Rear-view mirror

Albums you shouldn't let slip by
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  November 11, 2009

After a few days of Indian Summer to remind us of the summer we nearly didn't have, it's timely to shed some warm light on albums released recently that didn't get their proper due.

Evan Casas, Surround Yourself

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Though you may know him from collaborations with local frontmen Elijah Ocean and Dave Gutter, Evan Casas has released a full-length disc to serve notice that he's a songwriter in his own right. Though it suffers from some of the inorganic qualities that are hard to escape when a solo artist constructs a multi-layered, multi-instrumental album over an extended period of time, there are moments here of dark beauty and simmering passion.

With elements of other solo album constructors like Bon Iver and Beck, Casas meshes brooding pacing with digital decor that makes songs as sharp as his sentiment. "Dear Future Wife" is literally stormy, with thunderclaps and a constant rain backing Casas doing a desperate tenor: "Waiting at home for you every night is what I need to do." The title track is ironically upbeat, a lot like some of the best stuff Satellite Lot put out, with a terrific chorus full of building keyboard notes and a cycling central message that sounds like good advice: "Surround yourself with the people who need you/Surround yourself with the people you need to be with."

There are some heavier elements in "Keep in Touch," which moves from downbeat hair metal to upbeat stoner rock, and some slightly silly pseudo-hip-hop in "Where I Am" (reminiscent of "Where It's At"; on purpose?), but the album succeeds most when Casas allows himself to build the swirling soundscapes of the Depeche Mode-esque "Dream of Ribbons," the experimental "Game Over," and the anthemic "Exit" that finish the album in a three-song suite of studio artistry.

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