Songs About Leaving
Like New York’s Ida, Carissa’s Wierd [sic] construct understated pop tunes — sometimes bitter, often despairing or ominous — that blend plaintive male and female vocals with slight stereophonic manipulation and hushed, uncomplicated instrumentation. Songs About Leaving is the follow-up to You Should Be at Home Here (2001) and the debut Ugly But Honest (2000), two albums that justifiably crept into numerous record collections within the Seattle-Portland indie scenes.
One gets the feeling that Jen Ghetto (alias S when she performs solo) and her partner Mat Brooke, who formed the band about eight years ago in Tuscon, are on the verge of emotional collapse, barely coping through yet another destructive concatenation of relationships and life crises. “You should be hated here,” murmurs Ghetto, her voice quavering in anguish, in the opening song of the same name. Three tracks later, she joins Brooke in a subdued plea for respite in the six-minute “September Take This Heart Away.”
Lyrically, Carissa’s Wierd is exquisite. Brooke nostalgically recounts a handful of disjointed vignettes in “A New Holiday (November 16),” a date that is referenced with some bitterness earlier in “Ignorant Piece of Shit” as well as the liner notes. So there is more than just melody and passion to these Songs About Leaving — there is personal history, too.
As the title spells out all too plainly, there is a time and place for this album. But when heard in context of that particular time and place, likely a room heavy with silence and solitude, it would be hard to praise it enough. Tender and angry, confused and resolute, serene and seething, it is a tangle of delicate paradoxes that makes for poignant, passionate listening. It would be a terrible shame if its modest restraint kept the album from creating a buzz among the din of the band’s indie counterparts.
And as a postscript of sorts, there’s no escaping the mark of Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla. He engineered and mixed most of the songs on Songs About Leaving, which is rather surprising, as the dark musical style seems miles away from his involvement with Western State Hurricanes (now The Long Winters) or Death Cab.
Sad Robot Records: http://www.sadrobotrecords.com/