Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Wind whips blindly through the trees and the summer sun turns winter's freeze as we enter into the thick and cavernous world of rumination and driftwood that San Francisco band Or, The Whale find to be the most charming and friendly. There are concrete souls and dead dogs breaking hearts, splitting those souls into sections. There are empty country roads and straying minds, getting off the beaten path and carrying themselves away on ethers and thrums. There are countless characters who are doing their very bests to stay afloat and to make sense out of the twistedness and fog. There are house and life-losing wildfires stealing things back and there are monumental floods that are essentially doing the same thing - cleaning these helpless people's clocks and leaving them to their limp and searching puzzlement. One of the group's best songs on a solid self-titled sophomore record is "Keep Me Up," a tune that really gets into the neurosis of everything that can be tossed and turned over, all that can cause you to lose your appetite and forget about providing your body with the nourishment or the sunlight that it needs to not just shrivel up and be gone. The lives that Lindsay Garfield and Alex Robins and Julie Thomasson sing about in Or, The Whale songs are fraught with problems and concerns that aren't unlike the common cold - we're all bound to become infirm with them seasonally, regularly, without so much fail. They are going to get us sooner or later and at those times, the only hopes that there can be are that we'll hold up - that we're steeled enough not to just topple over, to blow away into the nasty skies or that we're sound enough in our fibers to just let that immune system do what it has to do to fight it all off. But it's still only just until the next time. There are always new troubles - or the recurring ones - for those in Or, The Whale songs and they are greeted with a disciplined and crackly like a harvestable field of corn sound that recalls a Laurel Canyon sound, or something that the old cowboys of California would have spent their evenings dining on a can of baked beans cooked over an open fire, in the can, listening to contentedly. As the three sing on "Keep Me Up," "The joys of life that sorry brings/Like bees to flowers, flies to shit/The never-ending pull to it," it's evident that there's really no winning to be had out there. It's just a world operating as it will operate now and forever, not caring what kind of fleas it has on its hide. It will shake and it will buck and it's everyone else's job not to get thrown off or get hurt too badly so that they can hurl a boot back into the stirrup and clamor back onto it. It's a lot of leading by instincts and it's a lot of catching the howling winds in our chests and trying to decipher what they're really trying to say to us. It's about feeling all of the creaky boards of an old house and realizing that it's a conversation with the dead and you. It's about shaking your head and just riding it out into that blind terror. It's the undulating winter weather, summer weather, spring weather and autumnal weather that Or, The Whale laps up.
Or, The Whale Official Site