In 1962 Jack Kerouac released Big Sur, a story about retreating from society's vices and appreciating simple pleasures from a creaky cabin along the fog-banked coastline of Northern California's Bixby Canyon. Battling isolation, alcoholism, and the threat of a complete mental breakdown, he was writing from the end of the road.
Last year Ben Gibbard locked himself in the same spot to pen songs for Death Cab's newest effort, Narrow Stairs, and the resulting work also looms with the darker aspects of extended introspection (in the opener "Bixby, Canyon Bridge" Gibbard notes "here is where it all ends.") Well into in their thirties and noticing friends settle down, both artists begin to realize their freedom from societal norms and obligations has its own cost on the back end. Work hard enough to find yourself, and you might lose everyone else.
Baltimore-based Small Sur's debut album We Live in Houses Made of Wood, out this August via Portland's Tender Loving Empire, manages to stand just above the Pacific's green and blue wake without carrying its weight. It's a meditative soundtrack for aspiring mountaintop lookouts and steamship stowaways.
Recorded/mastered locally and backed by a handful of Bmore talents including Andy Abelow, Austin Stahl (Private Eleanor) and Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack, frontman Bob Keal has patiently assembled an organic, textured collection of handcrafted folk nautica celebrating our perfectly imperfect surroundings.
Sit (or stand) somewhere quiet and have a listen.
Small Sur - Ohhhhh Pt. 1 (from We Live in Houses Made of Wood)