Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The places that Jeremy Messersmith takes us to on his latest and best album yet, "The Reluctant Graveyard" sound as if they're some of the places that Sufjan Stevens would have taken us to had he ever tried to make good on his false declaration of wanting to write an album about all 50 states. This would have been the album that could have been associated with the state of Minnesota, or something that could have been co-opted as such, pulling in historical inaccuracies or allusions to the Indianapolis-born, gunned down in Illinois gangster John Dillinger - or simply his eyes - amongst other things. It's a record that doesn't so much take on the tact of Stevens' "Illinoize," but paints a scene that feels distinctly upper Midwest, through some swirling calendar days of spring, summer, autumn and winter, blasting keen bits of grayness with happy splashes of sunshine, both of which play with our feelings and give this graveyard, a mortuary and the people who inhabit them that grab bag of sensations to draw from at any second. Most of the time, it feels as if Messersmith gives us those kinds of days that open up to us - those that start off very brisk in the mornings, defying what they actually look like out of the windows or the kinds of days that unfurl themselves after a quickly developed thunder shower fucked with the trees, shot some hail and dumped a river of rain upon us and then crackled off to bother another city and its people, who listened for the sirens and watched to the west. He gives us the feelings of those aftereffects, when the lawn is squishy, but the grass and the plants couldn't look any more alert and shiny, greener and more colorful than they've ever been, relieved to have had a spell and a drink. His songs seem to remind us that for every bit of rottenness that is out there or, every bit of ugliness that hits us or anyone else, there are so many more flashes of incredible beauty. It's almost as if he's trying to remind us that there's more of the prettiness out there than some would ever want you to believe. We sometimes get out of our heads about the crap that we have to deal with and really, there should be a notion to take stock in the good that the rains can bring, not the sadness that can be so easily pawned off on them. Messersmith is certainly tackling bigger ideas as well, with his lyrics, but it's in that sweetness of tone that we feel those intentions of shining the good beams, sorting out the beauty in the bark and the bite of nearly everything.