Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Rentals - 'It's Time to Come Home'

July, the middle point of the year, calls for reflection. My dad traditionally declares the summer’s end after every Independence Day celebration. Fall is closer. And then winter. And then the end of the year, beginning another annual cycle, another slow death march to the grave, alone and forgotten. Plus, my Best Album of 2009 list is beginning to take form.

It’s July’s wistfulness in spite of its summery placement that makes it an appropriate month for the Rentals to release It’s Time to Come Home, chapter two in their Songs About Time project. This EP is all about regret (“Late Night Confessions”), nostalgia (“It’s Time to Come Home”), and longing (“Girls of the Metro”). Liner notes split into English and Spanish explain the songs’ histories. Like the band’s seminal release Seven More Minutes, both It’s Time to Come Home and its predecessor, Story of a Thousand Seasons, were conceived in Spain. That’s where the connections end, though.

Just as Seasons sounded mellower compared to 2007’s The Last Little Life EP, Home sounds even more subdued, weirdly recalling the barely there sound of frontman Matt Sharp’s solo material. While still a worthy purchase, it’s the slightest, perhaps least essential Rentals material to date.

The title track opens the album with bits of synth and steady drums before Lauren Chipman’s viola and heavy breathing lend the song some gravitas. “No Desire #2” follows in a similar electronic-heavy style, with slightly more propulsive percussion. “Girls of the Metro,” featuring Ozma vocalist/guitarist Ryan Slegr, is just as dreamy. Jamie Blake takes over on vocals for “Late Night Confessions,” a country-tinged lamentation. As sparse as the first three songs sound, the emergence of an acoustic guitar is actually startling. It also ends an already downplayed release on a depressing note.

It’s Time to Come Home is slight and bare, an EP that passes by rather quickly. The first three tracks blur together after a while. And while it’s not exactly a standout summer record, it is well-suited for a contemplative July.

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