May 9, 2007

Ash Wednesday-Elvis Perkins

If you seriously want to listen to music that pierces the heart with its emotional honesty, that is devoid of all irony and artifice, then you need to buy "Ash Wednesday" by Elvis Perkins. For the first and last songs alone it is worth the price, you will not find two more heartfelt songs in a year's worth of listening. The best news is that the rest of the album is studded with many other gems. Recorded through out 2006 on Analog tape in and around Los Angeles, the album thankfully received a release on XL Records in February of this year. By now you probably know his tragic back story of the deaths of his famous actor father Anthony Perkins and his photographer mother Berry Berenson who perished in the 9/11 attacks. But it does provide an important canvas to the recording of this album as Elvis started writing the songs before 9/11 and ccmpleted them after. In fact the title track came to the singer on Ash Wednesday, February 2002, six months after the World Trade Center disaster. However this is far from a gloom laden piece of work. Although full of hushed tones and periods of quietness it attains many moments of serene grandeur.

The opening track "While You Were Sleeping" is one of those magical tracks that upon first listening already manages to carve out a claim on your heart. A gentle strum accompanies a veritable flood of striking lyrics dealing with life flying past your own eyes. This song builds and builds with such intensity that you will have to pick yourself up off the floor by the time it finishes. There are so many other wonderful songs. "It's Only Me", "Emile's Vietnam in the Sky", the title track, "The Night & The Liquor" will all have you humming to their delicious melodies and swooning to their emotionally laden lyrics. The end track "Good Friday" provides a fitting climax. A sombre song it has an almost hymn like quality. You can feel the outpouring of emotion in this song. Elvis' voice is a great feature too, plaintive and yearning it conveys the right levels of emotion without ever feeling over wrought. I find his songs have this wonderful stretch to them, they keep pulling on you through out, but the connection never breaks and then there is a wonderful release at the finish. This is worth adding to your collection if you yearn for music that is honest, affecting and genuine.

It is now available in Australia on Inertia.
MP3: May Day
MP3: While You Were Sleeping
MP3: Emile's Vietnam in the Sky


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