Ilyas Ahmed I Am All Your Own

[Immune; 2015]

Styles: hushed 12-string balladeering, pseudo emo
Others: Red House Painters, Slowdive

I have spent a lot of my life being overly sentimental, almost certainly to the point of detriment. I have spent a lot of time missing things that aren’t yet gone, just knowing with a heavy level of certainty that they would leave me and then, once they do, letting that heaviness fall down and crush me, making a big deal of the mess that it leaves in its wake, and so on. And I would think that, in light of so much over-sentimentality, thickly dripping saccharine everything, I’d be the right person to assess Ilyas Ahmed’s I Am All Your Own, which makes grandiose statements in quiet ways, turning small things like slants of light and sideways glances into four and a half minutes of meaning. But I’m not. It feels all wrong. At least it feels wrong to me, an album full of intimacies like saying many things that are unintelligible but understanding, through the muck, “the warmth of your skin” and the sexual playfulness of a song title like “Come On.”

There is a story here; there is a story everywhere, especially now, making meaning of things, but this one is intentional. Apparently, it’s about a night that changes the lives of a few people, and the next day they try to accept the events and certain darker parts of themselves. I can’t exactly discern what might have transpired here, but I am betting the point lies here: applying this story to whatever you are doing, whatever is twisting you in any direction. The vocals are too quiet to suss out much, which is fine. Words often serve to make things more convoluted. But I do sense something hiding behind the walls of reverb, a sense that maybe whatever this is does not have legs, or if it does, they are not strong enough to hold it all up. Unfortunately, shrouding your message in fog sparks imagined importance with varying success.

The problem is that what’s left — the imagined everything about this record — is that it just sounds like someone lamenting a one-night stand that ended too soon, some kind of physical communication that feels like it could have gone so much deeper and become so much more emotional. And it’s not just words that suggest that; the music brings to mind Red House Painters the most, full of 12-string acoustic guitar, the primary instrument of the record, something that feels like a throwback to 1970s soft rock as much as early 1990s. It’s not a real departure for Ahmed, who has always sung with this kind of quietness, but it’s different in its instrumentation, sounding less like, say, Eric’s Trip and more like Mark Kozelek trying to rip off Slowdive on his 4-track.

It all just makes me very tired of looking backwards at music that I listened to when I was 15, to the way that I felt, to the importance that seemed so clearly to be lurking in everything that I was doing, in people and in relationships and in things, but turned out not to be there at all. Open tunings and writing a lot of pages in notebooks about feeling sad and alone. I understand. I do not want to go back there. It was not a good place. I have stopped romanticizing things so much — I think, I hope — I am a different person as much as anyone can be, and I look back and think: I did not have fun back then. I guess this is better. I would rather stay here.

Links: Ilyas Ahmed - Immune

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