Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered and mastered by Sam Patlove
By the time it takes us to really start recognizing our mortality as something substantial and present, it's exactly when we start getting messed up by the thought, by that pressing concern that we're looking straight into a definite and definitive end. We can go along for so long without the need to consider our timely or untimely demises and we do so blissfully - buying shit, talking about people and places, raising our kids, getting dressed up on occasion, doing things we regret and doing things we couldn't be any prouder of. We do so hopefully - this ignoring of our deaths, mindful that this might not be the best way to go with it. It is the way we typically choose though - the one that just gets us by and takes care of us for the time being, giving us the temporary sense of wellbeing that we're looking for. It's like when we overdo it on the breadbasket at dinner, padding our stomach with a fullness from food, sure, but not from a well-rounded, real meal. It's deceptive, and tricky on our part, and we're sitting there overlooking one of the only sure things we're all very aware of. It's one thing we will never get out of, no matter how hard we try. We will never find ourselves categorized as an oversight or a clerical error when we get to the winter of our lives. We will all be visible and recognizable, counted and recounted, making sure that that day's particular grab is exactly as big as it's supposed to be.
Jose Gonzalez's group, Junip, is in this mode, making a point of starting to analyze this next move, as the leaves start to turn, fall off the slowing down trees and begin to make every step you take out of doors sound like you're walking over brittle, noisy skeletons. The songs on the group's latest album, "Fields," deal with loss in many ways, but it seems that the one guiding much of the storyline is based on the age-old rhetorical question of, "What's dying like?" in corroboration with the as equally age-old answer, disappointed refrain of, "Well, nobody really knows." No one can tell that tale and, here, Gonzalez explores the idea of the end with this premise in mind. He sings on, "At The Doors," "What's your bottom line when you're at the doors?" in a way asking for the assets, the subtractions and asterisks accumulated through the years, looking for either black or red ink after the all-telling tally line. Was there mastery of anything or just a general adequacy? Were there as many moments of spectacle as there were of embarrassment? Were we happy? Did we get everything we wanted to get out of being alive - even though we were unaware that any of this was going to happen? We'd like to know all of this - see it, hear it, feel it, have it read back to us, retold as a great man or woman of letters would, in rich prose - in some kind of exit exam, shortly after the heart flutters for the final time and those working on us resign to the truth that we're gone. Junip songs feel as if they're given their own lives in the middle of smoke dreams, coming out of the gray clouds with great purpose, a momentum of wonder. They rephrase and they catch you in the middle of a shiver, in the middle of finding your first gray hair, letting you know that nothing is sacred, just older. Gonzalez, with his expensive voice (it's that cool and that lovely; it must be expensive), lets it be known that there really is no way of knowing who will be beside us, where we'll be or what it will be like to feel that curtain descend. One thing he does know is that we'll never be ready or willing, singing on "Without You," "Blinking lights are guiding you away/Static voices telling you to stay."