You Can't Go Home Again
Stereofan's 'You Can't Go Home Again' opens with an invitation: 'Let's ride around and see this town with all of it's/ Colors and sounds bouncing off of this great bazaar of man.' And that is exactly what the listener gets: a variety of characters and perspectives lying alongside rich arrangements and musical texturing. On the heels of their first EP, Stain My Heart (Lelp Records, 2004), Stereofan returns with an even bolder sense of orchestration and harmonic texture, underpinning exquisitely-written songs with rich musical performances. Founded by guitarist Zeb Gould and violinist Megan Weeder as a two-piece ensemble in Bloomington, Indiana, Stereofan's early days were full of experiments in songwriting and four-track recording. In 2004, the pair moved to New York City where Megan found success as a session violinist (performing with Donovan, Sean Lennon, and John Mellencamp), and the two recorded Stain My Heart. It was here also that Zeb began work as an archivist for classical composer Philip Glass, at whose Looking Glass Studios 'You Can't Go Home Again' was recorded. In the recording of this, their first full-length, Gould and Weeder have filled out the band with two additional members: on drum kit, stellar Brooklyn percussionist Timothy Quigley (performer with One Ring Zero, Smokey Hormel, Las Rubias del Norte, Andy Statman, & Jon Birdsong); and covering the bass and piano, longtime musical collaborator and engineer Sam Crawford (performer with Gould in Three on the Tree and engineer on records and film scores by The Impossible Shapes, Bill T. Jones, & Bjork). These four voices come together to form a dense mesh of orchestral strings and rock n' roll rhythms. Many rich and subtle textures underscore this foundation: the Ric Ocasek-like 'Silver Girl' rings with analog keyboard sounds (courtesy of a Roland Juno 60 from the Philip Glass Ensembleís keyboard closet); 'Franny/Zooey' opens with a booming concert bass drum and fast-rolling banjo in a lyrical retelling of Salinger's twin tales; delicate brush and cymbal work pulls together the slow pulse and tragedy of 'Swingman'; and a Belle & Sebastian-esque trumpet heralds the end of 'You & Your Oldest Friend'. Collectively, the four members of Stereofan play over 20 different instruments over the course of the record. Crawford's engineering, coupled with the mastering skills of Doug Henderson (Antony & the Johnsons, Starlight Mints), makes these delicate touches shimmer and enrich the overall musical canvas. But in the end, it is the songwriting that makes this record so special. While many singer-songwriter records tend to focus internally, the best songwriters have always eschewed this myopic approach to tackle a wider breadth of human character and emotion. Gould and Weeder bring out the best in one another as songwriters set on creating and unfolding a rich and poetic world. Consider the sad beauty of 'Scratch Your Face with a Hatbox' where one hopes 'the rain is off your skin/ and thoughts of me are settling in/ for the summertime in the drought season.' Memories are tangible and tragic in this world, and every action carries a hefty weight. This combination of powerful songwriting and deft musical arrangement make Stereofan's 'You Can't Go Home Again' an exceptional release. Through intense lyricism and profound musicality, the record captures a world in which characters are revealed in tiny glances, and where the ghost of a gesture can carry extraordinary weight.