Since


Band: Richard Buckner
Album: Since
Best song: “Ariel Ramirez” is brilliant. “Jewelbomb” is awesome, “Believer” is a classic. The whole record is great.
Worst song: No, it’s all good.

For the life of me, I do not understand why Richard Buckner isn’t the world’s biggest alt-country artist. While Ryan Adams cashes huge checks and is the subject of a thousand teenage crushes, Buckner still plays half sold-out shows to weary truckers, granola eaters and NPR listeners.

Indeed, Buckner’s finest moments on wax are far more sincere, tender and evocative than the average folk/country/indie record. While Adams looks to be young, American and handsome, Buckner looks like he could be your deadbeat cousin. The one who smokes too much weed, but holds down a job hanging drywall or installing

I guess Adams is a bad analogue, as his preening and lucky timing (“New York, New York” was a single released in the fall of 2001) have made him a just-under-the-radar household name. Moreover, his sunny optimism (in a genre not usually marked by such feeling) permeates his songs.

Richard Buckner, on the other hand, writes about his divorce.

Buckner’s first records were decidedly folky affairs. Bloomed‘s best single — the tender and passionate “The Worst Way” — is simply Buckner, his guitar and his tears. His two subsequent records play similarly; Buckner sounds like a wounded bird, relaying his sorrow across his records.

Since is a more amped up affair. “Believer” is a rocker, driven by a strong electric guitar riff. “Jewelbomb” is a love letter infused with easy sarcasm. “The Ocean Cliff’s Clearing” is wonderfully arrange. Though without drums, the song’s layered guitars and piano emphasis show a more mature songwriter.

Buckner’s stripped-down sound remains, on much of the record. “Ariel Ramirez,” “Raze” and “Slept” all feature Buckner and his guitar. And nothing else. Each contains a guitar line that echoes Buckner’s melody.

The album is decidedly confessional and decidedly intimate. Buckner laments his loneliness in “10-Day Room,” serenades on “Jewelbomb” and warns on “Boys, The Night Will Bury You.” “Goner w/Souvenir” tells the story of a mental and physical long distance relationship. “Ariel Ramirez” — used in a Subaru ad, for some reason — has as much energy in its long pauses as it does in Buckner’s slowly picking guitar lines. “Coursed” speaks of a woman in an untenable situation as Buckner intones that she “stood on back with a heart attack and took the smoke out for a ride.”

Since‘s sincerity is what drives the record. When Buckner warns “before I’m inside, you’d better know,” he means it, only to follow “let’s make our own/wake up in some wild, familiar time.” He sounds broken singing “I kept your poem here/with all my other gear.” “Took a turn and a scattered look” paints his picture of a woman in “Lucky Buzz” with the level of sincerity Adams reserves for his smirking irony, only for Buckner to sarcastically mention “we’re the lucky ones.”

I’ve left the self-indulgent bit to the end, because no one really cares how I got into certain records. In this case, my junior year of high school, I was the music director of WNTH Radio, New Trier’s radio station located on the fifth floor of our school (I used to pee off the roof sometimes on night shifts).

Anyway, when I became music director, I would listen to anything that came from certain labels or had associations with certain musicians (aka Thrill Jockey, Touch & Go, Merge and the like).

One of the names adorning the cover of Since is John McEntire’s. McEntire is the drummer and producer in one of my favorite bands, Tortoise. I knew absolutely nothing about Since and fell in love with an album I otherwise wouldn’t have seen.

Indeed, this randomness is something I miss about music exploration. In the name of efficiency (mainlining music I’d probably enjoy thanks to my tastes), sites like Pandora and Last.fm have careful algorithms to make it such that the new music is similar to the music I already enjoy.

But, like the streamlined and niche news I enjoy, I’ve not branched out into new music solely because someone played on it or I liked the album cover. This is the end of radio, of course, and the end of the record store. So it goes, I guess.

But, I’ll never forget the feeling of listening to “Believer,” Since‘s opening track, for the first time. It was new, it was interesting. It was something.

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