w/Devin Davis, Onalaska
Tues Aug 16, Chop Suey, 9 pm, $7.
Before "6 Foot Crest," the first song on Tim Seely's Funeral Music, has even really started in earnest, listeners are treated to a miniature symphony (or cacophony, anyway) of unlikely noises. Such sounds prevail throughout the new disc—grinding synth lines, digital bleeps, even cell-phone ring tones—adding welcome color to what is essentially acoustic music. Without the detail work, this might've been an album of earnest, folk-derived tunes centered on loss—a singer-songwriter record distinguished by world-class melodic craft, but still, a singer-songwriter record. With the extra attention, Funeral Music becomes a micro-masterpiece, in which the sound both matches and transforms the mordant spirit of the songs, nearly all of which are about death, dying, almost dying, wanting to die, or being dead already.
The record has been years in coming (I first heard a draft of it well over a year ago), but, as Seely sings on "Pleasant Valley State Prison," an album highlight, "It takes time to make a mess/It takes time (you know the rest)." In the song, the "rest" in question is the all-too-familiar feeling of being sick of your own misery. Seely's great trick is to sing about this condition without wallowing in it. The song is light in spirit; this death-centric album is utterly life affirming. It's no surprise that a musician as talented and seasoned as Seely (who was basically a music-biz veteran before he could legally drink) would present such a strong debut. It's just a pleasure to know that the wait is over.