For more than a week now I've repeatedly approached my computer to write a review of Drew & The Medicinal Pen's new record Heavy Head, only to retreat a few minutes later after a few false starts. I don't write as much as I used to on here, but even when I was writing about music every day I always had a hard time being coherent about the things that really resonated with me. So let me say this right now before I fall apart: I love this record and I will play it for anyone who rides in my car anytime remotely soon. I've been excited about it since this summer when I heard it was going to be done soon, and it hasn't disappointed. It was worth every minute of the wait.
Things have changed a bit for Drew since the release of Dream, Dream, Fail, Repeat. Most notably, there's a band involved now. So while Drew's hazy, dreamlike songwriting hasn't skipped a beat and the overall sound remains catchy, bedroom-jangly, and wonderfully loose, there are plenty of moments on Heavy Head to serve as a reminder of this progression. Female backing vocals, for example. Those are new, and nice.
Truthfully though, the thing I love most about this record is the same thing that I've always loved most about Drew's music: the vulnerability that's sometimes on full display, but usually bubbling just below the surface, masked by some of the cheeriest, sounds-like-it-was-fun-to-record* production I've ever heard. Or, maybe to put it another way, it's the way the music makes vulnerability feel OK to the listener. And sure, there are plenty of songwriters who specialize in that kind of thing, and some of them also have female backing vocals. I just like the way Drew does it, ok? I like it a lot.
An example. "Paper Pockets" (video here) is the perhaps best song on the record, and it ends triumphantly with a promise: "I will never turn my back on you." It's hard for me to explain why I like the sing-song repetition of that line so much. It's not profound, but it reveals an awareness that the fear that a loved one might turn away is universal, and that it feels good to be promised otherwise. All the better if it's shouted earnestly over and over again with a driving drumbeat driving a four piece band underneath. Maybe I'm just projecting now, but it's a great song regardless. Seriously. Click that link up there and listen to it. Now.
Like that? Then go listen to "Sleepy Don't Cry" at myspace.com/drewandthemedicinalpen. Like that too? I thought so. Listen to a bunch more stuff. You'll probably like that too.
And even once you've listened to everything, even once you've bought the record, there's still more to consume. As good as the music is on its own, full appreciation of Drew & The Medicinal Pen should include a perusal of Drew's non-musical pursuits. He's got tons of videos and photos floating around. A good place to start, you ask? Try his Dream Logs.
Gosh, I wish I could just get you into my car. To play you the record, you see. I really think you'll like it.
* I'm assured that the production of this record involved copious amounts of blood, sweat, and tears. But it still sounds like it was fun to make.