Thursday, June 17, 2010

EP Review: Honored Guests Into Nostalgia

The Honored Guests Into Nostalgia EP Album Art
(Breakfast Mascot Music)

One of the welcome outcomes of the recent implosion of the music industry has been the reemergence of the EP as the de facto release format for independent artists. Enter on cue the The Honored Guests' new release Into Nostalgia, a record not only designed musically for the middle distances of the EP but one that also dives headlong into thematic issues of size, proportion, scale, and measure.

While the Guests’ first two releases, iawokeinacityasleep and Tastes Change, established their bend for the reflective and the understated as well as their interest in notions of maturity, Into Nostalgia is their first fully mature record; it expresses throughout the wisdom of those who have lived a little space beyond the false bravado and certain idealisms of youth. Just a few years ago the Guests were one of the more nomadic local bands, playing shows anywhere from Florida to California; now, they’re comfortably settled down, pleased to spend the long winter making a record and emerging every so often to play a local show.

As the title of the EP suggests, the heart of these songs’ maturity rests in a wholesale understanding of nostalgia. Too often a dress-up emotion donned by young artists, nostalgia is here presented in its proper light, full of both the self-discovery and the self-deception involved in why and how we remember. While the sprightly, Brit-poppish “Jimmy’s A Cop Now” represents frontman Russ Baggett’s clearest and most sustained sojourn into specific memory, it is on the gorgeous standout track “Paper Cuts” where his keen insight into the meaning of these memories finds fullest form. “Taken one by one, paper cuts, “ Baggett sings over a breezily-strummed acoustic guitar, “funny how the world sized me up.”

It is this bittersweet recognition that the world has our measure, despite all of our efforts to the contrary, that shines through here and pervades the beautiful simplicity and space of the Guests’ arrangements. They remind us that it often isn’t the momentous and large-scale lapses that wound us most meaningfully, but the thousand little cuts that the world inflicts. With this recognition, however, comes not bitterness and resentment but a certain happy resignation and even love for the world as it is.

Nostalgia is a fiction, we’re told, an artist’s rendering of the past. Into Nostalgia expresses a devout wish to move beyond the false tones of artifice. “I want you to see through me,” Baggett announces on the EP’s concluding track, “I don’t like how words suggest when the poetry’s right.” Not that the Guests have given up on their feverish dream poetry; see, for instance, the marvelous, lulling “Chasing Some Wild Sheep Chasing the Wasp.” But there is something clear and stark here that propels the six tracks purposefully, something that’s wary of indulgence or saying too much. Something that wants to feel exactly right. --Hidden Tiger

post script
The Honored Guests play their first show after releasing this EP at Nightlight in Chapel Hill on Saturday June 26 with Pros and Cons , and Western Civ. 10 PM $5 cover.

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