State Champion Fantasy Error

[Sophomore Lounge; 2015]

Styles: country, punk, garage rock, paganism
Others: Spider Bags, Animal City, Sophomore Lounge crew

I wish every boring-ass country hit was sung instead by Ryan Davis. The guy is blessed with a voice of summer-night dark matter. The songs would be mostly less boring-assed then, though still left encumbered with such #awfulpolitics. When State Champion’s 2011 album Deep Shit came out, I was a freshman in college. I had already been whacked into reverie by Stale Champagne, their debut, and Deep Shit was even better late-night, high-or-drunk-or-in-love, walking-around-alone-aimless iPod music. Blast-it-in-the-car, get-weird-looks-driving-‘round-hometown music.

It’s so appropriate then that, when I received the promo download for Fantasy Error, I was at home for a week to visit my parents, right after graduating. I had nowhere to go that night, no friends anymore to visit really, and I didn’t feel like just listening in my teenage bedroom. So I took my parents’ car, drove around with the album, and ended up at Barnes & Noble. You’d be surprised at how decent the occult and new age section is at most locations. Like how a State Champion song is to country rock as Aleister Crowley’s Book of the Law is to a piece of Christian fiction — just one shelf over from the UFO books, the embarrassing white yogis, the pop-witchcraft. That sense of dread and hope, a smiling frown.

Fantasy Error is bookended by two melodically and lyrically linked songs, both called “Sunbathing,” a formal choice that succeeds in capitalizing the “A” in Album while also ouroboros-ing the record, letting the inevitable loops (like, what else do you want to be listening to?) keep going and going. Not that formal symmetry (or thematic dovetailing) is either necessary or sufficient in the making of a solid album, but this one finds power in such a structural compulsion. Fantasy Error gets there slowly, but it will eventually hit you, like gold out of nothing: another fantastic State Champion record.

Like albums one and two, this third addition fits a book’s worth of lyrical play and storytelling into, what, only eight songs? You go in and come out the other end feeling one novel, one collection of poems, heavier. You go in again, pay closer attention to the puns this time, the wordplay, and you even feel a little happy jealousy. Davis writes dense, sad, funny songs, and sings them, especially as on “Brain Days” and the title track, with an emotion rare to any genre or scene.

Fantasy Error isn’t the anthem-rich, black magick country punk of Deep Shit nor is it too much like the tear-soaked alt-country classic we have in Stale Champagne. It’s something of a hybrid, a natural cross-fertilization of State Champion’s earlier works with enough novelty and experimentation (the percussion holding together “There is a Highlight Reel,” the loose atonal flourishes on “Sunbathing I”) to situate it somewhere else entirely. I’m lucky to have a summer ahead of me with this album: by its end, I hope to know these words by heart, believing in them enough to sing along alone.

Links: State Champion - Sophomore Lounge

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