Thursday, 20 June 2013

Review: Jason Isbell, Southeastern

Jason Isbell New Album Review Southeastern Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit sober lyrics music songs

There are a lot of artists whose entire careers are based on their substance abuse.  Sometimes, this is fuelled by media attention after abhorrent behavior and sometimes the fuel emanates from the pain, addition and abuse the artist has experienced to create beautiful, dark-spirited albums.  Or, they get sober and produce an album that tops anything they’d done before.  With that, Jason Isbell presents Southeastern.  What is especially notable about this new album is that it doesn’t sound like a preachy self-help book; it’s a non-preachy, non-self-help inspired reflection of his abusive behavior and his journey to overcome it.

This sometimes is done in a comic fashion, in “Super 8”, which reiterates that he “Don’t want to die in a Super 8 Motel” or in a demonstration of raw emotion like with “Yvette”.  He depicts loneliness in “Traveling Alone”, which leads to misery and desperation.  “Cover Me Up” tells a haunting story of growth, realization and repentance and has some of the most beautiful lyrics on the album (a very welcome change after listening to The Neighbourhood’s, I Love You. last week!).  My favorite songs off of this release have to be “Stockholm” and “Elephant”.  I think these two really demonstrate Isbell’s ability to create stunning music free of fancy special effects or synthesizers.  Rather, these songs use pure emotion, experience and musical talent to create something influential and beautiful.   This is particularly evident in “Elephant”, which is used as a partially arbitrary replacement for the word “cancer”, and tells the dramatic story of attempting to live a normal life under the elephant-sized shadow of the disease.

Isbell uses a significant portion of this album to point out the weaknesses of humankind and explain the drastic changes and effects this can have on a person’s life.  Even more than this, Isbell really demonstrates his versatility on this album.  He portrays an open-mind, whereby he’s able to examine an issue or event from multiple different points-of-view.  Through this he produces a varied album that uses multiple styles of music and presents many different influences, both musically and lyrically.  He creates relatable characters that have the listener immediately hooked on each unique situation that he describes.  Even though he creates such a vast selection of characters, they are all tied together by the theme of regret.

This really is a fantastic album that truly deserves the admiration and recognition that it has been receiving this week.  It’s based around the acoustic guitar and emotionally grabbing lyrics.  Similarly, anyone who was a fan of City and Colour’s Bring Me Your Love from 2008 will likely be a fan of Southeastern, as well!

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