Reighnbeau, ‘Friends’

Posted by on May 31, 2013


Bridgetown Records, 4/8/2013

I’m driving through the mountains of Colorado for the fourth time this year, thinking about Friends, the new tape by Reighnbeau released in April as part of Bridgetown Records’ spring 2013 batch. I’m a big fan of Kevin Greenspon’s Bridgetown. Kevin is an incredibly prolific guy who releases huge batches of albums at a time, and I asked him which of his recent load is the most lyrical, for which I received Friends. I looked Reighnbeau’s Bryce Hample up online and asked if he’d send me some lyrics all typed up, and he totally did, though I think I missed the point; now I realise I’m listening to it in the best atmosphere possible for absorbing it: long hours in a car with headphones, shotgun seating, and a travel partner who doesn’t talk.

Friends is a tricky one for me for the following reasons: it is acoustic guitar driven, but stylistically in that 90’s indie way, where it sticks to a handful of Sonic Youth chords, finger-picks in rhythmic figures, and doesn’t get that interested in hooks. It seems like it’s all about what Hample is singing but there are only a handful of phrases in the album where I can pick up the lyrics. Reighnbeau’s vocals are throaty and whispery, and doubled much like Elliott Smith‘s. The drums sound very particular to 90’s indie stuff too; very quiet snare drumrolls, very quiet ride cymbals that remind me of Explosions In The Sky during the low-key parts. To sum it up prematurely, Friends sounds like a Sebadoh meets Elliott Smith record.

But that is premature, and I’m trying to figure out why, since I have another four hundred miles to drive today and I’d like to use them to get to the core of this album. I’m considering these possibilities: either Friends is a record with an overall color and experience, sneakily made up of three minute songs, or it’s purposefully burying the lyrics so that you’ll dig deeper into it and they’ll have a heavier effect. There’s also the possibility that it’s exactly what it sounds like. I find it hard to place the songs in their settings. It’s almost a rainy day, it’s almost peering out of windows, it’s almost the Pacific Northwest. It is not happy, but it’s not painfully sad either. The songs are introspective and all come with Reighnbeau’s consistent ennui. Friends is invariably ‘itself’ from start to finish. My favorite song on Friends is “Drive,” the first track you get to that sounds like a potential single. I’m curious how the album would read if it started with it and let everything else be in the context of “Drive.” It’s funny how track order can be approached from several reasonable angles; “don’t blow your load early” or “set everything up to appeal fast.”

That said, it’s none of my fucking business; it’s Reighnbeau’s. It’s a personal album, there’s no doubt about it. I’m curious about the stories he’s telling, the questions he’s asking, the relationships to friends that the album must be named after. The album seems like the story of a small group of lifelong friends growing up in a small town, reaching an age where things change for some and don’t for others. I can see the love stories — “Crawling into your window” is a lyric that suddenly sticks out while I’m listening and typing. They might be love stories of emotionally deep teenagers, or of kids who are too bright to be still living where they do, working at Subway and not knowing but having the sense that they should be somewhere else. Kids who deserve the cool coffee shop job in a city not too far away. Kids that will go on to do very cool things after they get over the rocky first jump into life and love. I know I’m projecting, but I also know that if this was an album I didn’t like, I would’ve written it off like the ambient noise thing I had originally intended to write about today. That album sucked; this one doesn’t. It’s an indescribable quality that makes it good, and I don’t think you’re supposed to have the lyric sheet. I could leave it with this: the first lyrics I understand since starting this paragraph are “You cannot make this last forever / I cannot make this last forever,” and a handful of analogies about teeth and the decay of time.

OK, actually, there’s this. I’ve listened to this album three or four times today and what it is doing to me is making me miss people. It’s making me miss places I have no business going back to, and it’s affecting me more than any of these stupid mountains are. Did I mention we have driven through snow that has closed roads (on May 30th, mind you) as well as sunny stretches that remind me sweatily that I ate McDonald’s cheeseburgers for breakfast? Reighnbeau gets to treat me through two or three simulations of seasonal change. It’s a fall album that is coming out in the spring. Literally and metaphorically. I should’ve just said that about it. Fuck.