On No Story Is Over, Son of Laughter (Chris Slaten) stretches his wings way out and shows what he is capable of. Unshackled from his original genre as a light-hearted folk-pop singer/songwriter, this indie-pop album explores wide-ranging sonic interests and complex lyrical territory.
No Story Is Over opens with a giant Illinoise-style pileup in “Voting Day,” complete with a giant horn section, gospel choir, electric guitar, and more. Slaten conjures up marching-band levels of enthusiasm in the instrumentalists and the listener. The enthusiasm continues in a different vein on “Flesh and Bone,” where there’s a Middle-Eastern sound to the strings and percussion. There’s even a flamenco-esque vibe in the swift nylon-stringed guitar performance. Slaten is a more aggrieved than charmed (“Oh my brothear! Killing me with categories! Oh my sister! Killing me with categories!”) but the energy holds throughout. It is an interesting, unique song.
“Hurricanes” is a high-drama indie rock song that has (appropriately) some sea shanty vibes. It’s the most complex tune he’s yet attempted, featuring a six-minute runtime and multiple distinct sections. There’s more than a bit of Mumfordian, high-drama folk in it. Lyrically, it aims high as well; the whole thing is an extended metaphor over the stormy relationship between the narrator and God over the problem of evil. If your opinion of extended metaphors is good, you’ll like this solidly-executed effort quite a bit.
“Take Me Down” has some more Mumfordian drama in the lyrics. The torrential arrangement still manages to include a glockenspiel and jazzy clarinet, despite the ominous minor key vibe and the dark lyrics (“I’m a monster / I’ve been this way”). But the arrangement, even in its most dense and thick, has more levity than a Mumford tune due to its choice of instruments and Slaten’s voice being less howling than Marcus Mumford’s. (Almost everyone’s voice is less howling than Marcus Mumford’s, to be fair.)
“The Meal We Could Not Make” continues that drama with choir, horns, glockenspiel and pizzicatto strings. The swift fingerpicking points toward the light folk he was doing before (as do the title track and “The Gardener”), but everything else points in his new direction. The lyrics here are moving for those of the Christian persuasion. Closer “Make Me Captive” is a worship track of sorts—the lyrics are definitely worshipful, while the music is more along the lines of the slightly-off-kilter, The Welcome Wagon approach than a CCM jam. It is quiet and far less dramatic than that of the previous tunes, pointing back toward his earlier work.
No Story Is Over suggests in its title and in its tunes that Slaten’s work as Son of Laughter is an ongoing reinvention. Slaten’s ability to pack instruments into a tune but not turn out a heavy, thick sound is deeply admirable; it will serve him well no matter where his tunes may lie in the future. Yet those who loved the bright folk-pop of his earlier work won’t feel out in the cold. No Story Is Over bridges two sounds beautifully and points off into the future–it’s quite an accomplishment.