Release Date: Feb 24, 2015
Record label: Mir
Genre(s): Folk, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Contemporary Folk, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
If Elvis Perkins’ previous album, 2009’s Elvis Perkins in Dearland, implied he was determined to beef up his folk-rock and reach out to a wider audience, its follow-up sees him retreat into his shell. Recorded without a producer or a band, I Aubade is nearly as impressive as his heartrending debut, 2007’s Ash Wednesday, though the songs have a dreamy, half-finished feel, as if composed by Perkins in his sleep. My Kind, for instance, wheezes and creaks like an old man struggling up a hill, while the harp-led & Eveline is gossamer-light.
The independent music landscape when Elvis Perkins released his first two acclaimed albums (in 2007 and 2009, respectively) and the current music environment present a completely different climate to offer his music to the world. Perkins burst onto the scene with a compelling backstory and the songwriting chops to hold interest, not unlike the phenomenon that allowed Justin Vernon to find and keep an audience. But while Vernon has never receded from the public eye (until recently), Perkins has been missing in action for half a decade, which makes his third album, I Aubade, both a welcome return and a bit worrisome.
Six years after the release of his second album (2009's Elvis Perkins in Dearland), singer and songwriter Elvis Perkins returns with his long-awaited third full-length effort. Released in 2015, I Aubade finds Perkins taking greater control of his music than ever before -- he produced the album himself, recorded much of it at home, played many of the instruments on his own, and released the final product on his own label, Mir Records. While I Aubade is steeped in the literate yet impressionistic lyrical style that dominated Perkins' previous work, this time he's embraced a spectral, lo-fi sound dominated by layers of found sound, curious electronic buzzing and makeshift noisemaking, a casual approach to the instrumental work, and sound effects that suggest some of the songs were recorded with the windows open in a bustling, big-city community.
In 2007, La Blogotheque recorded Elvis Perkins stroll around Paris singing ‘While You Were Sleeping’ from his debut album, Ash Wednesday. Against the backdrop of a city resplendent in golden, magic hour light, Perkins’ song unfurls gently and persuasively, occasionally catching the attention of passers by. It is a beautiful video, featuring an artist who came loaded with tragic backstory and followed up his first work with 2009’s more urgent - and equally impressive - Elvis Perkins In Dearland.
One simple lyric of defiance stands out a mile on Elvis Perkins’ third album I Aubade - “No more crying / no more denying / no more complying for me”. Confronting the death of his father, Psycho actor Anthony Perkins, from AIDS, and his mother who was a passenger on one of the planes that flew into the Twin Towers on 9/11, he did more than his fair share of ‘crying’ on cathartic debut Ash Wedenesday (2007). He did his ‘denying’ on follow-up In Dearland (2009), recruiting a full band and adopting a mystical folk-rock boogie to wash away the personal melancholy, and now, well, he certainly isn’t ‘complying’.
Elvis Perkins has never made things easy. Buried under songcraft still and deep, and secreted within labyrinthine lyrics, lay a treasure of insights proffered by a bruised but luminous soul. Perkins is a preternaturally gifted writer capable of the rhythmic and visual precision of poetry, instinctively wrapping those sentiments in melodies that match his unique, plaintive voice.
If 2009's Elvis Perkins in Dearland was the sound of a folk artist striving for a bigger stage, I Aubade is his subsequent retreat. Back to the comfort of brittle acoustic canticles, Elvis Perkins has stripped down to the bare bones for album number three..