Getting literary with There Is No Sin

Rooms made of notes
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  October 19, 2011

For those of you bemoaning the loss of the LP and its attendant album art, Troy Keiper feels your pain. Not only does he provide lyrics for We Are Revealed, the second of his efforts as There Is No Sin, he pairs them with a short story in a lovely book populated by photographs by Christophe Garnier. The result is a multi-media (in the old sense) presentation that is filled with the kind of literary melancholy that Hemingway captured in A Moveable Feast, a reveling in the spare and severe.

Keiper recorded his 11-song album with Pete Morse at Busted Barn, and the two focused on a close and personal feel where it's often like you're being sung to in the early morning hours when you're not quite ready to wake up yet, and everything is half dream and half something you just don't want to deal with. There's some Cat Power here, and some Sufjan Stevens, too, but it never gets as orchestral as the latter and Keiper is more self-assured than the former.

As with Max Garcia Conover's disc released last week, it is sometimes enough for Keiper just to accompany himself on guitar, but you'll be glad when other instruments filter in. The organ that swoons in behind the guitar on "El Cid" is languid and warm, and Leslie Dean's vocals help lend a personality to a scratchy-lovely chorus: "And I, wanted to kiss you/I wanted to tell you/I could fix you/but I'd have been lying to myself."

This sentiment and backing vocal is echoed in the finishing "Inhale" ("I was the boy who wanted to save you . . . I know the things you wanted to keep"), which mirrors the finish of the short story, where the end is only a beginning, and you care about the characters enough to construct the rest of the story in your head.

There are sequences that reveal rock and punk songwriting background on "Practice Crawling" and "Misled"; there are moments you could call poppy or light-hearted in "Arrive" and "ER." Overall, though, there is an easy world-worn quality to the record with which it's easy to be sympathetic.

Keiper is a guy who can appreciate the small moments in the day, who sees the light coming through the curtains in a way that makes him pause, who isn't in much of a hurry. He is economical, and nothing here is self-indulgent, so it's comfortable to fall into his simple cycling chords and friendly cadence.

Like Dan Connor on Gypsy Tailwind's "Long Drive Home from Montreal," Keiper can get a ton of mileage out of a murmured "mmm-hmmm," as on the title track. "I was under the chair with my face on the wood/I the cool/I wanted to know forgetting."

Indeed, this is something you can lose yourself in.

Sam Pfeifle can be reached at

WE ARE REVEALED | Released by There Is No Sin | Oct 25 | by Clip Records |

  Topics: CD Reviews , Music, Cat Power, Sufjan Stevens,  More more >
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