by Jonathan Bannister (@j_utah)
Audiophiles assure us that music sounds best on vinyl. The “warmth” of vinyl praised far and wide as they try to convert everyone back to analogue. Despite also being analogue, there are not as many champions for the cassette tape as the best way to listen to music. That hasn’t stopped cassettes from making a sort of comeback as a cheaper, more portable alternative (and for some of us whose car CD players may be jammed, the working tape deck becomes an essential listening device). One very pro cassette tape label Citrus City recently put out For Your Joy by Virginia’s Keep and it is an album that lends itself really well to cassette listening.
Opener “YHB” ushers in a murky, languid mood and starts the album off with an instant well-worn feeling. It’s as if the tape has been played often, maybe a little warped. Like it was recorded off a 45 that was being played at 33. Wes Smithers comes heavy with the reverb and echo, a hazy palette that abounds across the album. This is east coast indie washed on the goth cycle. The songs take on multiple layers, little nuances that come out of the drone. “Testament” and album closer “7 Days” being prime examples of their particular brand of slow tempo dirges. Gloomy but somehow still catchy, moving at their steady, deliberate paces.
But there’s also another side to the album. There is some dream pop shimmer to some of the songs like “Temporal Drift” and “Earthly Desires” aided by the addition of keys and bass to the mix. There are straight up riffs beaming out across this cosmic rift, Smithers’ guitar shining on songs like “My Love” while Nick Yetke goes to work on the drums, riding the hi-hat and pounding on the toms and even cow bell. Songs like “Welcome To” and “Man Made It” offer full on head-banging interludes, chances to get caught up in the their hypnotic concoction.
Lyrically, the album is no less murky. Dreams vs reality, disappointments, things not always being what they seem, what qualifies as a life worth living, the end, these are the things that occupy the album’s mind. “Nothing will work, If memory serves, It’s only to hurt or cause celebration, Either way, my head’s spilling over” Yetke sings on “Response.” Elsewhere on “In Perfect Order” Yetke sings “My will is gone, Relinquished control, Not true to form, Found me again, The ache that I swim in.”
There’s a line from Keep’s first EP Hypnosis for Sleep that goes “You can drone along with me, Or you can drone alone” that still seems to be at the heart of their music. A question left hanging as the screen fades to black. Only now, it’s morning and things are bleaker than the night. For Your Joy is the gray dawn that accompanies the realization that sometimes the light might not make anything better. As Yetke sings “I want out.”