The lockdown anniversary has come and gone in North America, and the albums that many a musical hermit had been tinkering with are starting to see daylight. Most are influenced by the pandemic, either directly or indirectly, and that could mean taking an unusual approach to production in a cramped home studio or just addressing the pandemic and its effects.
Longtime musical pals Eric Anders and Mark O’Bitz are certainly suited to this era with their yearnful, meditative tunes. Their new release, Sirens Go By (Music In The Time Of Coronavirus: Songs 2-9), is instalment number 2 of 4 in a series that started with the December 2020 single ‘Careful Now My Son’ and will carry on this year with an EP (Stuck Inside) and another LP (Variant Blues).
Unsurprisingly, the collection of songs on Sirens Go By explores the intensely isolated and domestic lifestyle that most of us experienced over the last year. Musically, it’s a dreamy concoction floating on hefty helpings of gleaming reverb and breathy, falsetto vocals that follow in the lineage of Vernon and Drake. The established working relationship between the two is evident on this release, as the album’s music and lyrics are thematically focused and well put together.
Album opener ‘A Love So So’ recounts an all too familiar story of 2020, that of failing romance in light of separation. Remorseful, resigned vocal tones are backed by a subdued guitar/piano offering, providing space for Eric Anders to flesh out the tale. Tired words, picked acoustic lines, and the diminishing state of America permeate ‘Twilight’s Last Gleaming’, while an organ raises the spiritual qualities on the more contemplative ‘The Great Unknown’.
The title track is probably the most notable cut, and it hammers home the sentiments that are found throughout the LP. It’s a dragging and morose affair not at all unlike the more downtrodden ballads Neil Young wrote in his heyday. The near-universal feeling of anxious hopelessness the world felt about a seemingly endless invisible enemy marks the lyrical focus, all carried on an earthy, rootsy folk backing.
Anders and O’Bitz’s reflections on the year that was generally hit home and make for a solid expression of the loss and exhausting endurance that was demanded of us all. Comforting but melancholic, this LP provides a tangible account of the bizarre time that was 2020.