Daniel G. Harmann – The Books We Read Will Bury Us
Mood-encompassing indie-pop that will calm and soothe you with lush beauty.
I love indie-pop, in all varities. I love Sufjan’s jubilant theatrics, The Postal Service’s blippy electronic pop, Fountains of Wayne’s pristine guitar pop, the Mountain Goats’ delicate acoustic songs, and Novi Split’s fractured half-songs. I love all of it – but there’s a special place in my heart for a small sub-genre of indie-pop that I have lovingly labeled “Rainy Day Makeout Music.” Daniel G. Harmann may not know that he is one of the superstars in this specialized arena, but with The Books We Read Will Bury Us, he has vaulted himself into the upper echelon of this tiny group.
What constitutes “Rainy Day Makeout Music”? It’s surprisingly easy to pin down, although not a lot of people set out to make music like this. It’s basically muted, muffled, shuffling, dreary music – beautiful, full songs that seem full to bursting with parts but just don’t seem to be in a hurry to get anywhere. The members of Meryll are the experts at making moving music that hardly moves at all, but Daniel G. Harmann certainly is challenging them.
Harmann’s music is totally encompassing in the fact that it controls the mood of any room it is played in. The songs are inescapably beautiful – perched right on the brink where nostalgia becomes regret and sleepiness becomes disappointment, but never falling over into the downer side. It is comforting music – music that makes me want to get wrapped up in a blanket, watch the rain fall, and, well, leisurely make out with a girl.
The great thing about this music is that it doesn’t really matter which track is which – while each track has something unique to offer, it’s really the mood that is set from the first ten seconds onward that is the draw of this album. For what it’s worth, the track that I find most engaging is “Last Swim of the Year,” which rides on a moseying, muted drum beat and a non-invasive, circular acoustic guitar line. The guitar line is layered on top of repeatedly, but the swaying forward motion of the underlying acoustic track paired with the lazy, contented swagger of the kit drummer keeps the track from getting bogged down in the weight of its own layers. The vocals are fragile and perfect, floating above the music in a way that begs for a very cheesy analogy to something like waves or small birds. Just consider them amazing, ok?
The only part of this album that I don’t find amazing is the unfortunate “Solidarity.” It’s not a terrible song – no, the unfortunate quality is that the warbly vocal performance is not nearly up to the stunner that is “Last Swim of the Year.” Did I mention that “Solidarity” directly follows “Last Swim…”? Total buzzkill.
But “She Hears a Frequency” picks up where “Last Swim of the Year” left off by introducing a swooning cello, and all is righted. And honestly, if one slice of one song on a half-hour long album is the only thing I can find wrong, you’re doing some pretty stellar work.
Daniel G. Harmann’s work on The Books We Read Will Bury Us will encompass your mood for a half-hour. Prepare to be soothed, calmed and wowed. And seeing as this is an iTunes-only release that’s merely 6 songs long, the album is cheap. You do not want to miss out on this beautiful piece of (inexpensive) art. This album definitely will be on my best of 2007 list.