(2008) An Optimist Notes the Dusk / V0
...Gone are the country-rock meanderings and wide-eyed charm of 2004’s A Guess At Riddle – Grubbs’ most song-oriented effort to date. On Optimist, Grubbs trades the verse-chorus structures and jaunty vibes for slithering guitar compositions and a pervasive air of eeriness. The approach isn’t without precedent in Grubbs’ vast body of work (especially among his more experimental output on his own Blue Chopsticks imprint), but stands in stark contrast when compared to his other lyric-based records. Most distinctly, Optimist conveys a somber maturity and doleful outlook where youthful exuberance once stood.
Optimist reads much like a concept record, maintaining its mood lyrically and musically as it progresses. Grubbs establishes connections from track to track, harping solemnly on age and death through metaphorical allusions to night and knives. It all culminates in “The Not-So-Distant” – a 12-minute piece of monstrous bass growls that bring to mind Oren Ambarchi’s recent guitar compositions. The track even touches on the chilling drones from Grubbs’ 2007 collaboration with poet Susan Howe, growing to a brooding climax before acquiescing into the black.
Though it may lack the immediate appeal of Grubbs’ more hook-oriented solo records, Optimist leaves a lingering impact through the weight of its content. At the very least, it stands as one of his most compellingly poetic works – a sober challenge for the daydreamers of today.
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