Album Review: Elvis Perkins in Dearland – S/T (XL Recordings)


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MP3: Elvis Perkins in Dearland – Doomsday

After many attempts to categorize the folk genre, I have found it impossible to pigeonhole such a broad spectrum of music. Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan may have paved the way for the male vocalist, but the breed of folk sound has evolved with popular taste.

In his first release since Ash Wednesday’s debut in 2007, Elvis Perkins released his sophomore album on March 10 2009, titled after his live band: Elvis Perkins in Dearland.  Although the record drops traces of indie folk rock influences, the singer-songwriter leaves plenty of room for the spoken word. His lyrics flow more in the form of poetry than verse-refrain, marinating in tender prose of allusion and symbolism:

“Sweep up, little sweeper boy, sweep up/ Yellow is the color of my true love’s crossbow/ Yellow is the color of the sun/ And black is the color of/ A strangled rainbow/ That’s the color of my loss/ Black is the color of my true love’s arrow/ That’s the color of human blood.”

Songs like “Hey” and “Shampoo” combine both acoustic and electric guitar, using the nostalgic elements of old time folk rock. Simple snare drum lines and tambourine jitters resemble present indie big names like Belle and Sebastian through track 3, “Hours Last Stand”. The melody manages to stay pronounced and independent— one is not commanded by the other, but enhanced, flowing simultaneously. “Chains, Chains, Chains” and “Doomsday” sound like the Rumble Strips without British overtones, sticking to trumpet blares and ska vibrations.

Perkins’ voice drifts somewhere between the yodels of Devendra Banhart and Brett Dennen, but somehow manages to stay unfamiliar. Check “I’ll Be Arriving,” what I found to be the most multi-dimensional track, bringing heavy reverb to meet cavorting chimes and bells, built under phonograph distorted vocals to deliver a surprisingly moody blues, instruments clanking together like scraps in a junkyard. On Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Perkins has displayed the ability to blend diverse textures and tempos, ranging from honest undemanding ballads to complex collages of instrumental frills and vocal embellishments.  This time around, he finds a way to combine influences from a collection of artists while maintaining his own unique sound, never feeling overdone or unoriginal. This is truly a breakthrough from Ash Wednesday, and I suggest you pay tribute to his reformation.

Label: XL Recordings

Release Date: Mar 10 2009

Track List:

“Hours Last Stand”
“I Heard Your Voice in Dresden”
“Send My Fond Regards to Lonelyville”
“I’ll Be Arriving”
“Chains, Chains, Chains”
“123 Goodbye”
“How’s Forever Been Baby”

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One Response to “Album Review: Elvis Perkins in Dearland – S/T (XL Recordings)”

  1. Greg Szeto says:

    while i think ash wednesday is the superior album, this one’s no slouch either. some excellent stuff here.

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