Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Shawn Biggs
For a while there, Telekinesis mastermind Michael Benjamin Lerner, was working at Death Cab For Cutie guitarist Chris Walla's Hall of Justice in Seattle, for studio time instead of cash money. He would work and during the off hours, when there were no bookings, he had free access to the studio and all its gear. The songs that he worked on and taped during his moonlighting time finally made their way to Walla and damn it if the kid wasn't a surprisingly skilled pop songwriter, writing songs that expound on the nuts and bolts of the art form - unrequited loves, distance making the heart grow fonder/sadder/weaker than a baby fawn and the harmful, harmful effects of both of the former on a poor and helpless, romantic young fellow. You can't really say that Lerner borrows the lessons learned from his friend Walla's band or the lyrical techniques that its lead singer Ben Gibbard has down to a science because everything about his debut EP and its companion full-length - both released last year on Merge Records - are so sincere and the convey those feelings and emotional currents that can't be faked. It's impossible not to listen to both of Lerner's albums and immediately place him at the scene of these "devastating" experiences, where it feels to him like the sky is falling, and when it's not, it's the most brilliant shade of blue that's ever been glanced at or fixated upon by someone with an poetic bent and an ability to get wrapped up in the wonderful totality of a relationship - the comforting nights, the awaiting embraces and easy kisses, caresses - in short order, before any in-roads have even been made. Lerner never goes overboard with his feelings, just takes them to that brink of being hopelessly over-the-moon in love and not knowing what he's going to do about it. He wants love, in these songs, and it's not that his characters will do anything to attain it, but they'd consider any of those options. He comes across as the kind of all-American boy, straight out of the 30s, or 40s, or 50s, who believes that the pretty girl in math class is going to be the one he'll woo, court, marry and be with happily until the both pass away at ancient ages. He tries to will that love on, will it out of the sunny skies and the winter eaves. Love trembles and is coveted by Lerner as he sings on the pretty number "I Saw Lightning," "I want to care for you when you are all alone/Sit inside our home and unplug all our phones/Watching raindrops stream down on our windowsill/Let's be in love." Love gets caught up in the blustery days of turbulence sometimes, but before then is where we seem to always find Lerner writing from, when it is still all out there for the exploration, for the taking if the stars will allow it. Most of the time, it's that arbitrary and Lerner seems to know that, building his songs with loads of positivity and uplifting melodies and catchy, catchy hooks that make you feel like doing exactly what the chorus of standout song "Coast of Carolina" bids us to do, "Turn it up, turn it up/You know, yeah, you know/Yeah." It affects you. It twists you and makes the game of love feel like both a winnable game and one worth playing, despite the chance that it will make the heart explode for a complete loss. Lerner hopes, at points, for a machine to replace his real heart, just to not have to worry about those odds, but he's going to have to deal with what he has and it should only lead to more of these charming nuggets.
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