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This year Jason Anderson has released music – on CD, LP or digital download – with the same energy and enthusiasm he had previously been devoting to touring. There was the digital-download album On the Street, not to mention a downloadable box-set of the song-a-day project he did through his MySpace page for a while. The K Records album came The Hopeful and the Unafraid came with the accompanying digital-download album Wilderness etc, really another separate album that stood on its own. And an album called Thug Poet serves the same role as the companion to his first CD on the great indie label States Rights Records, Life Sucks Love Sucks Dose Out. The title is clearly stated. It’s an indication of the album’s pensive mood, but of course these songs recognize that life is complicated, it doesn’t just suck.
The “love sucks” part of the title represents a big part of these songs. The album opens with the mysterious love song “You Alread Have”, a promise of intimacy that carries sadness in the way he sings it. It’s just Anderson and guitar, stark and simple; and then it builds up with keys.
Elsewhere (“I Am Like Snow to You”) he traces paths away from a lover, apologetically: “I am like snow to you / soon I will be gone / oh I might stick around for a spell / but I won’t last until summer.” Anderson’s a master of poetic images used as comparison, with an emotional impact; this song again proves it.
…Or he promises to open up his heart (“I’m Going into the Valut for You”). Or tries to escape the past, like on the fourth song, “Two Trees”: “Help me to abandon a romantic tug of memory.” That song is itself quite a journey. It sounds like it’s drifting along, but Anderson is probing deeply. He’s singing of leaving the past behind, for the better, with hope for the future: “I will be new, I will do good, I will do better”, he sings with so much palpable feeling.
That song is low-key on the surface but real serious within, “Hidden Light” is a more overtly dramatic emotional fulcrum for the LP. It’s a piano ballad where the longing in his voices rises to the point where the speakers crackle. Our protagonist is looking for his lover to stay, and more than that looking for the loneliest darkness of night to reveal “hidden light.”
As the CD proceeds, it’s as if he’s trying to wake himself out of an introspective fog. “You can’t think like this / it’ll drive you crazy,” one song repeats.
The titles of the last four songs could be strung together to form a poem of hope: “I’ve only just begun / to make something beautiful every day / something more / we will.” The music gets more hopeful at that point, even if the mood hasn’t changed that much. “Something More” has the same sense of resignation, the wish that things went better, but it’s also a fuzzy, amped-up rocker. The album ends folksy, out on the porch, closing what ultimately has come to resemble one man’s emotional, even spiritual journey. It’s Anderson’s Astral Weeks, not in sound but feeling, in the internal journey of it and the transcendence it reaches for.
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