Music Reviews

Ill Lit

I Need You


I Need You is one of the few albums in recent memory to have hooked me from the very start and then maintained that pleasurable rush of excitement throughout. There’s just enough electronica, acoustic guitar, drum machine, keyboard, earnest (often faltering) vocals and assorted digital noodling in the music for each element to complement the other, resulting in songs that are as structurally delicate as they are stylistically diverse. To call them clever, occasionally poetic, digitally enhanced country-folk vignettes and dirges directed at a society on the edge of madness comes close to being an accurate description. But it isn’t quite on the nose, either. If anything, the material found here is generally what defined “alternative” music before the label became stripped of it meaning through commoditization and endless empty hype on MTV; that is to say, intelligent, sincere, well-crafted songs with no debt to one clear genre, but without forsaking the accessibility and deliberate appeal of pop.

Hunting for lows on this album is largely an exercise in futility (the repetitive “West” might be a candidate), but a few tracks certainly stand out above others. There’s the opener, “Mid-City,” which immediately begins with singer/songwriter D. Ahearn’s slightly nasal declaration, “I’m hoping you get better, dear / ‘cause even east L.A. is west of here / I should have left you sooner, but there would have been no fear to deny / when the time was right.” From here, the track builds to a lush, melodic 4/4 toe-tapper, segueing abruptly into the speaker-rattling bass fuzz of “In the Thick.” Later on the disc comes “Preston Rules,” a song that brings another occasional Badman artist to mind, Swell, because of its effortless conflation of digital effects and traditional rock. “First thing a whore does at the end of the day / is shower to wash away what they’ve done,” sings Ahearn over the pop and crackle of a simulated record. “… I want to visit the heaven of Fred Rogers and John Denver / so I’ll know that things are gonna get better when we die.” In the face of this somber beginning, this transforms into an optimistic, twangy, driving tune with a literary nod in Yeats’s direction. Producer Michael Rozon deserves mention for maintaining the paradoxical hi-fi/lo-fi flavor of the album. His previous experience producing two very different artists – subdued folk-rocker Mark Kozelek and Norwegian electronica guru Erlend Øye – has found an ideal outlet here.

My largest gripe with I Need You concerns the liner notes and lyrics. They’re all but impossible to read. Who’s the designer responsible for running red text on a brown background? (It’s printed here, as a matter of fact, but I can’t read his or her name.) This, however, is nothing more than a minor quibble that shouldn’t prevent this disc from finding its way into your player. Highly recommended.

Ill Lit: • Badman Recording Co.:

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