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Cover Art Michael Krassner
Michael Krassner
Rating: 5.7

Listening to Michael Krassner's self-titled LP "properly" involves drinking scotch. You should also be in a warmly lit room, alone, and either recently or perpetually heartbroken. If you'd like to, you can write in a journal, but for the less ambitious, staring at the ceiling will also work. Don't worry, it'll be more fun than it sounds; you'll be in the 70's, so if you were wondering about the appropriate time to equip those rose-colored glasses indoors, you can keep them right next to this record. Sure, your friends will laugh at you, but you can easily pass off your evening of brooding with Krassner as tragico-absurdist performance art.

Michael Krassner is better known as the director of the Boxhead Ensemble, who composed and performed the soundtrack for Braden King and Laura Moya's documentary, "Dutch Harbor: Where the Sea Breaks Its Back". While his work with the primarily instrumental ensemble was minimalist and improvisational, this album shows Krassner working with a more traditional format. These ten songs could be categorized as something like "70's pop melancholia," but they sound updated with a hint of a twang and a lilting pace. Imagine the guy hanging out and listening to Leonard Cohen and John Cale with other Drag City artists while touring with the Boxhead Ensemble, and then coming home to make this album. The Lofty Pillars, including several members of the Truckstop roster (notably Charles Kim and Ryan Hembrey of Pinetop Seven) back Krassner.

These heavy-hearted but catchy songs seem familiar the first time you hear them which lends them an immediate accessibility. But consequently, I began to find this album tiresome after only a few listens. Krassner's lyrics are at times unusually honest meditations on the inseparability of love and cruelty, but that honesty sometimes gives way to annoying lines such as, "Unwanted memories/ Everlasting miseries," or, "You don't have to be so cruel to show me that you hate me." I prefer more subtlety from my tortured white male singer/songwriters.

Krassner does bring the same proficiency to direct and arrange a midsize ensemble to this project as he did to his work with Boxhead. And Although these two projects are otherwise difficult to compare, both achieve a layered orchestral sound without getting too dense or overbearing. I also appreciated the consistency of this album's mood. If you do decide to sit with this album and a bottle of scotch on some lonely night you can be assured that there won't be a single song that tries to tell you that things are all right.

As the chorus of the album's first track tells us, "This time's gone this time/ And this time's gone forever." The album invokes nostalgia, but is hard to call "retro" as Krassner's despondent personal vision appears to be without a wink. It's hard to imagine listening to this album often, but when you do, you probably won't want it any other way.

-Kristin Sage Rockermann



10.0: Indispensable, classic
9.5-9.9: Spectacular
9.0-9.4: Amazing
8.5-8.9: Exceptional; will likely rank among writer's top ten albums of the year
8.0-8.4: Very good
7.5-7.9: Above average; enjoyable
7.0-7.4: Not brilliant, but nice enough
6.0-6.9: Has its moments, but isn't strong
5.0-5.9: Mediocre; not good, but not awful
4.0-4.9: Just below average; bad outweighs good by just a little bit
3.0-3.9: Definitely below average, but a few redeeming qualities
2.0-2.9: Heard worse, but still pretty bad
1.0-1.9: Awful; not a single pleasant track
0.0-0.9: Breaks new ground for terrible

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