Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Third Time Charm

For fans of circa-Y2K Joe, the new Vagabond Skies ep will be a welcome addition to the catalog as soon as they press 'Play.' 'Slow Me Down' is easily the most accessible song here on the disc, and is particularly appropriate at the halfway point of this current series of releases given that the chorus stresses that the singer refuses to be slowed down by anyone. The easy-going acoustic guitar strum of 'Even When Yer Blue' lightens the mood a bit, but attests that while everyone hurts, everyone is also on their own to some degree in this world, recalling another Joseph's (Conrad) observation that, "we live as we dream - alone."

Of course, it's difficult for Joseph not to rail against such an isolationist mentality and return to the concept of a happily-shared misery, which is precisely what he does on 'Pretty Good Company'. He even manages to shake off the unhappiness for 'She Paints Me Gold', a languid, dreamy song full of echoey, falsetto voices swirling above a simple guitar, piano, and drum arrangement; it isn't until an overdriven guitar line cries out and takes over the song that we realize the euphoria won't last.

The manic dichotomy of 'Second Sight' follows, it's distorted backing vocals and layered keyboard lines kicking the choruses into a faux-spooky realm with it's repeated "run aways", before pulling back to the non-threatening strings and drum machine beats of the verses. The Twilight...-era Twilight Singers vibe of 'It's Too Late' circles back to the abandonment mentioned in 'Slow Me Down,' only this time the singer is leaving not because anyone is slowing him down, but because his muse didn't slow down enough to share any moments of true connection: "Every time I try to tell you how I feel/ By the time you listen none of it is still real," he sings, with plaintive choruses of "it's too late" filling in between the verses. He is still the one who has walked away under the vagabond skies, but ultimately it's him who has been left wandering.

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