The art of self-realization sometimes comes to us in indulgent doses, with singers and bands floating their thoughts on waves of pretentious wanking and bullshit esotericism. Anthony Green, he of the oft-esoteric Circa Survive, takes the higher road with his Beautiful Things.
This is the second solo album for the former vocalist of Saosin. It comes after 2008’s Avalon and is a hodgepodge of indie rock, psych rock, alt-country, folk, post-punk, post-whatever madness that can be hard to get a read on at first.
Luckily for Green, the stylistic busyness works in his favour when it comes to spinning the various corners of his mind out to bear. He alternates between the significantly overwrought and the undercooked, not always landing his punches but always coming out with high marks for effort.
Green's inspiration comes from just about everywhere. It comes from film, from other forms of music, from pills, from the shards of broken relationships, and from the pieces of satisfied dreams. It also comes from a number of guest players, including Lights, Circa Survive’s Colin Frangicetto and Good Old War.
Even though he’s got plenty of help, Beautiful Things really is Green’s own expansive vision.
“If I Don’t Sing” opens the record with a crunchy set of guitars punching out some solid garage rock. There are abrupt breaks that may have some listeners checking their headphones and Green’s inner voices come scuttling out in a celebration of singing and making music that turns, at times, into something sinister.
Lights’ appearance on “Just to Feel Alive” is beautiful stuff. There are some lovely harmonies at work and the pace trots along without losing any of Green’s trademark honesty. “I don’t know what it is about you I need to be around,” he sings.
There are other moments that explore difficulties in dependency, like the awesome synth-dub of “When I’m On Pills.” There’s a whir of Beach Boys-esque backing harmonies and the soft twitter of comforting electronics, elements lingering and slogging it out with Green’s sense of disappointment in himself.
“Blood Song” is an interesting moment. Based on the film There Will Be Blood, Green takes the track in a country direction and drips it in cheap whiskey. He also manages to somehow make the song remarkably personal, an interesting feat with visions of Daniel Plainview dancing into view. “She’s only 20 but she fucks like 33,” Green sings dizzyingly.
Green’s capability to move through styles and substances without missing a moment of honest action is the stuff Beautiful Things are made of. This is an honest record on a number of fronts and it hits right where it counts, nailing down passages in the heart of the lunacy of what it means to be getting older in this weird world.