4 out of 5
Label: Comedy Minus One
Produced by: Mark Greenberg
Many long-running bands on the indie rock / mainstream fringe have found themselves positioned as such exactly because of their straddling-line sound: brought up in the indie scene, but influenced by the mainstream, resultant tracks and albums can have crossover appeal, depending on how far over the line they lean. For Chicagoans Eleventh Dream Day, while touched by all that wonderful Thrill Jockey / Touch and Go fare, there’s also a huge ol’ folk rock legacy in their sound, often compared to Neil Young. I’d read reviews of EDD and hear slow and dreamy and moody things that’d make them seem right up my alley, and then I’d listen to a couple of tracks and perhaps stumble across the more Neil Young-ish takes, and – not necessarily being a huge fan of that sound – not find a reason to explore more.
But as I’ve mentioned before, following labels’ outputs – and this is definitely one of the reasons I do that – gives me reason to invest more listening time into things I might otherwise pass up. So now we have Comedy Minus One, who, after reissuing one of EDD’s albums, have been the ones to put out their 2021 effort: Since Grazed. I might’ve just lucked into a release that caters more to my appreciations than not, but there’s plenty of both “sides” of EDD present on the album, and I admittedly got much more traction with the stuff that was more up my alley. But even when songs lean into more generic, predictable fare, the depth of the band’s sound – their comfort playing with one another; their patience with getting into a groove – links the material together, with Mark Greenberg’s spacious production giving my ears plenty of room to sink in to the more comparatively shallow works.
And “shallow” really just means that the songs are apparent from the title, with the melodies hitting more on the familiar than the surprising, and often sticking to a pleasant cadence: Cracks in My Smile; Just Got Home (In Time to Say Goodbye); closer Every Time This Day It Rains – these are pretty generic odes to loves and losses, and accessible sadness. While tastes are very obviously subjective, and I’ve read some reviews highlighting those tracks, subject matter aside, their construction just doesn’t – to me – stack up next to some of the bigger swings here. The title track opener is a brilliant, world-weary mission statement, with a driving and building riff, and more obscurely-lyriced songs – Tyrian Purple; Yves Klein Blues – gives us a chance to think through what’s being said, while entertained and moved by the group stepping through its blends of folk rock and post-rock grooves. Most fascinating, though, are some tracks which edge into drone-ish or trancelike territory, settling on a single lyrics and tensely repeated melody: Take Care is a devastatingly 6-minutes, despite it very much being on repeat for the majority of its runtime, and is then backed up by the haunting and much more delicate – but also repeating – Matter. A whole album of these might be tiring, but as centerpieces, the effect is quite perfect. Sequencing is actually a big part of the success of the album, working through some longer and emotive cuts up to these two tracks, the switching over to a shorter format for most of the closers.
For me, Since Grazed has very much opened the EDD doors: I can see how their varying styles combine into an impressive totality of songs for an album, making their releases worth further time to explore, and let them work their paced magic. For longtime listeners, this three decades running project would seem to still be producing wins: Since Grazed feels as emotive and relevant as any modern day release.