Graves: Summr Bummr
Greg Olin's work as Graves exudes a stoner surfer genius. His jazz-chord folk songs are loping, temperate and bittersweet — beach bonfire music made in a cloudy basement. The breezy, subtle complexities of his arrangements and his hyper-mellowed vocal delivery have an obvious kinship with other Pacific Northwest artists like Little Wings and Mt. Eerie. But his lyrical couplets have always set him apart. Here, on Summr Bummr, these golden couplets are mopey, mystic, absurd and enlightened — usually at the same time. On album standout "Natural Way" (which sees a mid-album instrumental reworking as "Natural End" and a loose, late-set re-imagining as "Natural Weigh"), Olin both sulks and opines about a break-up: "You should have broke my nose one more time/Just so we know what's yours and what is mine...I get so much more done in my day now/Now that there's no one in my way now." These shrugging triumphs set to sleepy, pleasing guitar strums are Grave's modus operandi.
Across Summr Bummr, with its reemerging song titles and themes like the aforementioned "Natural Way" and the blinds-drawn earworm two-fer of "O O O Around the World"/"O O O Around the World Again," it's hard not to read the album as a trudge through a cruddy summer vacation, a thesis on "Summertime Blues." But Olin said the collection of songs simply just fell together as friends pitched in over the last year or so. Recorded at his Portland home and at a friends beach house on a 1/4" Tascam 388, the album certainly carries an air of in-the-moment pop-improvistations. "A few of [the songs] were just made up on the spot," Olin said. "The whole process was loose. I hope that comes through in the music." That's probably very likely, but again, it's hard not to see a narrative arc here. Album closer, "Weed Out The Trips" wraps up this would-be storyline quite well. It finds our anti-hero in no better shape than we found him, still lost and bursting with ennui as Olin's bed of guitar strums sound like soft church bells in the distance. "Your mom calls in the afternoon/Wondering if you'll get your 'Thank You' cards out soon/Those are stamps you'd hate to lick/So don't and weed out the trips."