Great songwriters weave a lyrical narrative, an intricate balancing act manifesting shared experiences through their art. Musical compositions defy conventions, with tempos dancing the waltz, tangoing as each pianissimo rises to a crescendo. Enter The Suitcase Junket’s The End is Now on Renew Records/BMG.
An eclectic powerhouse that envelops the senses, The End is Now is more than the sixth album from songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Matt Lorenz, who has long performed as The Suitcase Junket. Changing up the familiar sonic palette for darker tones more fitting for the times, producer and keyboardist Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) joined Lorenz (Drums, Vocals) on a richly textured doom-folk release. I feel like the multifaceted album’s heady content has been riding the same hellish trainwreck of reality as I have for the past year.
Renew Records/BMG, representing roots Americana, sets the stage to focus on artists like Lorenz. That The End is Now is the label’s first release suggests this label values distinctive artistry. Unique artistry is indeed reflected in The End is Now. The album’s opening notes of “Prelude” slide into “Black Holes and Overdoses,” feverishly whirling through a descent into addiction. Gritty, frantic, and horrifying, the rolling beat sucks us in. Many of us have watched someone we care about slip into the clutches of addiction or alcoholism: it’s insanity. “Light a Candle” aches, each beat an emotive kind of funeral march. With every note’s perfect flow, a heaviness never fully takes hold, letting the tears settle too deep inside. Brilliantly, Lorenz soars here, creating a sacred shared space to grieve. This song seems like a spiritual release for us all. Truly, beauty rises out of pain in this song, like silent tears for–well, you name it, this year.
A master storyteller, Lorenz crafts “Then There Was Fire” with an essence of the DIY spirit he is known for. Spaciously mixed, each note has room for nuance, layering as the track evolves. Alive, moments flow like notes floating on the wind, undulating in a timeless dance. “Can’t Look Away” shines as one of my personal favorites, an acknowledgment made to this trainwreck year. In the midst of a catastrophe, this narrator’s weird perspective almost sounds fun? Bringing Berlin on board as a producer to craft a dark record, Lorenz achieved more than just that goal. Making the case for a new kind of cool, “When the Battle is Won” struts, uplifting with seemingly hopeful chord structures. “Jesus! King of the Dinosaurs” is an anthem, but remember that this is an album to be played from start to finish to fully unleash its magic.
“Breathe Forever” sets the stage for new ways we can face down our fears. Simple, right? How can defiant, upbeat, uptempo, maniacal truth-telling, down-to-earth talk calling out-neofascism and racism sound so joyful? Perfectly mixed, Berlin’s production choices go hand in hand with the joyful sound vibing to my soul. I’m grinning from the inside out, while each unfussy lyric slides into the finale gang vocals. This is ear candy at its sweetest! The End is Now is its own reality, yet aesthetically framed by the year 2020 and its chaos. “Last Man on the Moon” seismically shifts towards melancholy. Lorenz shines as a composer, lightly punctuating plaintive vocalization with choice instrumentation.
The songwriting here is excellently crafted. This record–shaped by geography, religion, economics, politics, and technology–shows signs of brilliance. Is “Rock Bottom” the town crier’s warning as we all slide towards the end of this hellish year? Maybe. Closer “More” brings flashes of the iconic Roger Waters track “Money” from Pink Floyd’s 1973 rock classic Dark Side of the Moon to electrify this cut, like sinew connecting each song together on this album. In the end, The Suitcase Junket’s The End is Now is a groundbreaking new album that could be 2020’s best. —Lisa Whealy