Heller Mason | Minimalist & Anchored (Silber)

cd_hellerEssentially a band of collaborators in support of the songwriting of Todd Vandenberg, Heller Mason portrays a dampened soul dipping its oar in a lake of grey humilities.

 

 

 

 

 

When listening to the music of Heller Mason, there lies contentment in spite of the absence of monumental achievement or overblown, swaggering self-aggrandizement. The tones are subtle, the lyrics earnest, and the mood reflective. Essentially a band of collaborators in support of the songwriting of Todd Vandenberg, Heller Mason portrays a dampened soul dipping its oar in a lake of grey humilities.

An album three years in the making, running the gambit from Vandenberg's solo acoustic renditions to the rounded expanses of numerous guest musicians, Minimalist & Anchored is every bit true to the sentiments of its title. Beginning with the trudging pessimism of "After All Is Said & Done, More Was Said Than Done," Vandenberg presents a stabilized loneliness, a man blissfully holed away in the forgotten recess of Little Chute, Wisc. Whispering aloud, harmonizing with sympathetic falsettos, his voice tells simple tales, unapologetically admitting faults to a world that is surely not listening. It is in this light that Vandenberg's most aching truths are exposed: the losses we refuse to let go of, the lies we tell ourselves, and the easy comfort of pushing it all aside.

There is nothing groundbreaking about Vandenberg's playing, but his effective expression of all the aforementioned themes is what makes Minimalist & Anchored worthwhile. Accompanied by the slow tugs of warm, wintry strings, soft female vocals and the rural notion of lap steel, Vandenberg rarely shifts tones or rhythm, yet his youth brings vitality to an otherwise depressing proposition. Although his style will most likely be dubbed acoustic-indie rock, there are borders of old country, shades of Neil Young, and the pure heart of folk.

One of the rare instances in which Heller Mason picks up the pace is on "Packing My Bags for Hell," clearly the standout on an album that relies more on cogency than contrasts. It's the type of song that you play on the last leg of a long trip home, singing along as Vandenberg runs alongside stammering drums, lamenting an inevitable wave that will "destroy every dream that you've had." However, the band's determination never falters, almost lifting their leader up as the music lays a gentle hand on a falling mind. Of the lonesome crooners, of which there are many, the best include "Drown the Village on the Maine Coast," "I Hate Deana & You're Being Dramatic," and the title track.

A perfect rainy-day album and a possible candidate for a warm summer sunset, Minimalist & Anchored will inevitably invite you to enjoy the quiet, as well as the disquietudes of life. It seems that Vandenberg is suggesting that we all learn to embrace the losses of others, and that we all try to find the peace of solitude, all while keeping the dreams that drive us in our peripheries. B | Dave Jasmon

RIYL: Mark Kozelek, Owen, Midlake

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