SG025 | 5/15/2007
Southerly's critically acclaimed sophomore album.
"Krist Krueger-- the 26-year-old Wisconsin-born, Portland-based songwriter that leads what was once a one-man-band called Southerly-- is terrified of living a safe life. He wants experience. "So coax yourself to make believe/ That you'll come back in a cloud of smoke/ With guns blazing," he boasts on "How to Be a Dreamer", the literal and thematic centerpiece of his second album, Storyteller & the Gossip Columnist. "And on that day, you'll find yourself/ The self that you've been struggling to be/ Just make believe." Elsewhere, Krueger-- who leads a band, owns a record label, runs a booking agency, produces records and ostensibly has a personal life-- depicts the pretty, jaded girl snubbing romantic inquiries, ponders the empty pages lining the narrative of his life, and laments kids wasting their romantic youths while sitting in factory parking lots. If Krueger were a character in a Built to Spill song, he wouldn't be stuck at home in Twin Falls.
That ideal of living the rich, full life cuts both ways on Columnist: There's a wonderful amount of variety here, from the crescendo that capitalizes on the potential energy of Krueger's coiled emotions during the self-doubting "If We All Forgot" to the pedestrian showmanship springing from the piano keys during the hopeful "Soldiers". Krueger is arranging for a full band with horns and strings on Columnist, and, thrown to the orchestra for the first time, he's remarkably accomplished, tastefully piling layers that augment rather than clutter. And the songs themselves come with bent, purposefully altered structures: One leads with the refrain, while another condenses its verses to a sum of 30 seconds and lets the edict-- "Breathe, 'cause it just might be your last"-- and melodramatic violin movements occupy most of the other two minutes. Krueger also sings with the fidelity of a songwriter who's seen what he's saying. In fact, he's often better at conveying his sentiments with vocal nuances than with the words themselves: Lyrically, the cresting "If We All Forget" is a wash ("I'm afraid, scared to death...I'm a shell of who I once was"), but Krueger's voice-- a thin wisp of air barely passing through his high register-- articulates the anxiety perfectly."