Casey Neill & The Norway Rats – Sending Up Flares (Fluff and Gravy Records)
Perhaps what I dig most about Sending Up Flares is its seductively contemplative nature as a whole. If we can just close our eyes, turn off the media feed, and listen, the right music arises from the ether to greet us like chicken noodle soup in the headphones.
The musical accompaniments on Sending Up Flares hit heavy, care of an all-star crew featuring accordionist/keyboardist Jenny Conlee of the Decemberists, guitarist/producer Chet Lyster of the Eels, Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker, Slang’s Anita Lee Elliott, Scott McCaughey and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck. When complimented by the rich lyrical component of Neil’s cinematic phrases connect tactfully calling for more meaningful human interaction. Slip on the headphones, drive to the starlit Mojave in your mind, and look upon the warm desert sand.
“How Beautiful Am I?”s skipping drums, strings, piano, and invading guitar riffs declare a state of urgency for us to march faithfully into the storm of life’s agony and ecstasy – ‘’I lost so many along the way, Somehow I survived, They are with me still, My beloved ghosts, Ever at my side.” Don’t freak out, just go with it.
“Manzanita” strikes hard and disarms with surgical precision. A dash of Death Cab, the musical melange lassoed me, while Casey’s words pull me in with a bit of Hemingway – “From the windows of that house, Watch the storms roll in, Battering the haystacks, Further down the beach, Wave after Wave.” Would be a great tune to drive up the 1 right around Bodega Bay.
“Uncharted Terrain” boasts flavors reminiscent of The Weepie’s better efforts and charms me into submission with an unassuming stripped-down musical nudge. The sonic equivalent of The Girl That Got Away, it unearths faded forgotten pictures of the past, the people we used to be while dancing toward the great unknown. Best listened to in the dark by yourself when you miss someone, or better yet, holding the hand of the one.
In today’s swipe-right arena, 11 songs may be a long haul, but for coal chunks like me, I loved digesting this album. I’m invested, and a part of the band’s DNA now. The tempos and production are dead on and the album demands attention without begging.
It’s hard to pin down the exact genre of the record. There’s probably a 20-something in NYC right now smoking a clove and wearing a fisherman’s beanie who can pin down the fitting genre; ‘Neo-Realist,’ ‘Indie Folk,’ Post-Colonial-Coalminer Stargaze. I don’t care what you call it, I just like it!
RIYL: R.E.M., Eels, The Weepeis, Death Cab for Cutie, Talking Heads
Sending Up Flares is available NOW via Fluff and Gravy Records here: https://fluffandgravy.com/product-category/casey-neill-and-the-norway-rats/