A little over a year ago, I wrote a Cut of the Day for Day of Lions' "Wish"
that used the descriptor "weepy" innumerable times. In fact, looking back on it, it's pretty depressing, but I guess that's what happens when you listen to good, reflective song over and over again. But it seems things have lightened up a bit for Day of Lions' frontwoman Gena Gastaldi (as astute ex-Cutter Paige Richmond pointed out in her recent review of Come Down From the Mountain
As such, some of the ex-Alaskan's more recent tunes—like the indicatively titled "Summertime"—are downright laidback. But even though "Summertime" outlines a stereotypical Portland summer—tubing, listening to the radio outside, getting a tan, biking (of course) and hawking clothes for beer money—Day of Lions' trademark melancholia is still present. Gastaldi's plaintive voice—which often reminds me of a female David Bazan—sings the praises of floating down a river and all-day drinking (she even lazily counts the song off at the beginning). But even her joyous descriptions are laced with hints of despair. In one verse, she details the financial challenges facing lots of Portland-dwelling artists: "The job has up and gone/ And the money will be gone soon/ So let's sell some clothes/ And see where that gets us."
Gastaldi takes it all in stride, though, framing such prospective bummers with a lackadaisical singalong chorus—"So cut your hair short/ Cut your hair short/ It's summertime"—and the slightly countrified, back porch sounds of softly brushed drums, languid acoustic strumming and brightly picked counter-melodies. And Gastaldi's verses depict both the joy and sorrow of feeling kind of lost: Later in the track, she achingly croons, "My bike is ready to roll/ And I've got nowhere to go/ So let's take this road/ And see where we end up."
All in all, the lyrics are pretty upbeat, but Gastaldi's voice, like a old screen door creaking in the wind, always sounds utterly wounded (in a somehow totally un-annoying way). Guess she just can't shake the blues entirely. Good thing for us.
Day of Lions plays tonight (March 18) with Dolorean and Eskimo & Sons at the Doug Fir. 9 pm. $7. 21+.
Photo: taken from the band's MySpace.