Review Summary: Songs From the Year of Our Demise is a very nice solo album from Jon Auer, blending indie rock, pop and alternative into a melancholy, memorable disc.
Jon Auer is a veteran on the music scene, having been part of several bands, but this is his first solo work. It's deeply personal, catchy, and bittersweet. Auer's not looking to break musical boundaries here, but instead delivers a very nice helping of indie pop and rock.
Six Feet Under, which begins the album, is the track that led me to buy the album. It's a delicate pop masterpiece, with some a recurring music box melody, bolstered by symphonic flourishes. It sets the mood and theme for the entire album, with some exceptionally clever lyrics and a sense of melancholy buried behind harmonies. Oh and the closing is stunning. 4/4
Bottom of the Bottle has a Brendan Benson'ish vibe. The lyrics are clever and catchy, and the song has a nice, bouncy rythym to it. The song doesn't quite pack the same punch as Six Feet Under, but is a nice, up tempo track. 3.5/4
The Likes of You slows things down a little, with a twangy electric guitar and Auer's singing filling the verses. This is another melancholy track, with some church organ (or so I'm guessing) swirling in the chorus. This is a nicely layered track and a good listen. 3/4
Four Letter Word (appropriately the fourth track) switches to a very rythmically driven sound, with a different, almost tango-ish groove with drums and piano for the verses. The song is short, but memorable. 3.5/4
Angelita returns more to the structure of the other songs, with a nice, arpeggiated chord driven verse, and a nice chorus. A few of the rhymes on this song are forced, but there's much to appreciate here (you were the only one who knew/All the Hell I put you through; my favorite chorus rhyme of the year). There's a swirling, symphonic bridge and some church bells layered on at the end to drive it home. 3.5/4
You Used to Drive Me Around begins with some thudding bass and tom drums before breaking into a very memorable chorus and a very simple, but very effective guitar riff. This is another song that echoes Brendan Benson's work. It drags a little too long in the end. 3.5/4
Song Noir has some nice instrumentation on it, with an orchestral harp and a little bit of a music box backing some evocative lyrics for the verse and strings added for the chorus. It's a slower track, again driving home the overall mood (And nothing stings/like December rain). It's the type of song that would make a great soundtrack single. It's a beautiful song, though the ending is a bit sudden. 4/4
Daytime Lullaby has a nice echo going on it, it works extensively with background vocal harmonies which helps differentiate it from some of the other tracks. It's short and not particularly memorable, though. 2.5/4
Josephine is as rockin' as Jon Auer gets--even some crash cymbal usage in it, along with a nice intro riff. It's more bitter than sweet (I guess I'll never know why/It wasn't meant to be). It's a darker shift, but a good one. 3.5/4
Cemetery Song gives more of a folksy vibe to it, driven by an acoustic guitar and Auer's voice. It's a nice, simple track, keeping a darker tone in an innocent way. 3/4
My Sweet Unknown, like Josephine, has more of a rockin' vibe. There's a nice guitar solo (by nice I mean melodic, not shred, as if I had to differentiate it). The verses have a nice, different beat to them. I imagine this song kicks butt live. 3.5/4
Adios begins with some dissetling piano that sounds like it's something out of a 1920's recording. The vocals are filtered through an echoing type effect. It's more of a concept song, and a bridgeway to the closing tracks of the album. 2.5/4
Sundown returns to the bouncy, poppy Jon Auer. There's a little less in the way of lyrical meaning, but a great sing along chorus. 3/4
Wicked World is another softer song, again with acoustic guitar and Auer singing plaintively. The chorus speaks plainly for the meaning of the song (You're All I Want in this Wicked world). It's another track that demonstrates strong production skill, with a nice, tasteful layering, including some sparse vocal harmonies. Some of Auer's best songwriting is in this song. 4/4
The Year Of Our Demise, the namesake of the album, is a culmination of the themes of the album--love, loss, melancholy, regret and the such. The song isn't really single material, but nevertheless very strong, with a ride cymbal driven verse building to furiously drummed crescendo's. The closing line sums it up well (I want you to know/that I loved you so).
This is a strong album, and well worth buying. There's some outstanding tracks, and even the mediocre ones aren't offputting.
A little bit of sameness
It's not a happy album (not really a con to me, but eh some people...)