Friday, July 24, 2015

Sean Kiely, Your Logo, My Logo, 2015

Album Review

I'm not really sure if the world has always been like this, but I get the sense that those of us living today -- especially people younger than I am -- take for granted the idea that we're constantly being sold and marketed something. We talk about things like personal brands in regular conversation and take as fact anything that comes across our newsfeeds and timelines, often without question. And, for a lot of us, this all seems totally normal.

On his latest LP, Your Logo, My Logo, I get the feeling that Jersey City singer / songwriter Sean Kiely feels the same way. In these songs, he often conversationally and matter of factly references some of the facets of modern life that can make it feel like we're living in the corporatist dystopia of something like David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, where even the naming rights to calendar years are sold to brands.

The album opens with the overture of "Your Logo," a short combination of acoustic guitar and strings. It leads right into "My Logo," which sets a theme for much of what's to come. It characterizes a relationship between people as kind of a merger of personal brands: "Your logo, my logo blend together..." The arrangement gives the song kind of an Illinois-era Sufjan Stevens feel, though when Kiely sings, "This is what it feels like when God holds you in the palm of his hand," I get the feeling that he's coming at it from a slightly different perspective than Stevens would.

"STEAL / CHEAT / LIE" opens waltz "How You Lie." Kiely sings, "I know the order of this great big world," which apparently involves needing only to watch a movie about Viet Nam to become a trusted TV talking head on the subject.

On single, "Nirvana, If Only!" Kiely toys with the romantic notion of burning out rather than fading away and what it's meant to our images of some of our modern musical icons: "I think it would be meaningful not to survive. In fantasy, I am an Elliott, I am unkind." He ultimately sees that for the fantasy it is, though. "I am Elliott, but I am alive."

Kiely sings, "Me & my bros, we dress the same way. I know the cut of each one of their coats. You are not one of us" on "Me & My Bros." This could be a reference to weekend evenings in Hudson County, when a bearded folk singer could feel a little out of place. "Me & my bros, we sell the same things," by wearing clearly branded and logo-adorned clothing.

Your Logo, My Logo closes with "Leave Us Alone" which opens with Kiely walking the streets in the morning as he allows his mind to "wander to whatever the screens are pushing today." Despite all of the incursions of media, though, the earth keeps going around the sun. Days, weeks, months, years continue to come and go. The sun decides whether to stick around or leave us alone, and it's out of our control.

Your Logo, My Logo has that quiet earnestness of an alt-folk record. Kiely's sense of humor shines through, though. He's able to call attention to some of the absurdities of our modern lives without resorting to "Put down your phone. Stop and smell the roses." simplicity. Kiely is a clever songwriter, an excellent guitar player; and he's given us an excellent 21st century folk album.

Your Logo, My Logo is available now over at Sean Kiely's website.

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