the bouts with my demons that I have talked about here before; the feeling is neither anxious nor depressed. It's almost meditative, more like my brain needing to take some time to organize the confetti-like bits of thoughts that have become strewn about over time. It can be an odd, mildly unsettling experience, just letting my thoughts wander wherever they want to go. They tend to lead me into an almost dreamlike state where those bits of thoughts, ideas, memories, and whatnot juxtapose into strange combinations, becoming simultaneously familiar and unknown. Yet it is at those times when I do some of my best writing, some of my most effective problem solving, some of my most creative brainstorming. Though it can be a strange journey, it is quite restorative.
Two weeks ago, I was happy to receive my copy of One-Eyed Doll's newest album, Dirty. Regular readers know how I have become a huge fan of the Austin, TX, duo, and when word reached my ears some months ago that a new album was in the works, I was quick to get in on the pre-order list for one of the first 1000 vinyl copies. One-Eyed Doll on vinyl?!? Yes, please! Kimberly Freeman and Jason Rufuss "Junior" Sewell spend a lot of time on the road, however. A lot of time. Since they do everything independently, from touring to recording to distribution to promotion, being on the road meant getting the record out would be delayed. Always connected to their fan base, both Kimberly and Junior kept everyone in the loop, apologizing for the wait and promising it would be worth it. And when the record finally landed on my turntable two Fridays ago, I can tell you without reservation it was worth the wait.
From the first drop of the needle I was taken with the album, and knew immediately I would be raving about it here on the blog. But there was something about this album, something different from all the previous One-Eyed Doll recordings, and at first I couldn't put my finger on it. After two weeks of sitting with the album, it finally struck me: this album takes me to that same sort of place I described above. A place where things are both familiar and unknown, a place where thoughts are shredded and reassembled in ever-changing variations, a place that is unsettling yet restorative.
The strange journey that is Dirty begins with one foot in the familiar. The opening track, "Plumes Of Death," is one of three songs from One-Eyed Doll's back catalog (along with "Roses" and "Fight") that were re-recorded for the new album. All three originally appeared on 2008's Monster. "Plumes" is probably the most different from its original to my ears, although none of the three vary greatly from their earlier incarnation. Still, it's four years later and One-Eyed Doll has matured as a band, so these songs are being performed from a different place. I daresay Kimberly's voice is more confident now; she's playing less of a character here and allowing more emotion to come through.
Settling into a synchronization with Junior has, I think, allowed her to feel more at ease with her own music. Previous albums tempered her pseudo-nightmarish images with winking humor (and succeeded on that level). Junior's strength as a musician lies in his ability to not only interpret Kimberly's songs, but to also anticipate them. He sees where she's going, and is able to clear the path for her. That they implicitly trust each other as artists is apparent, and allows each to occasionally let go of that need to use humor to keep the emotional intensity at bay. Dirty, as a result, is a very open album, a very raw album, yet a very confident and strong album.
The new material on Dirty is among some of the duo's best work. "Dirty Man" is a swampy, bluesy romp; "Envy" (the first video from the album) is a stunning take on trying to measure up to impossible perfection; "Fool Me Once" - my favorite track on the album - tries to break the ties of a relationship that has ended but won't leave.
The music is heavy and cloak-like, and there is a vague melancholy throughout, but it is not a depressed or depressing album by any means. No, this is more like One-Eyed Doll taking a moment after a few years of constant touring, some artistic upheaval, and all of the associated craziness with being an independent band trying to make their mark, and organizing their thoughts and ideas in a darkened room, and just seeing where those thoughts take them. By the time the album closes, they are back to the familiar ("Fight"). They have come full circle, they are fully restored, and they are ready to take on the world again.
Dirty can be purchased directly from the band in either vinyl or CD.