On the Turntable: Elvis Perkins in Dearland
My rating: Try and fail to write poetry after being inspired by Elvis Perkins.
The first time I heard Elvis Perkins, it was one of those beautiful moments in the car where you yell at everyone to shut up, so you can figure out who was playing that fantastic song once it’s over. The song was “While You Were Sleeping,” and I was surprised by how it grabbed me. It was a long song, and simple-sounding— just a gentle guitar and heavy on poetic lyrics:
“Full of dreams, you overslept
And keeping with the quiet, through the walls I crept
I walked on tiptoe, sent darkness swirling
Over all the kitchen in the early morning”
Perkins sings with the bittersweet melancholy of a man who’s been through a lot, yet is still hoping for better. Perkins knows all about pain, grief and tragedy. His father, actor Anthony Perkins, died from complications of AIDS in the 90s, and his mother was a passenger on one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. His first album, “Ash Wednesday,” centers on her death. The tracks are quiet, beautiful and introspective, as Perkins mournfully sorts through his jumble of emotions. The songs sound like poetry put to music— great music to chill out to or with which to study.
Perkins now goes by Elvis Perkins in Dearland, to include his band (they’re the “in Dearland” part). His band has contributed more to the song-making process in their self-titled second album, which was released in 2009. “Elvis Perkins in Dearland” is more upbeat than the mellower tempos of “Ash Wednesday.” It’s aided by an assortment of instruments, including horns, a clarinet and a banjo. The added instruments sharply contrast the lone guitar of “Ash Wednesday,” giving the two albums completely different feels. For instance, the track “Doomsday” is a brassy, New Orleans-style song that bounces and grooves even though the subject is, obviously, doomsday.
While Perkins’ interest in life and death is still highlighted in his second album, he and his band have left the quiet, elegant sound of mourning in “Ash Wednesday” behind for a more rootsy and joyful celebration of life and all that comes with it.
“Slow Doomsday” – Elvis Perkins in Dearland