‘I don’t know at which point the world stopped validating romance. Divorce and breakup rates are on the rise, the influx or responsibilities that no longer allow for intimate relationships due to stress or worry. It’s awfully present even in the music of today, breakup ballads, selfish examinations to skirt mutual responsibilities. For many like myself, it’s a little sickening. When a piece of art comes along that actively wants to make you feel these emotions, and even challenge you to reflect on your own passions and failing in relationships, it’s something incredibly miraculous as found in Matthew Squires and The Learning Disorders (Man, what a great name) latest album:
The Electric River. If you like titles so nonsensical with no context and a gut punch with it, you’ll adore this album that serves as a collection of monologues ranging from shaky soulful performances to the kind of spoken word poetry that once upon a time filled cafes across the states. If you’re not the type to enjoy “soft-boy” ballads with a tinge of melancholy, this album might not work with you, but if you’re willing to open your heart the way the group so effortlessly does, you’ll be wildly and possibly profoundly surprised. Kicking off with back to back love examinations with “Love and Other Vaccines,” Squires waxes poetic with lines like “You shine like a light in infinite night” and “It’s more like a blast of fire and ash which fills up our skies, dissolves all our lies.”
If you can’t get behind thoughts like those, your heart is blackened and I suggest you find love. “Felt like Your Man” is more of a remembrance of times gone by and a thoughtful examination of the sense of pride that comes with being with a loved one. Transitioning into a playful if not slightly cynical take is the “Ballad of Norm Macdonald” the kind of track you can only hear to believe. It’s wavy, confusing, hilarious and a fun diversion from the main thesis, unless there’s something I’m missing. It’s an album that can only grow stronger upon registering and with such crisp production from the band, I highly recommend the first listen be an intimate experience with headphones. With “The Life of Trees” we switch back to the kind of hazy garage rock that permeated the opening, calling to mind very distinct memories that you can tell come from such an honest place of personal experience. We all have the thoughts of traveling with a beloved and getting lost in sense like sound and taste.
Those little details really make the whole experience feel grounded even when the lyrical subject matter feels fanciful and light. The last two tracks “New World Anthem” and “Electric River” change up the pace in a way I won’t spoil, but it’ll sit with you long after the album is over. Overall it’s an exceptional addition to the slate of fantastic indie releases we’ve received this past year and I can’t wait to see what Squires and Co do next!