This afternoon I will become the Evening Man,
Who does the things most people only dream about.
-Frederick Seidel, “Evening Man”
I have to be moved to write an album review. They take time to listen and write. It’s not just laziness on my part. I have to reach the point where I’m comfortable even offering a written effort that I feel is doing justice to the the time and effort that the artist(s) puts in. It’s those rare records that I turn on and sit down and listen and go get a snack and want to come back and listen but I have to go do a task and then later I come back and listen again that I’m willing to write about. It’s those records that turn me into a bumbling idiot because I can’t wait to share my excitement about them. It’s those records where I feel as though time stops and the sonic environment around me is offering a warm embrace on a cold winter night.
Those records are rare for me. It’s not that I’m a music snob (at least I don’t think I am) or that I’m damning contemporary music. It is what it is. There’s a confluence of factors that limits my ability and desire to write album reviews. I’ve written a handful and it’s when I’m so moved to do so. I guess I tend towards singles to begin with but man, there’s something about those records. I found one of them that I want to share with everyone.
In this case, that record is The Last Night by Evening Man. Evening Man is a project of Paul Erik Lipp (you can follow Paul on Twitter @pauleriklipp). The name of the project is drawn from the quote above and can be found in the digital booklet accompanying the album along with Emily Dickinson’s 410. The album was produced, engineered, mixed, and mastered by Paul. And with some exceptions, it is just him. He plays in the band, Restless Radio, with his brother Jordan and quite honestly, their band could be a post for another day. However, for today, I want to focus on the album, The Last Night.
It is a high-minded concept album that draws from many influences. The various sounds offer listeners of different dispositions the ability to find their favorite genres within the music. The variety itself, what Michelle Chan Brown characterizes as “schizophrenic,” seems to be part of the concept. On a lot of levels I can relate, in the sense that, when you’re unsure of things or lost, you can be all over the place. The album seems to be acknowledging that lost something and each listener can answer what that thing is and be correct.
The release date is January 25th, 2011, but it has been available on Bandcamp for whatever price you want to pay. I strongly recommend you go there to stream it and then download it.
The central premise of The Last Night is the thoughts and words of Evening Man. Appropriately the album opens with Telegraph Peak focusing on the vocals and the lyrics. There’s moments of Ozian upheaval where the listener feels like they’re being transported to some foreign place foreshadowing the rest of the listen. The album transitions to Patrick & Joni, which includes a heavy kick, bassline, and the memorable contrasting lines “let’s hope they don’t fall in love” and “baby, you and I belong together til the end of time.” Yeah, it’s cliched but isn’t the depiction of love nowadays the mockable cliche? What started to happen and fast became habit for me was to listen and to develop questions about life, love, and happiness. The album started to transcend the music for me. The music started to become intertwined with existential questions.
29 greets the listener with a quick Michael Jackson flashback and some dissonance before giving way to a New Wave-style pop song. Yet you can never shake that first impression. There’s something underlying the most pop-ish song on the album. It’s an uneasiness about the situation; either Evening Man’s or your own. From there, the listener finds Timbaland influences in Entremise. The dark lyrics really stood out to me here: “And when I dream, if I dream, I will dream of sweet revenge. But I won’t dream, I won’t dream, not unless my heart’s avenged. If you have a heartbeat, you won’t for long. If you have a heartbeat, you won’t for long.”
I realized that I wasn’t the Evening Man by this point but I sure could relate. I also realized that listening to the album was an intensely personal musical odyssey. I can’t speak to Paul’s intentions but by this point, I was projecting my story into the story of Evening Man. I sat wonderstruck and continued to listen. Never Let Me Go featured an awesome guitar solo in the outro, perfect for the song and its placement in the album overall. The penultimate song Your Restless Radio is simply stunning in its execution for the story and the sound. The capper is Surgery (In an Emergency). I hear the resignation in “Can we keep going like this?” The first time I heard the album, I listened to it all the way through and then sat in pensive pondering for 10 minutes or so, wondering whatever happened–not for the Evening Man but for myself. I’d eventually would try to think about from the perspective of the Evening Man. Indeed, “nothing is not a joke” as the Evening Man sings, but what are we to make of it all ending with a laughtrack?
I chose two tracks to highlight the album. I could have honestly picked any two tracks. My reasoning on choosing Entremise was that it, 29, and Your Restless Radio have been alternating as my favorite tracks, at some point I had to choose, and at that point I was slightly favoring Entremise. I felt obligated to include Surgery (In an Emergency) because I feel it is the song that ties the album altogether in a way befitting such a stellar effort.
Simply, go get The Last Night by Evening Man.