The Dreadful Yawns

Early

(Self-released; 2004)

By Amir Nezar | 24 November 2004

Ed-in-Chief and pal Scott Reid and I have more than a couple differences in musical taste -- most obvious among them is his love for folk and Brian Wilson pop, while my cup of tea tends to sharp, guitar rock: think Fugazi, Interpol, Spoon, Sonic Youth, etc. Which is not to say that Mr. Reid doesn’t like the band’s I’ve listed, or that I don’t have a soft spot for some of his favorite artists -- but I can safely say our year end lists will look a great deal different (which is great, because difference in musical opinion only increases your chances to expand your horizons, etc. etc. etc.)

However, every once in a while I’ll make the overture to a genre for which I don’t hold a particular fondness. And folk tends to be one of those. But a particular guitar figure or melody suddenly strikes me, a variation on tried-and-true singer-songwriter ethos causes me to start. And this, friends, is how I found out I loved The Dreadful Yawns.

The first half of Early, is, for the most part, pretty, non-revolutionary folk. It’s meditative, dominated by a keen ear for melody, and touching. “I’ll Be Born Soon” reaches its climax quietly and fades out, leaving a lingering desire to hear its early melodies repeated. And “The Waves,” one of the album’s more lyrically melancholic tracks, is an exercise in delicate melody and supportive arrangement, its frail structure swooning with its somber lyrics: “Hey / Get a load of the waves / Crashing in and taking you away / I'm / Standing in the rain / Waiting for them to bring you home again.” You clear the six-song mark, and mostly you’ve been smiling and remembering past loves and youth.

And then “Was I Just Struck by Lightning?” strikes you, well, like lightning. Even if the deft key-shifts in melody signal something ineffably different to you, they will not prepare you for the synthetic, cavernous tone that falls through the mix, pushes it into cathartic, melodic, urgent bliss, and leaves your heart on the floor.

From then on the album progresses through some of the most beautiful psych-pop since Cyann and Ben’s Spring (2003), easily eclipsing even that excellent record at some terribly profound moments. “Cycle” rivals “Lightning” in terms of sheer breathtaking melody, sneaking in a background, melodic guitar wail from Pink Floyd without you even realizing it. And then “Hazel Eyes” closes the album on a heart-shaking note, its organ-led progressions taking over some sublimely understated piano chord shifts, making for a wallop that’ll leave you, post-initial-listen, wondering what the hell just happened.

That, ultimately, is what is so affecting about Early -- it’s one of those rare instances of an album progressing through such delicate and almost imperceptible layers that you hardly notice the end is utterly evolved from its humble beginnings. I wouldn’t have predicted myself saying almost at any point this year that a folk album was one of my favorite albums, of any genre, of the year. But Early has that wonderful way of sneaking up on you.