Sleeping at Last – Yearbook August EP: Strange, how the heart expands in the absence of a plan.

2011_SleepingatLast_YearbookAugustEPArtist: Sleeping at Last
Album: Yearbook – August EP
Year: 2011
Grade: B-

In Brief: It’s the second-to-last page of the book. Not the most exciting one by itself, but it sets things up for the finale.

Another month, another Sleeping at Last Yearbook EP. I’ve been getting so used to this exchange that I won’t quite know what to do with myself when October 1, 2011 rolls around and there won’t be three new songs waiting in my inbox. Ryan O’Neal‘s little project that could is finally winding down, and I wouldn’t blame him for being a little tired at this point, especially having to soldier on with the work by himself since somewhere around May or June. Seemingly as a response to the bold, sunny “big-ness” of July, he seems content here to stick to a smaller scale, with the tiny… newt… thing on the album cover seemingly giving us a hint that this one will be a bit different. (Do you see the photographer that’s become an iconic part of each EP’s artwork? Think about it for a bit.) Rather than a grand, scenic destination, the August EP seems content with the little things we found along the way, and the loose ends that need tying up. It’s a modest prelude to what I can only assume will be a poignant finale on the September EP, but time will tell.

INDIVIDUAL TRACKS:

1. Page 28
The opening track, while interesting musically for the rare use of electronic elements in a Sleeping at Last song by way of the decidedly dated, synthesized bleeps that accompany it, is more interesting to me for the lyrics. Ryan plays the role of a stage actor stumbling through his lines, trying to stick to the script but finding himself disoriented as the plot seems to disintegrate, the randomness of real life intervening and rendering the plan null and void. You can hear echoes of themes explored in songs like December‘s “Accidental Light” and February‘s “Land or Sea” here – once of his favorite subjects seems to be the joy of working without a safety net, the necessity of relinquishing control. I’d think the numbers 28 and 29 had no significance and were arbitrary, if not for my pre-existing curiosity about them when they turned up in November‘s “101010”. Clearly those numbers are important – perhaps difficult years of his life when he struggled the most to make sense of a difficult chain of events? While the overall narrative is too abstract to know, I’m satisfied with the mirror image here, with the first track on the penultimate Yearbook EP closing a loop that was opened by the last track on the second EP. Musically, it’s mid-tempo piano pop, with a bit of a lift from the strings, sticking to a congenial 4/4 with only the occasional interruption that seems to “reset” the rhythm. That bugs me slightly for some reason, but otherwise it’s a solid song, so I’ll let it go.

2. No Argument
We haven’t heard a true ballad from SAL since June‘s “Hourglass”, what with July being such an unexpected helping of up-tempo toe-tapping. Almost as if to consciously step away from that, this song ranks among the Ryan’s sparsest compositions, but it’s one that knows when to hold a note for dramatic effect, and how to paint the shadows in striking watercolor hues. The piano paints just enough of a skeletal structure to bring to me other placid SAL ballads like “Naive”, but I think it’s the eerie silences in between and the subtle cymbal rolls that lead out of those uncomfortable gaps that really add to the drama. it’s a song about things you can’t take back, words that start wars and trigger natural disasters. “Fairness is a ghost”, Ryan pines, while also noting at the end of the song that “Only love can change the shape of such permanent truths”. It’s bleak, and yet it’s hopeful. That’s a hard combo to pull off.

3. Households

The final instrumental of the Yearbook project seems like a mere morsel at first, running only two minutes and change before August takes a modest bow. While pretty, with its repeating four-note guitar figure that bobs up and down and its dreamy bells and keyboards, it didn’t seem like much more than an oddly placed segue at first. Listening more closely, I’ve come to realize that when the drums – soft and polite as they may be – really get to a full gallop, the song takes off like a graceful bird, almost attaining larger-than-life status despite its meek brevity. The odd thing is that it sounds like more of a wintry concoction, something that would have fit in better circa December. Maybe it’s just my mind that associates bells with snow. In any event, SAL has brought the pretty here once again, and it’s an enjoyable little morsel even though it feels a bit out of place in the overall 36-song narrative that is Yearbook.

WHAT’S IT WORTH TO ME?
Page 28 $1.50
No Argument $1
Households $.50
TOTAL: $3

LISTEN FOR YOURSELF:
http://open.spotify.com/album/3lp5EkA8wS7kliPwQywYVN

WEBSITES:
http://www.sleepingatlast.com/
http://www.myspace.com/sleepingatlast

Originally published on Epinions.com.

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