Band: Cains & Abels
Album: My Life is Easy
Release Date: March 27, 2012
Free mp3: “Stay Home Tonight” (’til May 11)
As sensational as it might seem, I’ll nonetheless lead off with this nugget: I listened to My Life is Easy straight through the work day today. No joke.
There are a handful of albums that made a good run at it in recent memory — among them: Apteka’s Gargoyle Days and Grandeurs’ self-titled — but even those had me tapping out by lunch. After awhile, I peeled away their spells by introducing some diversity, you know?
Not so with My Life is Easy. It, Cains & Abels’ second full-length and first new batch of music from the guys since their 2011 EP, The Price is Right, would sit atop my list of favorite releases of the year if I had such a list.
To piece a framework here, I’ll admit I’m super new to Cains & Abels. I saw them play for the first time about two weeks ago at Saki’s Record Store Day in-store. Consider it a show by happenstance, really, as I biked over for Bare Mutants, who played in the slot prior to Cains & Abels.
Cains & Abels is a name I’ve recognized far longer than that, though. A name, then, I had scanned in the Reader from time to time, but for whatever reason went mostly unchecked by me until about now. I might have kickstarted my passivity, perhaps, had their show at S.P.A.C.E. — opening for their fantastic Whistler Records label mates, In Tall Buildings — gone on as planned in mid to late February.
To prep some for that show, I downloaded Cains’ EP, The Price is Right, and realized I could like them. On record, David Sampson had one of the prettiest voices I’d heard in awhile — maybe since Ryan Groff of the Champaign-based Elsinore. And there was real distinction in his storytelling — a good sense of obscurity, to be sure — that I was entertained with intrigue. Yet not enough, apparently, to write about their new one on or around release day.
My Life is Easy’s outro, “Grow Me Home,” is on a shortlist — again, if such a list existed — of best songs I’ve heard this year. Unfortunately, I do not have the kind of pull that might warrant a free download or stream of it here — I tried! — but nevertheless I do want to make it known that those who fork over money for the album (see Extras below) get many of their greenbacks, I think, returned on “Grow Me Home” alone.
“Grow Me Home,” essentially, is a tune that’s breathtakingly cathartic. It’s dynamic and it moves. I came to that, actually, while reflecting on another album I liked this year, Grandeurs’ self-titled, that, oddly, is anything but.
About that album I’d said:
So much of the album — practically all of it — seems built on the climb, but then gives — plateaus — before reaching summit. I should hate that about Grandeurs, but I absolutely don’t. It has the opposite effect in me than I think it should, and I don’t know that I’ve figured out why yet.
On My Life is Easy, Cains & Abels is the reverse of this, and yet both bands, their respective sounds, work profoundly well for me. I’d rather a band be cathartic, honestly, because it generally leads to tunes assembled the way “Grow Me Home” is. You know, a humble beginning followed by several explosions as it gets going. Drums and guitars pounding into the sky.
Flipping to the album’s official starting point, now, “Run Run Run” makes for elegant atmosphere. Like an intentional signal on behalf of the band to advise the masses that, yes, My Life is Easy is markedly different from what’s come before. As much as I like David on mic, and I do, it seems like he occupies every inch of The Price is Right. Everything else in the production, then, isn’t given the room to catch itself, to breathe, because there he is again.
He seems to have learned this on My Life is Easy, and you get a strong sense of it on “Run Run Run.” David still commands huge presence, but his vocals work in accordance with the other instruments. No, he’s not chanting by now, but he’s absolutely emphasizing particular syllables; letting his voice carry on at the end of a phrase. It just sails away with the waves of sound. So pleasing.
While on the topic of voice, what I find remarkable about these guys is that however clear David’s voice might seem — i.e. discerning what’s said, the words, is rather easy — I have not a clue in the world, really, about what any of it means.
“You Know Which One” might be the most cryptic of the bunch. Just tremendously ambiguous all around.
These are lifted out of their contexts, of course, but here’s what we’re working with:
If there was one that I could take out, you know which one. You know which one, you know which one.
An untouched paper and pen, a sander on the floorboards, leave a bone to dry.
This grass is growing again, a tiny egg begins to quiver, leave a bone to dry.
The music is so gorgeous, though, that the confusion doesn’t seem to matter. It actually makes for a kind of endearing hilarity when you’ve got David breaking to say something like “even through the skin between us, you know which one” and then — pow! — the Cains & Abels jam train again rolls through.
I’m kicking myself for missing their Hideout release show.
- The Chicago-based Cains & Abels is David Sampson, Joshua Ippel and Jamie Mcgaw. | Facebook
- Whistler Records is selling My Life is Easy on vinyl for $12. | Whistler Records
- Pay What You Want for Cains & Abels’ 2011 EP, The Price is Right. | Bandcamp
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