“I just wanna be where the honey is sweetest,” is the mindset of The Decent Lovers’ singer/songwriter Elijah Wyman. A man who, in 2007, became deathly ill and received a kidney transplant from label-mate/collaborator Jason Rozens. Apart from internal organs, the two also swap beats and song ideas in the band’s overlooked April 2012 release, Quit Trying.
Asheville, North Carolina’s Wyman writes on his Facebook wall, “All I do is swap samples with friends, write songs, and avoid cleaning the house. I love my life.” His insidious positivity is as much an instrument on Quit Trying, as the staccato xylophone plinks and the autoharp reverbs into the structure of the EP. Coincidentally the optimistic beats on songs like “Beautiful Houses” are well suited for a cleaning-house mindset.
Opener “Bold As Lions” has a dreamy soundscape of an intimate proclamation that Wyman is truly a worthy suitor. “I am the spark that ignites your smile, I have a map of your spine in my mind, I was every bit as tall as mountains.” What more could you want from a lover?
The synth-driven “Year Of The Flame” is credited to Rozen’s band Seer Group. The song’s fuzzy languor successfully breaks up the otherwise enthusiastic Quit Trying.” “No matter what you’re doin’, the water keeps movin’ ” quips Wyman with Taoist poise, an outlook undeniably influenced by dealing with (and surviving) a terminal illness.
The warbly duet “Underfence Passes” is reminiscent of Gotye’s “Someone I Used to Know,” except coy and demure with its sentiments instead of straight-up lamentation. Emily Easterly’s slinky cadence compliments Wyman’s voice (and harp) as they swirl together in emotional crescendo.
Underneath the off-kilter guitar strums and idiosyncratic percussion, there’s a subtle conflict: “Sometimes the sunshine makes you sad, sometimes a rainy day makes you smile” he decrees on “I Don’t Want To Be A Decent Lover.” The singer’s cheerful wail belies a desire to create honest pop music, songs about former lovers such as, “Abilene” when, “We were 16 and music could mean most anything.” Wyman is striving to be more than just a “Decent Lover”: “I don’t wanna write songs that you kinda like / I want ‘em on repeat in your head all night.” He’s attempting to give listeners what they want.
However, Wyman’s unabashed sincerity is also the his greatest weakness, the cutesy indie-rock vibe that perpetuates his songs is thoroughly mid-2000s (similar to Architecture in Helsinki or Boy Least Likely To) and I can’t help but think that if this were 2004 he’d really have something. Except Wyman is a man with nothing to lose; there’s an undeniable passion and joy in his voice. If his music isn’t culturally relevant does that make it inadequate?
Perhaps not. This release resonates as a cheerful retort to anyone who might suggest he Quit Trying.