Charles Dickens said, “Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.” The new album by local songsmith Damian, Soul Night, attempts to be the magician in this quote, determined to explore the psyche’s attachment to home, and how this is juxtaposed with the soul and it’s dwelling place. It wrestles with these normal, yet supernatural notions in exquisite, pointed, punk-folk fashion. Launched at Steak and Cake’s one year anniversary show, Soul Night is one of the greatest works released on the label as of yet. This short, beautiful album spans a little over 34 minutes, but leaves a cognitive mark that lasts for days. Damian, last name Weber, sings in a dreary, tired style which works strategically for his songwriting in the same way it works for Elliot Smith or Bill Callahan. At the same time, Weber is quick to escape any folk-punk shackles and realizes the importance of reverb, distortion, and whistling. The songs are schizophrenic and simple; honest thoughts and memories are bubbled up, and as a result Soul Night becomes speckled with miraculous piano droplets, and melancholy uncertainties.
The first track on the record is fittingly, “Soul Night”, an acoustic, piano-dance-jingle, that asks the audience to “Do the windmill,” and the “whirlwind.” Surprisingly enough, it’s not hard to see an entire dancehall getting down to this track. Adding to it’s upbeat silliness, Damian ends singing, “I can only dance if my rock and roll is made by a weirdo.” Which, if you think about it, is probably true for most of us.
Soul Night gets a lot more heady on, “The Same Parts Never Change,” which lyrically begs a most pointed question, “Why in my old life, do all the same parts never change?” The droopy guitar riffs are angelic and this track becomes one of the catchiest and contemplative on the album. The song becomes more pointedly despondent as the speaker asks a more relevant question, “Why can’t be my new life not be so ready for me?”
“Be Constantly Here” begins with textured strumming and piano tinkling in the void as organ hums break through the clouds. This is were Weber really begins to elevate the concept of home. Painted lugubrious with the help of Brandon Schlia on background vocals, Weber sings simply: “Be constantly here, and you’ll be home.” On this track especially, Weber exhibits his aptness at making intensely contemplative and responsive music by etching his punchlines in stone-faced vocals.
“It’s a Miracle to Move” begins with windy, warped guitar. Weber becomes illustrative: “The wind wont touch me / when I was a kid I turned my shit up so fucking loud I wanted my ears to bleed...It’s a fucking miracle to move.” The guitar walks and wanes through harsh Radiohead-esque riffs that induce memories of adolescent anguish. Weber seems to be expanding on the relation between supernatural images of miracles and time, whilst also breaking down very real memories of growing up and this connects well back to the idea of being “home."
“I Love My Bed” is a favorite with it’s pulsing distortion and simple, semi-uplifting lyrics, “But it’s good to be home and wake up in her bed / she says she likes her bed.” I can’t help but reminisce about the feeling of sleeping in on a snow day off from school. The jingle-jangle pulses and peaks at the epiphanic words, “They don’t care for what we care for / They don’t care for what we used to be, like ghosts.” Strangely this is the climax of the album. There is a dispute in a relationship, and shades of questioning the roads of the past and the road on which we are all headed. Talk of souls and ghosts give the record a vibe of paranoia, but they are necessary visions made ordinary and give this work a most brilliant beam of light.
Damian has accomplished one hell of a first album, and it’s thematic intricacies are undeniable. Soul Night takes a simple sound and injects it full of lyrical complexities. This is an album I will be listening to for some time, and I will be waiting anxiously on Damian’s next endeavor.