In times of sorrow it seems we craft our greatest work. As we find our emotions wrought with pain, loss and grief, the creative spark within is ignited as if our senses have been lit by a burning light; seeking understanding and comfort as the words, paintings and reels record the very bleeding of our hearts. For Miles Kurosky and his fellow band mates, their well documented personal heartaches of divorce, break-ups and all in between has led to perhaps their most solemn, yet devastatingly breathtaking work of musical art they have collectively lamented upon. It is as if the private endurances have pushed them into the very twilight they find themselves in; teetering on what had appeared to be their demise, Beulah have forged in Yoko what some scribes and poets crave to achieve. The album is artistically responsive, it is an understanding of the sorrow and the successful translation of it into a magnificent collection of multilayered instrumental textures that rage through the scope of cellos, violins, saxophones and pedal steels all while accompanied by sundry penned longing.
From the delicately handled “A Man Like Me”, with its sweeping vocal swoon and temperamental melancholic twists, to the mellow acoustic grace of “Don’t Forget to Breathe”, they impeccably weave the grains of lithe pop and suave rock before sprinkling doses of grand instrumental dynamics and bluesy sentiments. The songs are at opposites to the sparse nature of the disc’s visual features. While both revel in archetypical unhappiness, each plunges into different spectrums of the creative scale. One bides its time in simplicity and illustrative loneliness while the other is a practice in complex audio marksmanship in its interpretation of human despondence and the juggling of immersing oneself in it and graciously facing it with stilted confidence.
While the sullen frailty is a distinct feature that makes its way in the lurking shadows, the air of optimism sparkles so well throughout Yoko. In the seemingly serene “Landslide Baby”; the stillness of the slow onward echo is but shattered into clangy, bouncy and jovial when those celebratory sounding piano fills and jangly basslines swell across its atmosphere. And while the sounds are festive, the lyrical tones of the track would underline a more fleeting romanticism; a cause lost except for the post-relationship indictments and the picking up of the pieces. It is this sort of clever layering of sentimental undertones swept clean by that apparent, indulgent hopefulness that keeps Beulah from falling into weepy and depressing.
In the triumphant “Me and Jesus Don’t Talk Anymore”, Kurosky and gang appear bereft in their countryside narrative; but as the snazzy piano thimbles and the percussion springs, there is an overcoming feeling of amity and the sort of horn-bearing woe that is enveloped in joyous sing-a-longs and communal ambling. And there are few places one can hone their desolation and turn it into wonder and charm; and this here is the place where everyone knows your nom de plume.
Amongst these weary chums are those going by the names “My Side of the City” (a modish garage rock bedfellow), “Hovering” (downtrodden, drifting, but adeptly capable of regaling with the best of them) and a troupe favorite, “You’re Only King Once” (the wise sou’westered traveler with talents as high as the clouds). In this small gathering, these merry men have tested their waters, been through the ups and downs with their When Your Heartstrings Break and their The Coast is Never Clear; they have shared space with the Wilcos and the Spoons in endless comparisons, and once denizens of the streets of Elephant 6, they are now sequestered in these new uncertain domiciles. Unsure of their place in new town, they’ve thrown in their pennies and dusted their casings, canvassed a sparse looking canopy for their work and produced unmatched proclamations for those enduring and recovering. It is a togetherness forged by Beulah’s realization of mortality and their revelations that follow; a reassurance for the spirit. While we could merely ache along, the overriding inclination is for one to embrace this alluring sadness.