Meryll, Happened

Meryll, Happened

Okay, I’m impressed. With their second effort, Austin’s Meryll have created an album that serves pretty damn effectively as the soundtrack for an ’80s childhood, back when life still seemed innocent and free (to us kids, anyway) and you could roam the neighborhoods without an adult care in the world. The music is gentle and rough-edged, with a not-quite-country-but-rural tinge to it, alternately chiming and roaring guitars, earnest vocals, and midtempo drums; the comparison I keep coming back to, more than anything else, is to Mark Kozelek’s Sun Kil Moon band/project. There’s the same delicate beauty to it all, the same Neil Young-esque guitars, and most of all, the same kind of high-pitched, nearly falsetto vocals.

The singing, by the by, is probably not everybody’s cup of tea — it’s a little flat at points, not to mention a little girlish, but it’s still endearing as all hell. The occasional awkwardness of the delivery, in fact, accentuates the innocence of the whole of Happened and emphasizes the teenage-diary feel of it and makes me ponder the lyrics on repeated listens, trying to draw meanings out each time. The songs amble warmly through the headphones like long-lost Buffalo Tom outtakes (think Big Red Letter Day-era BT, especially “I’m Allowed”), while the guitars swing neatly between Son Volt distortion and Gloria Record atmospherics.

There’s only one low point on here, the ill-advised faux-lounge of “You Broke Up The Fight,” and even that’s not bad; it’s just a serious tempo/style shift, and it pretty much kills the momentum of the album. But hey, I’ve got no problem skipping a single track, especially when the other nine are slowly-unfolding little gems. I particularly like “Brother The Hunter,” the baseball story of “278 In Left Field,” the Saves The Day-ish “You’re Not Hurt,” and, best of all, burner “Lightning Threatens.” The latter track starts with strummy guitars and soft, matter-of-fact vocals and steadily builds and builds ’til the distorted guitars come in and the drums are pounding like a runner’s heartbeat. By the end, it’s captured the fear and anxiety and the faith that everything’s going to be okay.

It’s weird, but even though I grew up in Killeen, Texas, rather than in Hemlock, Michigan (where it sounds like most of the songs are set), the songs on Happened still feel as familiar as old friends. The days of building forts in the woods, knowing all the neighbors, playing sports with the kids down the block, and hanging out with siblings — yeah, I can still remember those days, too, although at the time they didn’t seem like much. Funny how the distance time and knowledge creates can make something you always thought was boring and dull seem heavenly in retrospect. Thanks for taking me back, guys.

[Meryll is playing 11/2/07 at The Loft in The Woodlands, with The Church of Philadelphia & Buxton.]
(Esotype Records -- Post Office Box 11515, Spring, TX. 77391-1515; http://www.esotyperecords.com/; Meryll -- http://www.myspace.com/meryll)
BUY ME: CDBaby

Review by . Review posted Friday, November 2nd, 2007. Filed under Reviews.

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One Response to “Meryll, Happened

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Balmorhea + Meryll (MP3s!) + listenlisten + The Spits + TV Ghost + Eisley + More on June 3rd, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    […] for Meryll, well, I freaking loved the band’s 2007 release, Happened, with its wistful, pointing-back-at-high-school vibe. It swoops and meanders beautifully but […]

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