These songs are simple, heartfelt, and quietly genius in their own way. They sound both professional and hand-crafted; the production is intimate and tight. There's a palpable simmer to their melodic core, which have rustic acoustic rhythms that run into catchy, surreal lyrics. They're rich with artful structures and soothing arrangements. The point isn't to disturb, or overwhelm, or boast.
There's really something soft and almost spiritual about the direction of the album. You can feel the accumulation of notebook pages, sketches, late-night conversations, buzzed jams, and musical influences that made it happen: some blues, Warren Zevon, Dylan, maybe even Creedence Clearwater Revival. As with those artists, each song on this album tells a memorable, urgent story. The lyrics inhabit a character caught between what he wants and what he knows he can't have. They're certain about their doubts and unsure of their faith, but they fall back on a kind of tested, Midwestern ethic -- somewhere between hard work and restrained, shy wisdom.
There's some smoke rising here from the backwoods of Ohio, or some campfire in Ithaca. There's something in "Hallways" or "Reason" that captures the sadness that one feels at beginning of something, that little hit of nostalgia and guilt that squeaks up from inside the heart when you pass from one phase of life to another, when you move from state to state, when you finally come down from the rooftop in Brooklyn after a long night, say goodbye to good friends, and walk home.