mean that in a good way: a product of a fairly secure and undramatic way of life in which simple pleasures like summer twilight are deeply loved. I admit that on the first hearing or two my reaction was "Well, that's nice, but not much more." But it grew on me, and now I find it that I like it a lot. If it were a very long album with very long songs, it might not hold up. But it's only thirty-five minutes long, and the thirteen songs make their statement and stop. 

Here's the video for "Porch," which is about as close to rock-and-roll as the album gets. Tell me that's not girlish.

This embedded Bandcamp player seems to allow one to listen to the entire album. If you do, and you like it, please support the artist and click on that "buy" link. She's only asking $7.00 for the download.

I love that photograph. And I think my favorite song on the album may be the closer, "Twinkle Twinkle," which consists entirely of the phrase "How I wonder what you are" repeated in a softly varying mix of looped guitars and vocals: beautiful and oddly affecting.

Comments

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I think Grumpy may have put us onto this originally. I felt the same way about it as you did when I first heard it....nice, but not really memorable. But I kept getting pulled back to it and ended up really liking it after three or four listens. Her most recent one, Means to Me, is also very good. It's a little bit more structured and less "hazy" but maintains the same overall tone and feel of Sleepwalker.

I do vaguely remember you and Grumpy discussing it but I would have said you introduced it to us. "Less hazy" doesn't sound good to me. :-) I'd like to hear more like that little opening track on this one, that's almost completely abstract (for want of a better word).

There's some of that on the new one, but I think rather than having such pieces as stand-alones she works bits like that into tracks that are more song-like.

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