Rivulets You Are My Home

[Important; 2006]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: folk-rock, slowcore
Others: early Low, Chris Brokaw, Red House Painters, Jessica Bailiff

Nathan Amudson has always had a knack for keeping good company. His numerous recordings -- two previous LPs and a slew of shorter releases -- under the Rivulets moniker have featured a number of acclaimed depressive indie rock types in supporting roles. In the past, it's been difficult to discern how much these big-name accompanists actually contributed to Amudson's creative process.

You Are My Home clears up this question. This record boasts Amudson's strongest crew yet: Jessica Bailiff, Chris Brokaw (Codeine, Come), Christian Frederickson (Rachel's), Fred Lonberg-Holm, and Bob Weston. As a result, this song cycle bests Rivulets' entire back catalogue.

In fact, the extra instrumentation seems to swallow Amundson's plaintive vocals and modest acoustic guitar strums alive. Each song's folksy foundation trembles under a tide of distorted amp buzz, cowers beneath a mournful string section, or crumbles at the sound of a forceful percussive rap. Like the album's cover -- a panoramic shot of an impenetrable cobalt-blue sky presiding over a sparsely populated plain -- these songs emphasize human insignificance and frailty. And Adumson's lyrical persona is too personal to blame monolithic power structures for his crushed spirit. The culprits are instead simple, universal maxims: "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose."

And unlike, say, Neil Young's "Don't Be Denied" or Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was the Night," Adumson's tear-in-my-beer songs aren't forged from resilience. It doesn't sound like this guy's overcoming pain through artistic expression -- it sounds like pain's muting his communicative faculties. So the hooks never sink, the minor key malaise never makes interesting shifts or modulations, and the songs never truly assert themselves. This stuff's competent, well-arranged, pretty even, but do we really need another reason not to get out of bed in the morning?

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