Surviving winter with Max Garcia Conover

Gone to ground
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  April 4, 2013

 beat_maxgarciaconover_main2

Part of what made Bon Iver's debut For Emma, Forever Ago so instantly important was the almost tangible feeling of solitude it conveyed. Even if Justin Vernon's words were muffled and muted at times, it didn't matter. You feel like you were right there in that cabin in the woods with him.

Max García Conover's debut full-length, Burrow, doesn't rise to the emotional heights of that album, but it shares a starkness, like listening to music through an Instagram filter, that conveys that same feeling of going to ground. Recorded in an attic studio over the winter by Pete Morse, the album is full of brief songs (just one of the 11 goes past three minutes) that can pass you by like a wisp of emotion triggered by a memory that's just out of reach.

Morse is more than just engineer, though. While Conover takes center stage with a fast and note-filled fingerstyle guitar playing and a resonant lower-register vocal, Morse chimes in and fills out with hints of guitar lines, doubling down on the atmosphere. Combine all that with Conover's penchant for jamming lyrics into tight spaces and going outside your standard subject matter (this may be the only album you listen to this year to feature a woodthrush) and the album can at times feel like watching old Super-8 movies on a projector that's moving slightly too fast.

"New Beast" is a stand out, with Sophie Nelson lending accompanying vocals for the entire track and more of a melodic hook than most songs here. Conover is accusatory: "You can talk of nothing . . . I don't know what you're for." His playing is particularly engaging on "The Glow #4," where he sits on top of a Morse guitar like an organ line that is warmth to indicate nostalgia: "There she goes/Grabbing from her tiptoes/And staggering, staggering."

The best track, though is the longest and almost hidden at the end of the album. "The Wedding Line" stands out mostly for Conover's solitary use of a more traditional strum, and vocals like he's whispering in your ear so that you can almost feel his breath on your neck. Like the best Wesley Allen Hartley songs, I found myself straining to make out every word and was often pleased when they came into focus: "Everybody calls her a poet/But they say it when they're rolling their eyes."

There's a lot to unpack here and spring seems like a good time to air it out. ^

BURROW | Released by Max García Conover | at Mayo Street Arts, in Portland | April 6 | maxgarciaconover.com

  Topics: CD Reviews , Max Garcia Conover
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY SAM PFEIFLE
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   CRUEL INTENTIONS  |  September 12, 2014
    Portland music scene release dates for the fall.
  •   MIND OVER MIND  |  September 04, 2014
    As a string band, Dark Hollow Bottling Company were an awfully good rock band. Much of that spirit continues in Dark Hollow singer Greg Klein’s new project, GK and the Right of Way.
  •   DISCOVERING SHENNA BELLOWS  |  September 01, 2014
    Long walks and straight talk with the Democractic Senate challenger.
  •   PARTLY SUNNY  |  August 31, 2014
    Mike Clouds' new Apollo's Stamina
  •   NEW WORDS, OLD BEATS  |  August 31, 2014
    Whatever the rap equivalent of “she could sing the phone book and I’d dig it” is, that’s Essence for me.  

 See all articles by: SAM PFEIFLE