One thing that I’ve always been accused of is that I listen to a lot of depressing music. I’ve never really understood that. I’ve always seen a big distinction between “depressing” and “melancholy.” Here’s what I mean: I get depressed when I think about my love life. However, I get melancholy when I think about old friends, childhood memories, and places I’ll never see again. Those things aren’t dark in and of themselves, but they tend to make me wax nostalgic. Being melancholy has a positive side to it, a sadness that has a drop of happiness at its core.
Some may listen to Songs of Latitude and Longitude and immediately add it to the list of “depressing” music that I listen to, à la Low, Bedhead, and Red House Painters. And true, there’s not a upbeat radio-friendly tune to be found anywhere on this disc. But I don’t consider it depressing at all. This is an album that you put on when you want to be reflective and introspective, when you want to sit down and write some poetry instead of dance around your room.
Best Boy Electric metes out their music at a measured pace. “Gravity” is aptly named, as it’s brushed drums and Zak Sully-esque bassline slow down your breathing and heartbeat. Suddenly, everything seems to be moving in slow motion. Little details become more noticeable, like the wall of static that hovers in the song’s background or the backing vocals that might get normally overlooked. “Wormwood and Distaff” opens with a little more pomp and circumstance, with Ben Bilow’s church organ weeping in the background.
Bilow’s keyboards are really integral to the album. As opposed to a lot of indie artists, who simply throw in some moog squiggles and synth doodles to make their songs that much more quirky, Best Boy Electric uses them to add a lushness and fullness to their music. Most of the time, the keyboards provide a subtle ambience, though on “Boxing Day” or “Géricault,” they provide a haunting counterpoint to the rest of the instruments. “Géricault,” in particular, seems especially tender and moving, as the keyboards play out a delicate melody against reverbed guitars and hushed vocals.
Considering that guitarist John Nichols used to play bass in Low, and that Alan Sparhawk recorded much of the album, comparisons to Low are certain to abound. And it’s a very safe bet that if you like Low, you’ll like Best Boy Electric. But I’ve been finding that Best Boy Electric is much easier to listen to than Low. I’ve always found that Low’s albums demand a fair amount of patience (thought they never make such demands without a healthy reward). Granted, Best Boy Electric’s vocals get a little too waning and breathy at times, and you’ll rarely find yourself digging into their lyrics for profound truths.
So is Best Boy Electric depressing? You already know my answer. But I challenge you to listen to Songs of Latitude and Longitude and not get a little nostalgic. Maybe you’ll find yourself looking out the window, noticing that the leaves are getting a little more colorful, that the sky is looking a little greyer. Perhaps you’ll find yourself digging out that old photo you keep stored away, or maybe you’ll just sit down in your favorite chair, close your eyes, and simply drift back in time.