Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley and Shawn Biggs
Right now, this very moment, all of the windows in the house have their panes lifted up as far as they can go, letting in all of the calmly warm spring air. The sun's getting ready to call it a day, but it's going to be around for a few more barbeque hours, some more post-work lounging time when the kids can run around in the backyard with the dog, or when you can run around in the backyard with the dog. These afternoons haven't been around for very long yet this season. It's all new. If the windows didn't open the way they did - south to north - we would have grandly and passionately thrown them open, shoving our heads and upper bodies out and into the pleasant air.
It might just be that we've been going through withdrawal for too many months now. We may have just forgotten the way that these days transform everything into a better version of its normal self. We've been racked and sacked and holed up with layers on for almost five months now. It's time that we got on with the sunny skies and there's nothing like the first few weeks of relief from those cooler grips. Grand Archives are accomplices to these days - kind of. The Seattle band doesn't have any say in when they're going to happen, but they take full advantage of them for one half of its creative output. They use the favorable moods and tingly feelings that these permanent breaks in the weather bring with them for their musical side - for those guitars, melodies, the drums, the keyboards, the odds and ends. They then find it okay to twist those winds that fill sails and sail kites with the wicked lace of darker matters. They do what Sufjan Stevens did with a serial killer like John Wayne Gacy, making something beautiful out of depressing and disturbing material.
There is a bunch of purely uplifting pop music on the self-titled debut record, with no ulterior motives or origins, just a generosity in chewy goodness. Then there are the songs about hanged men and the disastrous thought that a real-life prisoner of the state could hold a world record for having in his possession more four-leaf clovers - all plucked from the prison yard's lawn - than any other person in the world. Thinking about that more makes it such a heartbreaking story. There's George Kaminsky, just solemnly plopped down in the green grass, thumbing through the tiny stems and leafy umbrellas to find the good luck charms - there in a place where he could use all the luck he could get. He couldn't have been treated all too greatly by the other inmates for his spending so much time playing with "flowers." Those clovers were needed when he was on the other side of those prison walls. There's no telling what he thought they could do for him in there. It drives home the reality that one thinks about building up his or her defenses only when it might be too late. There were no free people collecting the vast amounts of luck that he was trying to collect - just pressing the one that they found in a food somewhere in their house and being done with the exercise, feeling they had enough to last.
Mat Brooke, formerly of Band of Horses, and his compadres Curtis Hall, Jeff Montano and Ron Lewis germinate their salt with their sugar - making positively sure that there are bags of sugar and just the faintest dashes of salt in the stir. Their harmonies are for screened porches and patios, where a small beer chest is full and at the foot of the seats. They live for days that feel like nights, times when the bugs aren't out and there's a story to tell.