Thursday, February 17, 2011

Album Review: "12 Desperate Straight Lines" by Telekinesis

"12 Desperate Straight Lines" was released on
February 15, 2011 on Durham's Merge Records
Michael Benjamin Lerner set quite the watermark for himself after releasing his debut record with Telekinesis back in 2009 when he released his debut record "Telekinesis!", produced by Chris Walla of Death Cab For Cutie.  Lerner put out a record full of great pop songs, and naturally the pressure would be turned up for the dreaded sophomore album, where some artists simply fall off of the wagon.  Lerner does not fall into this category with his follow up of "12 Desperate Straight Lines", also produced by Walla.  With a new lineup including Jason Narducy (Bob Mould band) and Cody Votolato (Jaguar Love, Blood Brothers) and a darker direction, this Seattle based artist, signed to Durham's Merge Records, improves leaps and bounds with his songwriting on "12 Desperate Straight Lines".

From the opening track you can immediately tell a change in tone amongst the music, especially as Lerner sings out "I can see right through you/You turn clear in the sun" and "You say nothing and I know it's true/You say nothing and it comes right back to you".  Lines like this are found strewn about the album, lyrics that are full of angst and disdain, but theres hints of hope in there as well, perfectly encapsulating the feeling of a breakup.  Telekinesis seems to have mastered the art of making sad lyrics sound poppy above infectious synth and guitar lines.  This trait is exemplified best on tracks like "Car Crash", songs with booming and anthemic choruses that still find themselves singing out lines like "Car crash late in the night/You're not wrong but you were never right/and now I feel so lonely".

Lerner also has made some of his influences pretty plain and clear on this record, especially with songs like "50 Ways" and ""Please Ask For Help".  "50 Ways" is a nod to Paul Simon's "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" in case you hadn't guessed it yet, as Lerner belts out that "Paul Simon said it the best, there truly are 50 ways".  "Please Ask For Help" screams The Cure right from the opening bass line, but the way that Lerner adds his own spin to it is what makes it interesting, and the same rings true for the rest of the album as well.  Lerner isn't breaking ground with the music he's making, but that doesn't mean he isn't making great music.

Lerner flourishes towards the end of the album, featuring some of the best tracks like "Country Lane" and the album closer of "Gotta Get It Right Now", songs that have a bit more crunch to them and really round the album out excellently.  The final lines of the album seem to sum up the entire message that Lerner was trying to get across the entire time, "It's alright if it means nothing/'cause it meant something, anyways".  Lerner clearly knows how to take heartbreak and pull it straight from his chest and onto paper and he's done just that with "12 Desperate Straight Lines.

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