There are three kinds of albums. The first makes up the vast majority; pleasant music that no one will ever demand be turned off, but will probably be forgotten within the span of two years – the unspoken but more or less universally accepted timespan for an album cycle. (Unless we’re talking about hip hop, then cut that time into thirds.) Above those, there are the albums that sit at the top of their respective genres. These offerings are usually so masterful that the most dedicated fans will shirk daily responsibilities to listen to them on repeat, like an addiction. And then there are albums like The Smile Case – Murder Weather. This album – and albums like it – share one thing in common with the albums in the top tier: there were definitely drugs involved. Unlike those beautiful unicorn recordings that make listening sessions both intoxicated and sober, joyful experiences, this is not that type of record.
The lead vocals are off-putting, but maybe the most dedicated hipsters and counter-culturalists will find redeeming qualities in them. The guitar and bass sound like they were probably tuned at select moments, but definitely not every time the record button was pressed. The drumming is fine, it keeps time.
“The Going is Good” features a bold attempt at vocal harmonies. Making the album’s introductory acoustic-vocal track, complete with cricket noises and what I assume is a vibraphone, last a full three minutes was just cruel. The rest of the songs are pure ‘90s post-grunge worship, but without any of the melancholy charm that dominated that scene.
This recording gets points for including guest musicians, for featuring musicians who can play to a click, and for including ten songs that don’t all sound exactly the same. Other than that, I have to wonder how the numerous people involved in this project could have collectively decided that it was ready to be released. A little more refinement in the recording process would go a long way.
Written by Syd Ghan
*edited by Kate Erickson