Review Summary: please listen to this album. it needs you dearly
The first time I met Of Life, it was just before the clock struck twenty-sixteen on New Year’s Eve. I was sitting alone in a friend’s backyard, sifting drunkenly through Spotify recommendations, only partially catching fragments of unfamiliar album titles before shelving them like they were obscure paperbacks in a second-hand book store. Maybe later
, I kept thinking, like I’d remember them the next morning. Truth be told, the only thing I remembered the next morning was a familiar aimlessness, as much a measure of my blood as the alcohol.
I think that’s why, the first time I heard the riffs in Pushing – knotted and imposing as they are – I was content to be pulled into this record’s orbit. Of Life and I are friends because it’s like me. It feels like it’s longing for something and it feels like there’s a thorn in its side.
And so it goes in its own roundabout fashion, acknowledging its own neuroses (“It sits on your insides, pushing everything”) before casting aside its own attempts at recovering (“I don’t feel any different, since laying here beside you”). It’s indifferent and it’s self-defeatist and it’s beautiful. Of Life and I are friends because I am two of those things.
That this album is structured around a cover of Where Is My Mind is no surprise. The narcotized cousin of the Pixies’ original strips the song of its weathered alt-rock leanings, taking away the nooks and crannies that the lyrics have been hiding behind since 1988. The glassy piano guides these old words to a new context, and by the time the chorus slinks in, Of Life has surrendered to itself, idly wondering when it lost control. It follows, then, that the rest of the record follows the same pattern. It forgets days at a time in Forgetting Days, it forgets the people around it in Through The Glass, and it forgets itself every other second. Of Life and I are friends because I do this, too.
It’s easy to discuss style as if that’s just the clothing a record wears when it leaves the studio, and that’s okay, but it’s wholeheartedly fulfilling to spend time with an album whose style so strikingly reflects its emotional foundations. This release sounds deeply cerebral – the guitars icy, the bass driving, and the melodies quivering with disquiet. The whole thing swims in reverb, too, establishing an overcast atmosphere in which the space between the notes can be felt profoundly by the audience.
This is a nocturnal record. The sun sets during The Drive Home (plaintive horns put it to sleep), and the last track heralds dusk, chasing its own tail with lethargic arpeggios until it sets itself alight again. Everything in between is a frayed attempt to make peace with the things that come at night – the Dragons, the unwelcome company, the anger, the pain, and the myriad uncertainties.
Speaking of which, I still don’t know where I’m going, but at least I have this album.