(Self-released, Cassette, digital download)
Is it better to describe an album by how it sounds or by how it feels? To me, those two are interchangeable, and not in some synesthetic way pulled from an Oliver Sacks case study. Rather, in a way that seems universal. Sublime and West Coast hip-hop sound like summer to me. It's a Bummer Baby by central Vermont's Little Bruce Junior — aka Bruce Hyde — sounds like a fall reluctantly giving in to winter. It sounds like bare trees, cabins without electricity and coping with seasonal affective disorder. It sounds perfect for a Vermont December.
It's not that LBJ's latest album is depressing. But it's not uplifting, either. It's not supposed to be, hence the title. It seems to exist in the limbo period after a breakup, equidistant from the initial heartache and getting on with your life. That time when you say: "I'll never get over them. But to hell with them. But maybe I can get them back. But I'll be fine without them. Right? Right."
A number of songs sit nicely on a pad of organs with reverb-soaked electric guitars in the background, which lend a sense of comfort to the otherwise melancholy lyrics. The album contains songs like "Country Fiddy," an alt-country number that could have been written for an early Deer Tick record and is driven by an upbeat acoustic guitar, balanced nicely with the dirty twang of electric. It sounds a bit misleading to start, like everything is going to be OK. But this feeling is contrasted cleverly against lyrics such as "There's something I remember / You loved me somehow," and the admission "Everything I do is wrong."
LBJ really shines with songs such as "Please Leave Him" and "Little Things," which could join a soundtrack for the more maudlin nights, pairing well with a bottle of whiskey and some heartbreak or longing.
If LBJ didn't already have my attention by song seven, his cover of "Poor Song" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs would've solidified my appreciation.
Closer "Get Out" punctuates the album's theme, delivering an odd confidence in confusion. Here, LBJ continually pleads, "Tell me you want it this way," to a person he knows is just as unsure of how it will all end: "maybe with him, maybe with me."
It's a Bummer Baby will remain in my rotation through the season, and I'm certain it will reappear anytime I find myself in a state of romantic limbo. It will work equally well for a foggy 5 a.m. spring morning or a drizzly summer midnight.