Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The half-meanings and the full stories of Princeton songs read sorta Ivy League-ish, giving them complexities that are peripheral and mostly hidden behind the curtains and the veneers. Jesse and Matt Kivel and Ben Usen aren't standard holders, willingly backed into the corners of writing about the same threadbare subjects and coughing up the kinds of lyrics that may mean the most to the greater numbers of people only because of their predictable likeability, their familiar stance. The guys from the California band Princeton have read books (no, serious books - ones that make you feel scholarly just by holding them lightly in your hands, without ever opening them a crack) and in doing so have developed a deeper bucket of ideas to dwell upon, to infuse into their indie pop songs. These songs are particularly interesting in that they feel as if they were based upon the modern lexicon of washy relationships and tepid regard. They are rich with the details that make a song something that can boast of its wingspan and of its diversified stripes and strings. There are odes to Virginia Woolf taking a vacation that was a real extent of the word, an escape, and interpretations of the sexual preferences and the motives to hide or shield them by economist John Keynes. There is a song devoted to a German couple fighting through domestic disputes and disturbances in the force, their force. There is an overall consistency to the tempo and the intentions of Princeton that goes beyond melody and texture. It's as if The National were ingrained in more of a citrus-growing vibe, as if they were still into chronicling the cyclical devastation of people and their loves, but also into filling a room with as much light as an explosion and a half. A line in "Sylvie" goes something like this, "In the 60s you kissed me," and the line comes in a tide of Wurlitzer, a plinking piece of electronic fiber and a dashing splash of timeless, melodramatic glassiness. It's got the makings of a last dance of the night, when the two stumbling partners - young and nervously sweaty and clingy - pull in closer and can smell their hair and their true body fragrances, all energy and fear and edgy awareness. It's an unabashed tribute to disarming purity, to nothing like the actual temperature, but to the temperature of what the skin actually feels at that given moment. It's a reference to temperature, it can be assured, but it holds a double-meaning that could make someone think that the kissing was actually done nearly five decades ago, back when mop-tops were the devil's haircut and moving your hips in a dance-like way was the first sign that promiscuity was going to be the next order of business. It carries with it no precursor, really, just a sweetness that overrules all else. It's the same thing that courses throughout the rest of the band's music, taking on the ideas and sensations of relatable misfortune and distress, while tempering them with a classy, sepia tone that's hard to ever wash off. It just feels as if it's going to linger through you for as long as you go on.