Gently falling somewhere between the hazy eye-rubbing of Beach House and the long-hair baroque-pop vibes of Love/The Bryds, Jason Quever’s sixth LP Life Among the Savages is an understated exercise of perfectionism and an admirable labour a of love. And, despite spending the past two years tinkering with them in his home production studio, these low-fi stories of growing up, being lost and then finding yourself again have remained remarkably congruent, managing to avoid the tunnel vision that spaced-out recording processes oft fall victim to. It’s an album that Quever tethers to the cold light of day with its whispered tales of love and social confusion, yet the delicious range of ponderous organs, fluttering keys, tentative acoustic strums and his own penchant for moody melody point to something that was really conceived in dreams.
And in a lot of ways, Quever reminds me of Jim Guthrie. Both wrap their melancholy in a warm blanket and seek the fleeting comfort of a good chorus, both draw their colourful arrangements from ‘60s pop, both ache over their own projects and both just sound so honest. But, whilst Guthrie is more interested in sharing his doubts so that others can fight back, Quever seems much more introspective in his approach, bordering on resignation at every turn. Take the catchy title track, on which he opens up on his insecurity about modern life – ‘Out here among the savages, life is a gas’. He fears being dragged into a life he’s escaped, and he can’t cope with the vulturous nature of the modern man. It makes for an interesting question: how can Quever instill the kind of resistant mentality that chants of ‘I choose war’ summon if it sounds like he already chose and lost?
I would argue that the answer is irrelevant because I don’t believe an artist should be defaulted that level of responsibility. Ultimately, Quever uses music as a coping device, fragile or not. ‘Family Portrait’ hinges on this premise – ‘You don’t recognize me? I’m a stranger in the town’ he laments, and so he seeks solace in his studio, carefully crafting his inner response in an environment he can deal with. It’s isolationist and because of that it’s also insular; ‘New Body’ talks of the futility of aesthetical change though metaphor, and ‘Afterlife Blues’ puts on a brave face before turning its back on it all – ‘Sometimes I feel lost in emptiness, play for this, play for the afterlife’ he sings, before delving into an introverted outro of ‘la la las’ and blissful strums. He’s looking away just before the abyss.
Whether you consider this as Quever pussying out or not, Life Among the Savages is an undeniably pretty slice of hybrid pop music, with scenic melodies that evoke genuine compassion and personal admissions that are entirely relatable. But, if you’re looking for a profound turning point here to justify your investment, then it is perhaps reserved for the beautiful closer ‘Tourist’, where Quever finally reaches out beyond the rhetorical and asks, with some considerable humility, ‘Why won’t you help me? I can’t find my way home’. For a man that seems most comfortable shutting out such requests and losing himself in the music he creates, I’d say that’s a big step.
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