"Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home"


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What's immediately striking about this, the third album by Michael Gira's Angels of Light, is the visual presentation. The six photos - an empty chair, a cluttered desk, a room full of plants, a bookcase loaded with CDs and books, a rosary draped over a thermostat, and, perhaps most tellingly, an empty bed - seem to paint a picture of a sufficient but lonely life. Coupled with the title, one can't help but construe that Gira is sending out a clarion call to former partner Jarboe. Does he want her back or has he found peace on his own? Further lyrical clues are open to interpretation as Gira's songs often blur the lines between autobiography and fantasy. An impressive orchestra of cohorts was once again assembled to add varying degrees of layers to his voice and acoustic guitar, everything from standard rock band instrumentation to mandolin, accordion, harmonium, flute, trombone, harmonica, banjo, fiddle and even a children's choir. The opener "Palisades" inquisitively details a suicide in which "reasons won't come, and no one will regret... that you're gone". Gira whoops and hollers most on the climactic "All Souls' Rising" and "Nations", 2001 tour favorites. Conversely, he softly sings "with the rhythm of your breathing, with the rhythm of my thinking" over the tumbling, tender electric guitar notes and strums of "Kosinski". "Because She Was" (the riverside) is a mere 40 seconds of lo-fi filler that mystifies more than it matters. "The Rose of Los Angeles", another paean to Gira's mother, has drastically changed into a stomping romp with a decidedly Irish flavor. The crack of percussion and bluesy guitar disrupt the bleak reminiscences of "What You Were". "Sunset Park" repeats the single enigmatic line "she'll bring some, she brings some, she brings one, she'll bring one" ad nauseam in a swirling wall of sound march. Gira concludes the album with the half droned, half near-whispered, semi-optimistic prayer "God save us, from what will come". Musically and thematically "Everything" feels more haphazard than the previous albums. And with none of the tracks exceeding seven minutes, it lacks the epics that made "How I Loved You" so stellar. But comparisons to the past aside, it's still a fine album. A new version of the band sans drums - Gira (vocals, amplified acoustic guitar), Devendra Banhart (electric guitar), Christoph Hahn (lap steel and electric guitars) and Patrick Fondiller (bass guitar, mandolin, mandola) - is currently on tour in North America through late April with Banhart opening with a solo set ...