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Memory Tapes – Grace/Confusion

on December 07, 2012, 8:00am

It’s hard to critique an album for being chaotic when its creator said he “wanted it to seem like a mess.” Davye Hawk’s third effort under the Memory Tapes moniker is a six-song record rooted in intentional disarray, the tracks on which he told MTV Hive he doesn’t even view as ‘songs’ per se, but “moments of ‘songiness’ that exist in the context of bigger pieces.”

The biggest piece, a gloomy love story titled “Sheila”, clocks in at 8:33 and spins into a succession of distorted guitar, ominous synths, and a heartbreaking chorus about the title character. It’s the album’s most cyclical inclusion yet also the one that eeks by without an identity crisis. For those who likened both 2009’s widely acclaimed Seek Magic and last year’s slightly less heralded Player Piano to a soundtrack for summer will soon discover the only time that sentiment sprouts here is within the first few seconds of the album, when the sound of cicadas prelude the light instrumentals and dreamy vocals of “Neighborhood Watch”.

All of this begs questions similar to those asked by Almost Famous’ William Miller to fictional Stillwater guitarist Russell Hammond: “Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song?” Here, Hawk begs the question of how much a record’s sound and structure should mirror a musician’s personal life. No matter the answer, he likened this album’s conception to “a maze to get lost in,” which is the exact way listeners should approach his latest creation, for all of its sprawling incertitude.

Essential Tracks: “Sheila”

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