Quiet Company, We Are All Where We Belong

Quiet Company, We Are All Where We Belong

I’ll say it straight out: this is a truly remarkable album. I’ll admit that when I first listened to Quiet Company’s We Are All Where We Belong, I didn’t have particularly high hopes — at first glance, it seemed like yet another disc’s worth of well-crafted, shiny-sweet indie-pop, good but in no way unique.

After scratching the surface, however, I’m seeing the album with new eyes. While We Are All Where We Belong is indeed an intricately-put-together pile of indie-pop, what it really is is a thoughtful, intensely personal meditation on frontman/songwriter Taylor Muse’s (apparently recent) loss of faith. He’s taken a look at himself, at his religion, and at the world at large, and decided he’s been believing in “beautiful lies.”

Note, by the way, that this isn’t really Muse documenting how he drifted from faith to atheism (or, at the very least, agnosticism) — by the time opening track “The Confessor” starts, he’s already there. He’s still struggling with his decision, certainly, but he seems sure he’s made the right one; what he’s concerned with now is explaining that decision to…well, I’m not entirely sure.

Sometimes he seems to be addressing a child (possibly a child yet to be born), but at other times it sure sounds like he’s talking to a lover. In fact, after listening to the lyrics, it seems pretty clear that the reason for Muse’s break with religion is because of love and all that goes with it. There’s a defiance to the songs, a head-held-high declaration that the God everybody talks about must not know a thing about love, and that love itself is worth more than faith. It seems nowhere more evident than on “Midnight at the Lazarus Pit,” where Muse promises, “I am completely yours.”

And hey, as somebody who’s pretty much a deist verging on agnostic himself, I find myself nodding in understanding through a lot of the album. I’ve been through some similar decisions and ended up in a place similar to where Muse now finds himself.

I don’t think that means that only somebody who’s decided organized religion (or religion at all) is for them will get something out of We Are All Where We Belong, mind you — this is an astoundingly intimate album that has Muse baring his soul and mind for all to see and shrugging, with no apologies for how he thinks or feels. It’s uncertain and determined at once, afraid of the eventual end but unwilling to lie (as he sees it) to himself any further. And regardless of your feelings on religion, that’s an extremely brave thing for any songwriter to attempt, much less pull off.

And he does, make no mistake. These songs are impeccably written, making me think of Okkervil River, The Decemberists, or, going further backwards, Leonard Cohen in their smart, intricate phrasing. Quiet Company’s lyrics remind me of Will Sheff from Okkervil River more than anything else; the two Austin bands are close kin in terms of pacing and intelligence.

Obviously, none of it would work if the music itself dropped the ball, but thankfully, that never happens. Muse and his cohorts devote as much attention to the lush arrangements as they do the words, putting together a slate of wonderfully baroque, ridiculously layered pop that hits notes all over the place, from the jangly Elliott Smith-isms of “Are You A Mirror? (…Or A Window?)” to the bright, waltz-y, Jellyfish-like “Preaching to the Choir Invisible, Part I” to the ironically gospel-tinged “The Black Sheep & The Shepherd” (which ends up shifting upwards into Polyphonic Spree territory later on).

Quiet Company can also cut loose when they need to, and the louder, rawer songs — like the head-exploding “You, Me, & The Boatman” or “We Went To The Renaissance Faire,” which roars like an outtake from The Talk. Both tracks burn brightly, making it nearly nearly impossible not to grin like an idiot. It’s an awesome thing to witness when they turn up the amps a bit and blow those careful, complex melodies off the stage with a blast of Marshall-stack power.

Vocally, Muse comes closest to similarly high-voiced, thoughtful indie icons Ben Gibbard and Travis Morrison (formerly of The Dismemberment Plan), switching adeptly from a murmur to a frenzied roar at the drop of a hat. There’s also an interesting resemblance to Aimee Mann in terms of delivery, especially on “Fear & Fallacy, Sitting In A Tree”; he’s got some of the same quirks to his singing, and it’s a neat little similarity.

With We Are All Where We Belong, the guys in Quiet Company have done something I’d have told you was impossible just a week or two ago: they’ve taken a look inside of the head and soul of a man who’s left his old faith (and in some ways, undoubtedly, his old life) behind and made it not only fascinating but insanely catchy and addictive. I find myself wanting to listen over and over and over again and discovering a brilliant, new little piece I’d never noticed before every time; like I said, a remarkable album.

(Feature photo by Leah Muse.)

[Quiet Company is playing 1/13/11 at Fitzgerald’s, along with The Literary Greats, Finnegan, & Poor Pilate.]
(self-released; Quiet Company -- http://quietcompanymusic.com/; Quiet Company (Facebook) -- http://www.facebook.com/quietcompany; Quiet Company (Bandcamp) -- http://quietcompany.bandcamp.com/)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Friday, January 13th, 2012. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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10 Responses to “Quiet Company, We Are All Where We Belong

  1. Aryn Keen on January 13th, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Fantastic review. I’ve been on the Quiet Company bandwagon for quite a while now, and this album didn’t disappoint. I will share with the masses. Hopefully QC will play Houston more often after I move back home this summer.

  2. Tracy Shrieve on January 14th, 2012 at 3:42 am

    Great review. I find it so difficult to try to explain Quiet Company to people who have not heard these guys before. You nailed it pretty well. I just find it amazing how happy I feel about everyone ending up in a cemetery while listening to “Its Better To Spend Money Like There’s No Tomorrow Than Spend Tonight Like There’s No Money”. Quiet Company’s music reminds us to live to love and love to live. It reminds us that we don’t need anyone looking over our shoulder or down on us to do the right things in life. We are inherently good. This music is good for my soul and it was such a treat to hear them at Fitzgerald’s. I’m so happy Quiet Company is coming back to Houston on January 27. They will be at Cactus Records at 5pm and at House of Blues later in the evening.

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