Jeremy Larson is not the kind of musician who will ever have a Top 40 hit song. He’ll probably never sell out amphitheaters or have a music video on MTV. But that’s okay, because his music doesn’t need that. The type of beauty he can achieve over the course of an album is the kind that belongs between him and a listener, preferably with headphones. They Reappear is an album. This is an art form that seems to be missing from much music today, but Jeremy has mastered the craft.
There are no standout tracks, and there aren’t meant to be any. This is a cohesive body of work designed to spark imagination through a variety of themes and expert musicianship, as if it were a score to a movie that has not yet been filmed. It is cinematic and intimate, dynamic and moving, and the type of album that demands time and focus to reap the many rewards that Larson has orchestrated. This is a true masterpiece, an album that is as imaginative and intelligent as any classical piece of music or art, and a kind of work that is unique in today’s musical environment. So put on your headphones, and get lost in the world that Jeremy has created for you. You won’t be disappointed.
The album opens with “Descending”, featuring an opening string motive that calls to mind a film overture before quickly dying away to a simple fingerpicked guitar part, minimalist drums and bass, and Jeremy’s endearing voice. The strings pick up again in the second verse, playing behind the vocal melody and perfectly setting the tone of the song before taking the foreground for a brief movement that is reminiscent of a slow ballroom dance, before a final chorus and fading acoustic guitar. Most notably missing from the song is the piano that has driven nearly all of Larson’s past work. On paper, it might seem a bold statement to open an album without one of the key elements of his music, but the track is so beautiful that it’s easy to forget that it isn’t there.
Immediately following the opener is “Ricochet”, with seems to follow a similar pattern as the previous track in terms of structure, as an instrumental intro to the song features dissonant horns over strings, guitar, piano, and drums. When the verse comes in, the strings fall away to an intricate rain-like piano bit and Jeremy’s honest voice painting a story of two lovers looking backward in time on their growth from friends to more than friends.
The transition from “Ricochet” into “Half Speed” is so flawless that it’s easy to miss the change. As the title suggests, the song is a bit slower, with acoustic guitars and a vocal melody setting an ambient sort of tone. As strings come in a third of the way through, harmonies echo in the background, enabling the listener to get lost in the sound. Drums come in near the midpoint of the song to add a touch more structure, though it’s difficult to be brought out of the trance evoked by the rest of the instrumentation and vocals before the song fades out.
“Murmer/Exhale” is the first of six instrumental tracks on the album that serve as transitions between the other songs, and it takes one on a short trip through several emotions before leading into the swirling and buzzing introduction of “Doe Eyed Children”. As the chaos dies down, Larson’s voice returns over a simple and evocative minor piano part that is soon joined by drums and strings to drive the song into a chorus that becomes a bit more drawn out in the best way possible. The motive from the preceding instrumental track returns following the chorus and throughout the second verse, giving a greater sense of unity to the two songs. After the second chorus, there is another chaotic instrumental break that, though different from the introduction, has a similar feel, as it plays with dissonance to great effect before ending with a final chorus.
Listen to “Bedside Manner”: [audio:http://mindequalsblown.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/6-bedside-manner.mp3|titles=Jeremy Larson – Bedside Manner]
A quick piano part begins “Bedside Manner”, a track that is somewhat similar to Larson’s previous work in terms of melody and instrumentation. The theme of descending returns in the lyrics to this song, though in a different context from the first song. Rather than descending into love, this time the song’s character finds himself in a “gradual descent into abandonment”. Though an upbeat piano part drives the verses forward, there are still quite a few interesting string bits throughout the song, and they take the foreground toward the end of the track before it blends into “Night Terrors”, an instrumental track that lives up to its name, with an introspective chord progression on piano and chaos in the drums and strings layered over the top. In much of his past work, Jeremy’s piano parts often have a watery feel to them, and that quality really shines through here and on the previous track.
Though a large-sounding string movement opens “Empire”, it fades away to a more intimate sound of Jeremy singing over a melodic piano part and minimal drums, though when the chorus comes, the strings return to restore the epic feel of the intro. The song uses dynamic changes to its advantage throughout, as the development from the quieter verses to the more densely orchestrated choruses leaves listeners following every note. Jeremy’s technical piano skills are used masterfully in the bridge of the song, as he creates a rippling sound that’s so beautiful one wishes for it to return once it’s over.
“Provoke”, the third instrumental track, is reminiscent of the score of a movie like 300, as the marching drums set the stage for sweeping strings that would be appropriate leading into some sort of battle, be it physical violence or internal struggle. “Day Residue” features jazzy piano chords and one of the catchiest choruses on the album. The subtle acoustic guitar behind the strings and piano adds a wonderful texture to the track.
“Circadian Cues” begins with moving chords on the piano before strings join in to lull listeners into a trance, playing variations on a beautiful motive before cutting to the fingerpicked guitar of “Intervention”. Drums and piano come in midway through the verse to resume the jazz feel from “Day Residue”, before a moving prechorus picks the song up as it leads to a bright chorus that brings out the airy qualities of Jeremy’s voice. The bridge features another excellent display of piano abilities and some of the best lyrics on the album. “Remission” shows off the brilliance of Jeremy’s piano skills as he knows how to switch between faster, more technical parts and chord-driven, minimalist portions in order to achieve the greatest effect with the melodies playing in the strings.
The longest track on They Reappear, “Stirring”, is the one that is most driven by the lyrics and vocal melody, as they carry the verses of the song in a way that the heavy orchestration of most other tracks does not allow for. When Jeremy pleads “just stay” and “don’t go” in the chorus, it makes you glad you aren’t the one leaving him behind. Following the change in tone around three minutes in, the theme of dreams suggested by the titles “Night Terrors” and “Circadian Cues” comes through in the lyrics as he sings that he “awoke from a terrible dream with a haunting and strange melody”, which is one of my favorite lines from the album, as the delivery is very personal in a way somewhat different from the rest of the track, but with the same intimacy and honesty that is present throughout the song. Although it’s over five minutes long, “Stirring” never loses focus and easily keeps a listener’s attention for the duration of the piece.
“Parasomnias”, the final instrumental track, begins with an initial violin melody over quickly-moving lower strings and piano that lives up to the title of the song before transitioning into a more peaceful movement that seems to resolve the restless sleep from earlier in the album to a calmer state that has been unreachable until now. The title track “They Reappear” is a fitting ending for the the album, with slow and straightforward piano and guitar chords alternating underneath Jeremy singing lyrics that find him addressing God as strings come in for a final movement that ends the album on a restful note.
They Reappear is the kind of record that makes me want to wander around alone late at night. The rich orchestration is something to give in to, sensing the emotion behind every note or motive, getting lost in the story behind the words. When I said this was a masterpiece, I meant it. The anticipation and expectations I had for this album were far surpassed, and I doubt there will be another release this year that meets the overall feeling that this body of work is able to evoke. It is dense, dynamic, and moving – just the sort of creation that allows music to be classified as “art”. So go ahead and listen with an open and attentive ear and imagination; it would be a shame to miss out on such a wonderful experience.