2011 kicked off with a bang. A couple days before the new year started, I got a copy of The King Is Dead by The Decemberists, and immediately called it the album to beat for anyone else putting out records. Then a couple weeks later I heard Dye It Blonde by Smith Westerns, and I was torn. Of course, by the end of the year I’d heard probably a couple hundred albums and while those two still remained in the top ten, it was silly of me to make such a hyperbolic proclamation. So I won’t be doing that again this year. Instead I will say this: We are a mere two weeks into 2012, and I’ve already heard a handfull of albums that could go the distance and be at the top of those year-end lists we music writers are so fond of making.
The first one I heard, and also the best so far, is the new release by Adam Arcuragi. Prior to getting the album, I was completely unaware of the man. He’s been releasing music since 2006, and everything that I’ve heard so far could knock your socks off. On Like a fire that consumes all before it… Arcuragi takes his “death gospel” to another level and really delivers one of those jaw-dropping records that makes one wonder how he’s not a household name.
The first thing I thought after the initial run of the album was that he reminds me of a young Bruce Springsteen, both in voice and in content. This is not a man interested in writing teenage love ballads, this is a man who attacks true relationships in the most beautiful way imagineable. His music is sometimes quite somber and sad, but more often it is uplifiting, spiritual, and honest.
A couple more spins through the record made me realize what a great songwriter Arcuragi is. He never over complicates matters, if something can be said simply he does so. The characters in his songs are never just blank slates that he uses to manipulate the listener. Rather they feel like real flesh and blood people that we can relate to. The album is filled with examples. But why write about it when I can show you in video:
I suppose one reason I enjoy Like a fire that consumes all before it… is the similarities between this and One Body by Sons Of An Illustrious Father that I’m sure you are all sick of me talking about. They both find their influences in american folk and americana, they both feel spiritual in nature. The biggest difference is that Arcuragi is far more fascinated with death. He writes about it a lot in all of his recordings, but it’s never morbid. Instead I think he’s trying to say that, one way or another, we are all going to die. We should be celebrating life and each other as much as we can in the time we have.
Adam Arcuragi, along with his band The Lupine Chorale Society, is starting a national tour on the 18th of January in Los Angeles. He will be stopping here in Chicago on the 30th, playing a free show at Empty Bottle (you must send an email to email@example.com with his name in the subject line for admission). Like a fire that consumes all before it… will be released on the 31st of January, and I urge anyone who loves music to grab a copy.