Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
Here we are slogging through the slushy streets and barely spinning to the tops of some of them, not just here, but practically everywhere is the same right now across the greater United States, as the country's enjoying another slow moving train of winter weather that's risen from the loins of ice cubes and Canada. It looks peaceful enough from the windows, but that far-fetched admiration comes from within the warm corridors of a home and they're only pleasant prior to those elements drawing and quartering you with their elemental teeth and pissing matches, or just a blast of bone-shaking coldness that is a bitter mistress if you're bedding down with the wench. Our minds aren't privileged these days, just frozen and waiting to emerge from their freezer-burned states of hibernation. There's no arguing - or at least there will be none heard on this watch — that the finest bits of prose that Walt Whitman or Keats or any of those old scribes ever churned out was inspired by the more fecund of seasons, when there's growth and color and antsy feelings as the climes progress from the whites, purples, blues and grays into the soft yellows and colors of ripening navel oranges. It's when migration has reversed itself, the skin has stopped being grotesquely flaky and pale and the blush has worked its way back into our flappy cheeks that one's thoughts can turn to such poetics that Michael Nau of Cotton Jones so gracefully lines up all in a cluster or a row or both, sending them out for their greetings like trajectories that know they have all the time in the world to tighten or relax and get wherever they need to be. The former front man for the underappreciated Page France - in fact most of Cotton Jones (now lost of the Basket Ride that they formerly carried not all that long ago) were previously in that group - is succinct in his language, which here backs away from the more prominent biblical themes of his past work, and he offers these Saturdays in the park sort of dalliances, only there are gravities and grave concerns in what always comes off as some sort of cloudy whimsy. It's all a feeling of OK, a settling sense that there would be no problems amongst these silver breezes, salty tongues and allegiances to bluebirds. There are cavernous lonely thoughts and there are fantastic natural images given as the skeleton of these songs. Nau's always been good at description, at putting up the skies and the trees, placing the moping but substantive characters and then gently, if not silently whispering, "Action!" The Cotton Jones sound is a deluxe serving of whatever it is in the tails of fireflies, maybe it's really, just faint fire. It's what they've got and it sweeps you proficiently away, into the running current of the stream over its banks, just not completely out of control yet. It's like taking a vintage, nothing fancy about it lawn chair out into that stream and just plopping it down into the middle of it to ride it out. It's a real comfort, the sensation that Nau and band make on Paranoid Cocoon, an album that feels like chicken soup and fully engaged sails on a small schooner, pulling us out into the welcome drafts and tumultuous embraces. It beats the hell out of the slushy winter that's so hard to escape these days.
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