America begins without any cushion. Drummer Chris McFarlane and singer/guitarist Clyde Petersen trip beat- and lyrics-first into the first verse of “Should’ve Known Better” and from there it’s the free-fall off of a two-story roof, the bruised breathlessness upon thudding, the embarrassment and gratefulness of being mostly ok.
Petersen has carried the Your Heart Breaks project from Bloomington to Seattle and a few other bases, but the geography of America is even vaster, transcontinental. Hearing this rainy northwestern band give life to stories of Florida, New Jersey, Arizona is wildly refreshing. The album is equal parts road-trip anthem and hometown lament. Characters are “drunk on blood and small-town power.” They’re driven away by escapist necessity, but eventually reclaimed by instincts “like homing pigeons.” Like any artistic reckoning with America worth its (Atlantic/Pacific/McDonald’s french fry) salt, the romance of America isn’t delivered through polemics or nostalgia or denial, but through the characters, by living in it. Listen to the details Petersen pumps into these songs and try not to fall in love. Kids in Phoenix chugging cans of warm energy drink. Someone’s first hurricane season. A yellow Jaguar with leopard-print seats. Decades of gay jokes. Slow internet. 64-oz margarita Miami. Near-future neo-Atlantis-Miami. Punks and queers in every state. California.
A clunky attempt at triangulation: it’s as melodically perfect as Drag the River, piercing as Steve Earle’s El Corazon and confident as Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark. For a better idea, listen to the songs below.
P.S.: Karl Blau–frequent YHB collaborator–contributes some of his best saxophone work to date, especially on “The Echo and the Ocean.”