Album Review: “Loud & Sad” by Asa Morris
Asa Morris’ recent EP, Loud & Sad, is a short, but effective collection of songs bridging together a succinct conglomeration of sounds; those of which I expect from him and new and refreshing aspects to his music. The opening track, “Theme for a British Television Series,” is the perfect way to introduce this EP. A title steeped in sardonic humor – part of this artist’s charm – is supported by a lo-fi aesthetic and an overall feel reminiscent of an Iron & Wine song. The contemplative, longing, and plaintive nature of this instrumental are further buoyed by the following song, “Away We Go.” The vocal effect on this song, while this listener can’t exactly place what is being done, is extremely effective in driving home a languid sense of movement. An air of acceptance pervades this album – sometimes in a quiet, reserved way, other times shifting to feelings of angry acceptance – that I feel was hinted at in previous works released by Morris, albeit being accentuated in his latest work.
As the EP moves along, the type of music for which Asa drove fiercely forward in his past band, Asa Morris and the Mess, starts creeping up in all the right places. “Slow Down” (track three), features overdriven guitar swells that border on brash, demanding the listener’s attention. In fact, although the album is billed as being a lo-fi effort – and it is in many regards – the way in which the songs were arranged sometimes defies the genre. In this listener’s view, there are two main vehicles of storytelling in a song: the song’s lyrics and the song’s instrumentation. Morris displays his ability to weave a narrative together using the latter device throughout this album, but especially on tracks “Slow Down” and “Loud & Sad” (track five and the title track of this EP). While “Paper Bag on Fire” (track four) is seemingly put on the record to segue into the final song, I’m not sure it was necessary to include it, despite the fact that it is admittedly an interesting instrumental.
“Loud & Sad” is extremely chaotic and reminiscent of Robert Fripp’s (King Crimson) guitar work. This chaos, however, is anchored successfully by an underlying bass line that remains fairly consistent throughout the piece. It is probably one of the most avant-garde songs that I am aware of from this artist. My only complaint is that having it as a final track and having the EP be this short in length makes it feel somewhat unfinished. It left this listener wanting to hear even more of the overall new sound that Asa Morris has crafted.
Sharing several performance bills around the Capital Region with Asa throughout his tenure with Asa Morris and the Mess, I was always excited to hear what new sounds would emanate from this artist. From that band’s two main releases If I Say it Enough I’ll Believe it, and Lord, there was an amazing amount of growth in songwriting. Now, with Loud & Sad, this listener is hearing in many ways an expansion on what made Lord a great album, If you ever had the chance to see his former band during those years and enjoyed the shows and music they put out, you will definitely enjoy this EP.