Baggage Room Records (label)
22 August 2022 (released)
21 October 2022
Few artists were able to harness the opportunity given by the shutdowns quite like Eric Anders and Mark O'Bitz. The California duo have written a host of albums since March 2020 including those in their multi-faceted series Music in the Time of Coronavirus which will be looked back on as a real-time compendium of emotions taken from the various stages of our great planetary trial. Their latest record So Far Gone leans on the blues, sleepy indie, and the Americana sound to shape their affecting, pensive tracks. The album hits with the sense of a survived struggle. The finely cast rays of sun following a menacing torrent.
A century-old acoustic blues mantra opens the record. Anders howls about “fetishizing the founders” over a steely, down-south six-string. The title track has that haunting Mississippi delta drawl that connects the ghosts of the past with the present. The group laments the missteps that keep recurring throughout American history and the tragic irony of their inescapable nature.
'Above the Highest Spires' settles into the group's signature sauntering groove. O'Bitz's slow-burning guitar arpeggios are complemented by slow-rising bends. Anders strikes an aspirational note with a soulful bellow. 'Fantasyland' is driven by Matt Lynott's swaying kit work and elevated by Jenn Grinels' celestial backups that envelop the track in a pillowy cloud. 'Down to See' recalls the glowing indie splendour of Father John Misty's slow-stomping wistful sound (minus the pretentious arrogance). It gradually builds to a gospel/spaghetti western climax built on the shimmer of tremolo guitar and Grinels' angelic coo. 'Dirty Sun' is snappy and coy in the verses but erupts into wide-open abandon for the warming choruses.
The band concludes the album with an inverted take on an old blues standard, flipping genders on the classic 'Hey Joe'. Languorous and slinky with fluid guitar backed by cinematic keys, the opening line “Hello Josephine, where you going with that gun in your hand” immediately piques your interest. The tale of a cheatin' woman gets swapped for an abusive man and the possessive rage of a scorned lover is exchanged for righteous revenge against a villainous wife-beater. “I'm goin' to shoot my old man/You know it's the last time he's gonna kick me around”. The brilliantly executed reinterpretation feels right, empowerment over the loss of control. A stunning final statement, from the soaring last solo down to its delicious decrescendo finish.
Anders and O'Bitz strike gold once again, creating a stirring collection of tracks with their unique sonic signature. So Far Gone is cutting and comforting, warm and chilling, sorrowful and optimistic. Brilliant use of the colours on their palette by these singer-songwriters.