Saturday, June 28, 2014

Rainer Maria - Long Knives Drawn

Some of the greatest albums in my opinion are the ones that tell a story. I'm not talking about concept albums, but rather albums that seem to have a start and and end emotionally and take you on a journey. It sets a tone that traces through each track. It makes the individual songs enhance the others by putting their content into context. Rainer Maria's Long Knives Drawn is, to me, an album that does this perfectly.

Rainer Maria were a trio who began playing music together in Wisconsin in 1995. Main vocal duties were split between Bassist Caithlin De Marrais and Guitarist Kyle Fischer, with William Kuehn playing drums. In 1999 the band moved to Brooklyn, New York, which marked a turning point for their sound and perspective. That's where we find Rainer Maria on 2003's Long Knives Drawn, a band and people who've matured and become much more complex.

De Marrais is the primary vocalist on this album. She belts out the lyrics almost in defiance of their originating emotions, but still manages to wrangle in her voice in enough to still sound vulnerable when she needs to. The vulnerability and honesty end up being the focal point of this album. De Marrais makes powerful declarations of  "this is who I am" and  "we're not in love anymore" while at the same time contradicting herself with admissions of "I don't know who I am," and " I miss the love we used to have."  This dichotomy of emotions is a concept explored almost every single track. On the opening track De Marrias even sings "Because Mystery and Misery can sometimes be a call to action, it can be source of passion."

The songs are set against a romantic New York back drop, making references to the traffic on Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in summer, to waking up with a new fling on the Lower East Side. This only enhances the album's theme of personal struggle to find a definition of self and meaningful relationships in the big city. Each song tells a small part of something larger which whether intentionally or not, ends up adding up to a disheartening drama encapsulated in nine short songs.

From the first track "Mystery and Misery", which is all about about new attraction, to the second to last track "CT Catholic", a song full of hope for someone who's found who they want to be with. You are taken through the awkward sometimes brutally honest journey of finding new love in the wake of having loved and lost. Just when you feel like things have turned around though the album ends with the bittersweet "Situation: Relation" and the line "And if indeed this was like a first marriage, then you and I together can be like divorcees."

The end of the album is beautiful but somber, the roller coaster of emotions ends abruptly, almost unexpectedly. But, the last track, the denouement, sums it up perfectly, that moments in life are often more about the journey, not the destination.

Artist: Rainer Maria
Album: Long Knives Drawn
Year Released: 2003
Label: Polyvinyl