Back in April, local label/artists' collective/cute retail stop Tender Loving Empire announced that it'd be releasing the next album from gentle folk-poppers Super XX Man (more on that here
). According to TLE, that release, Volume XII: There'll Be Diamonds
(out October 21), aims to be more "sonically ambitious" than Super XX Man's oft-simple (but certainly charming) lullaby-leaning pop—you know, catchy melodies with brushed drums, tempered singing and the occasional ukulele or accordion.
The subject matter's changed, as well. While Volume XI: A Better Place
reflected upon the birth of primary songwriter Scott Garred and wife/accordionist Michelle's son, Cy, Diamonds
steps out of the home and into Garred's workplace: the Oregon State Hospital's maximum security wing (where One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
was filmed). Garred, a music therapist, says his upcoming collection of songs plans to focus on the lives of those with mental illnesses, something he's rather qualified for considering his day- and night-jobs.
"Medication"—which will appear alongside a fancy remix by Eric Metronome on a Super XX Man/Jared Mees & the Grown Children "split remix/premix EP type thang" (according to TLE's Jared Mees) set to drop on Aug. 22—is the first of the new SXXM tracks I've heard, and (oddly, considering my usual tastes) I kinda like the remix better than the original. Either way, it's not all that shocking, considering the backstory, that this tune's sung from an over-medicated person's point of view. What is shocking is how artfully Garred's able to translate the sadness and sort of half-there dismay wrapped up in that perspective every time he admits, "I don't know." And the voices-in-my-head style backing vocals popping up here and there don't hurt the effect, either.
In fact, the overall vibe of the song—spaced out guitar with just a tad of bite on the backbeat (both of which are a bit crunchier on the remix), staccato piano and subtle, creepy atmospherics—does a fine job of portraying the appropriate mood. I'm just not sure how Garred's infused the vocals, particularly that eerie, repetitive "I don't know," so richly with his personal experience. But, to these ears, he has (maybe singing for ten-plus years'll do that). If the rest of Diamonds
rings this true, we're in for a treat, friends.
Super XX Man performs next at "Guitar Pix" on Tuesday, July 29, with John Vecchiarelli at the Pix Patisserie on North Williams. 8 pm. Free. All ages (I think).
Tender Loving Empire
Super XX Man
Photo: taken from SXXM's MySpace.