(Lonely Hiway Records, CD, digital download)
Screw you, Ben Campbell.
Just when it looked like you had finally given the rest of us a shot at catching up to you by going on an unexplained four-year hiatus, you’re back and making records at a, well, record pace. I mean, not that many local songwriters really stood a chance to match your prolificacy. From 2000 to 2009 you released 28 albums under your justifiably holier-than-thou moniker Saint Albums. 28! Then you took some time off — presumably to walk on water — before reemerging earlier this year with Falling Star, an album I was already giving serious consideration as one of the year’s best, locally. But that just wasn’t enough, was it? You couldn’t be satisfied with releasing one of 2013’s finest records. You had to go and release another one a couple of weeks ago. And the real kicker? Eternal Memory is even better. Yes, screw you, Ben Campbell.
Oh, who am I kidding? I can’t stay mad at you. (Although I confess I’m starting to run out of adjectives to describe your music. Also, Thesaurus.com mysteriously stops working whenever I cue up one of your albums. Weird.)
So, yeah. About Eternal Memory. It’s kind of absurdly good. I feel like you’ve been listening to a bunch of Iron & Wine lately. Because you’ve got a bit of a sweetly hushed Sam Beam thing going on that I don’t remember hearing from you before. Especially on “Outta My Tree,” which is like a Creek Drank the Cradle outtake, only more upbeat. (What, was effortlessly channeling early Yo La Tengo and Pavement on your last record growing tiresome?) I noticed it, too, on “So Long, Ramona,” which I simply can’t stop listening to. Ditto “Low Horse,” which cheekily checks both the Beach Boys and Modest Mouse for some awesome reason.
Then there’s “Vacation to the Sun.” If Real Estate stopped writing the same damn album over and over again, they might come up with something nearly as adventuresome and ambitious and lovely as this song. Nice contrapuntal harmonies, by the way.
I could go on about how gorgeous “Cold Gray Satellite” is, how nifty the phasing claps are on “Precious Today” or just generally how you seem to pull off more inventive and daring ideas in a single song than some bands do on an entire album. But I’ve got other records to listen to, too, man. Like the one you probably just released in the time it took me to write this review. Screw you, Ben Campbell.
Eternal Memory by Saint Albums is available at saintalbums.bandcamp.com.