Lovers' I Am the West is one of my all-time favorite Portland albums. If you counted up all my spins on local albums, I'd imagine that one tallies in the top 10. I still remembering popping the disc into my computer when it arrived almost unmarked in the mail: I knew nothing about Lovers, but I was hooked on first listen. When I found out Carolyn Berk was a Portlander (and in the process of putting a rad live band together), I nearly flipped my shit. Actually, I did flip my shit.
So I am absolutely the target audience for I Was the East, a new collection of demos and b-sides from that masterful 2009 pop record. I know I'm not alone there, but the new disc is still somewhat of a surprise: In conversation with Berk, she seems less than thrilled with how I Am the West came out (when one of your favorite artists says something dismissive about what you consider to be their opus, it's kind of a headfuck!). But then, maybe that's why getting the early versions from the disc was important to Berk. Those early recordings, with their buzzsaw distortion and ghostly echoes, are pretty cool to hear, but for me the real treat is in hearing new/old Lovers songs like "How Beautiful You Are," a sweet little love song that manages to remind of the Rentals and Roy Orbison at the same time. I can see why the tune didn't make the final cut—it's perhaps not the most original sentiment ever sung—but it's a charming-as-hell little tune, especially after the one-minute-mark, when layers start to build (banjo on a Lovers song!?) and the song takes on a "Stand By Me" vibe.
Just as I'm not the only Lovers fan who will be stoked about I Was the East, I'm not the only one who is filled with (perhaps unhealthy) anticipation for what the trio will come up with next. Will there be guitars? Will it be subdued and romantic like Berk's early material, or driving and fierce like last year's Dark Light? Maybe there are some hints hidden away in I Was the East. I'll keep listening to find out.
GET IT: I Am the East came out today digitally at Amazon dot com.