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Killer Touches Meet Superb Songwriting on Steve Drizos’ New Album “i love you now leave me alone”

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We don’t know about you but sometimes we here at SEM find ourselves jonesing for one of those quality singer-songwriter straight up rock records that betoken those sublime days of yore bookended, for the sake of a sort of snapshot brevity, by Dylan, Tim Buckley, The Band and countless others at one end and Elliott Smith (let’s say both solo and with Heatmiser) at the other, records with an intrinsic, lived-in existential quality that somehow carry with them a blend of brio, panache, humility and something of a pop bravado in somewhat equal measures, albums that manage to be both confessional and universal as they seek to address and possibly even salve, for a moment, the enigmatic bruises of this weird human experience we’re all careening through to the – in theory, anyway – best of our ability. Fortunately for us and all those with a similar yearn Portland-based Steve Drizos, on Portland-based Cavity Search Records, has recently released the stirring, sometimes soaring, always driving i love you now leave me alone and it is, in a word, a corker.

From the beginning, in fact, with the track “Boomerang” that takes the concept of ‘contained’ and introduces it to ‘explosive,’ this is a knowing, well-constructed, very confident record which, to be honest, any such album that fits inside the stylistic perimeters just mooted above really, really has to be and Drizos, based on the evidence here (and no big surprise given his background as a working musician that also, with wife Jenny Conlee, owns and runs the Panther recording studio), has those necessary qualities in spades.

There’s the warmth and ache and confessional grace of “Troubled Heart” which is essentially the sound of someone scrambling back to their feet, to the prospect of a hard-fought hope. There’s “Shadow Life,” somnolence with an electric edge, dusky and atmospheric in the way of a restlessness looking to find purchase, the song filled with – not atypically here – strings of smart, moving lyrics (it’s so easy to fall apart with the weight on your shoulders/things that used to turn you on only making you feel boredom//it’s lose..if you choose/waking up to the shadow life, the ‘always’ here and gone); there’s “Katie,” grounded yet luminescent yet airy yet dead serious as any truly true love song should be; there’s the transfixing creep and churn of the momentous, six-plus minute “Beautiful Nothing” that takes the existential for a haunting, powerful ride that along its way proposes with some conviction that the heart’s topography indeed consists of cliffs and canyons and the glorious, shiver-inducing thunderstorms that come with. And there’s more besides but for this listener i love you…’s crux track is the boisterous, rousing and exceedingly tight “Brooklyn 97202” and not simply because it refs and reps one of my favorite neighborhoods in what was until quite recently my longtime hometown (that’d be, again, Portland) before we skipped south to the 96025.

Immediately engaging, blowing in with a hook-in-and-of-itself drum pattern, a chimed and charming electric rhythm guitar which in turn invites in the subtly addictive bassline, the thing, first off, is nothing less than a lyrical gem, the facets glancing off each other with a complex ease, there’s this kind of emotive philosophical puzzle matrix to it but I tell ya, I tell ya, that ain’t the half of how this track allures. Just wait until you get to what serves more or less as a chorus – the song’s title is only that, more of a hyper-subtext of sorts to the content within – where the charge fully roars into view carrying with it, lifted by in fact, an electric guitar riff that suggests what it might have sounded like had Roger McGuinn been in a garage punk band. Or something. You decide, I’m just telling you it’s a killer touch that I’ve not been able to shake since hearing it and I’m quite sure I never shall.

So, sufficiently breathless then and we’ll leave it at that except to say this is the type album that, should we sometimes despair as to the state of, well, any number of things, can lift us right back up and give us the strength to write another day and halle-fuckin-lujah to that.

i love you now leave me alone available here, and as a bonus, here’s the cast of the crazy good musicians that feature on the record:

Joe Mengis (Eels/Dancehall Days/Love Gigantic): drums
Tim Murphy (RoughCuts): bass, backing vocals
Todd Wright: electric guitars, backing vocals
Jenny Conlee (The Decemberists/Casey Neill/Ashleigh Flynn): piano, electric piano
Steve Drizos: guitars, vocals, synths, percussion