There’s something soul-crushingly familiar about Orlando Gloom’s album art for his latest release, An Evening With Orlando. The five-song EP was Dave Shaw’s “coping mechanism while attending grad school,” and I’d hazard most grads recognize the spaced-out, bulldozed look in his eye as he lifts a glass of wine to his face.
But just as that despair is offset by Shaw’s word play for his stage name (and album title), so it is with his music. From the opening track, “Hang In Life,” onwards, deep, gloomy vocals find themselves undone by bouncing, catchy rhythms–jaunty melodies cutting a step right through Shaw’s Joy Division-esque vocals.
“I’m afraid of being loved/ because I’m afraid what’s in my heart is not enough,” he starts on “Nervous Conditions,” the 80s dance beat perfectly undercutting the dramatic confessional. As the song’s lyrics engage in their own push and pull (“But you make me want to try”) Shaw lays out the tension between our desires–a feeling that’s all too familiar for this graduate.
Shaw’s voice is rich and classical as it veers into the moderately slower “Tongue-Tied,” and taking advantage of the song’s lenient pace to play up the dark, near-monotone of his lethargic anxieties. The result is almost trans-like as Shaw’s voice syncs up to the music in parts, a semi-regular skip that lures you in with its eclectic combination.
There’s almost more to the title “Crying Like A Man,” until the chorus comes in and Shaw adds, “When I’m smiling, I’m doing the best that I can.” Paired with punching beats and that old-school finish, it’s bleakly beautiful, and surprisingly evocative of Shaw’s masked turmoil.
“Falling Behind” makes use of Terence McKenna’s lecture “The Taxonomy of Illusion” for an unexpected cold open–and a way into Shaw’s own questioning–the words of the lecture fading out as McKenna begins his questioning of Western ideals and the Platonic search for Truth.
The last track is ultimately the culmination of Shaw’s underscored worries from the past five songs as it searches for meaning and purpose. And yet, as it so often does in classic works, Shaw ends his search by committing himself to the very thing that’s caused all his trouble. All that pain makes the reward far too sweet to resist.
Top Track: “Falling Behind”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)