It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since The Elected released Sun, Sun, Sun. It’s even harder to believe that the last time Blake Sennett released anything was the last album by Rilo Kiley (let’s face it, probably the last one ever) Under the Blacklight. In his time off, he went back into the film world, essentially retiring in 2010, only to be brought back to music through a friend’s request to record with him.
If I ever meet the man who got Blake back in the studio, I’m gonna give him a big hug (or a high five a la The Todd, his choice). Bury Me In My Rings gives us The Elected’s finest work to date, and probably Mr. Sennett’s best work since The Execution of All Things. The album is filled with beautiful love songs, catchy pop hooks, and that unbelievably soft and vulnerable voice. In a year full of great albums so far, this is no exception.
There’s a great deal of bittersweet hopefulness throughout this record. Never more apparent than the song “This Will Be Worth It.” This is the most heavily produced song on the record, the background is full of ambient noise. But the words, and a very simple piano base make the song a triumphant declaration of overcoming obstacles. The chorus is not at all complex, but it speaks volumes:
This, this will be worth it
When it’s all said and done
Promise and smiles
Because you know, you know we deserve it
You know that we earned it
Release the doves and let them fly
There are some oddities on the record as well. In my mind anyway. The song “Look At Me Now” feels like the guitar part was completely stolen from a Jack Johnson composition. But Sennett turns it into something more by blending it with 70’s AM radio feel. It’s one of my favorites on Bury Me In My Rings, but the first time I heard it I was like “Oh snap! Did Blake Sennett steal this from Jack Johnson?” Of course Jack Johnson couldn’t write a good song if Dylan were whispering the words in his ear, so I’m guessing that isn’t the case.
There’s all kinds of great stuff besides what I’ve already mentioned. The song “Go For The Throat” adds a bit of funk to the mix. Blake played the majority of the instruments on this record, and he proves himself to be quite proficient at all of them. “Have You Been Cheated” gives off that 50’s “Earth Angel” vibe that I’ve mentioned enjoying over and over.
The brilliance of this album gives me pause as I’m writing this. For years I was listening to Rilo Kiley thinking that Jenny Lewis was the one delivering the majority of the stuff I enjoyed, but based on their solo output, I think that maybe Blake had more to do with my enjoyment. The song “Ripchord” has long been one of my favorites from that band, and he seems to have provided more of the pop-influenced tracks like “With Arms Outstretched” while Lewis was handling the folkier, country-tinged business like “I Never.”
With her last couple of albums, Acid Tongue and the duet with her boyfriend We’re Having Fun Now, I’ve realized that the thin line between liking something and loathing something is razor thin. Bury Me In My Rings reminds me of Sennett’s best earlier works, but trumps them in almost every respect, while Lewis’ work leaves me cold and wondering what the hell happened.
If you can’t tell by now, I’m recommending this record. I think a lot of what’s going on in the songs here is Blake overcoming some fears that he has had about the breakup of his band, and going it alone from here on out. Honestly, he has nothing to worry about. This has been an absolutely joy to listen to over the past couple of weeks. I can’t wait to hear these songs live at Schubas in early July.