pick-of-the-monthchoir weaverYou might find yourself headbanging, only for your head to slip into drifting mode. Those masters of intelligent, melodious shoegaze have upped the intensity for this one. Again, this time it’s personal.

Label: Galaxy 21
Time: 13 Tracks / 56 minutes

Would you like boring, predictable Christian lyrics? There are scores, if not hundreds, of places to get that. If you prefer songs that invite you into the depths of human life, lit by the divine, The Choir is a good place to go. This one swells their reputation for thoughtful content as drummer Steve Hindalong writes about the breadth of life: saying ‘Goodbye,’ experiencing suffering, dealing with temptation, love, the shame of doing wrong and questioning the merits of religion. He even gets both Easter joy and picking parsley for his wife into “The Antithesis of Blue.”

As the title suggests, this is built around the idea of light and dark, and our duality as human beings. It is clearest in the standout track “What You Think I Am,” its direct, fuzzy riff surrounded by trademark swirling guitars and Dan Michaels’ Lyricon, which creates a distorted brass section all on its own.

“I’m nobody’s angel, that ain’t me

And what kinda devil do you think I be?

I’m a Good Samaritan and a very, very bad man

I’m a whole lot better and a whole lot worse than what you think I am.”

There’s something in Derri Daugherty’s phrasing of this chorus that shows how well the music fits the lyrics, but the whole track is born for repeat plays. It’s as if the responsibility of Kickstarter funding has given the band a new sense of urgency and this track is as intense as any from the last four or five releases.

“White Knuckles” has an authentic touch as it explores how temptation wrestles with us, and another one that finds us with our trousers down is “Get Gone,” which captures a sense of the shame that follows

“the consequences of our own iniquity.

Before they set on fire this bridge I’m standing on

Before they cut a hole in the net I’m landing on

I’m gonna climb down into this canon after I put my clown suit on

I wanna get gone, gone, gone.”

Hindalong has a knack of putting the deep moments of real life vividly into a few lines. Take these, from the chorus of “We All Know:”

“You know you’re alive when you taste your own blood,
Open hands to the sky with your face in the mud;
We all know how suffering feels.”

…and the verses press that blade a little closer to our skin.

While the sound is indisputably The Choir – Daugherty’s dreamy vocals and Michaels’ swelling Lyricon atmospherics make sure of that – they can still evoke other artists. “It Hurts to Say Goodbye,” based around the pain of Hindalong’s daughter leaving the nest, has more than a touch of 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love” about its dreamscape intro and extended multilayered instrumental.

Occasionally, Tim Chandler’s bass sounds bulky enough to withstand a buffalo stampede, but he is less prominent on this release, probably due to the lyricon and several layers of guitars (Mark Byrd’s influence showing) that all fight for ear-space. There is calm between the intense moments, such as the 106-seconds long post-coital elegy “Two Clouds are One;” the even shorter shoegaze piece “Frequency of Light;” and the two halves of the title track, which wrap around the rest of the album.

While some tracks show a new lease of energy, others (“Rhythm of the Road”) tend towards filler. Long-term fans may also question whether Daugherty is starting to recycle some tunes. But otherwise there is plenty in here to give Kickstarter supporters the assurance that their investment has paid healthy returns.

Derek Walker

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