A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Both the record sleeve and the LP decals for Adieu feature a super cute crimson Pomeranian against a striking, cheery chartreuse backdrop. A closer examination reveals the pet being fed with blood from a slit wrist. It’s an apt entry point for Logan Lynn’s jaunty, musical theater-informed song cycle on breakups, mental health, suicidal thoughts, and recovery. Self help never sounded so fun!
Taken at the surface level, Adieu would simply be another peppy, upbeat synthpop record – albeit a very good one – with sharp, tight arrangements and eloquent lyrics. Diving into the lyric sheet (thoughtfully included with the 2xLP) cracks the shiny veneer, revealing an unexpected darkness, as Lynn peels off his skin, to share his shredded nerves and modern-day anxieties, delving into the seamy, sleazy side of life, while sounding like a Threepenny Opera.
Lynn and longtime collaborator Gino Mari broke the mold on Lynn’s traditional methodology, with Lynn writing all the vocals and lyrics acapella, then bringing them into the studio for further embellishment, both synthetic and organic. Classic piano pop – a la Ben Folds, Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman – meet lo-fi synths and canned beats, as heard on album opener double header “I Like It All The Time” followed by “Go There Where You Want To Be Loved” – the catchiest, most tuneful take on abandonment you’re likely to hear this month.
The melodicism and catchy arrangements – like the toppling piano chords and pots-and-pans percussion of “Go There” – are a perfect microcosm of what makes this album so exceptional, so unique, so palatable. Lynn laces the abyss with a wheelbarrow full of sugary Indie Pop.
Lynn cites classic College Rock as some of the main influences on Adieu – Elliott Smith and R.E.M. – along with more modern Indie electronic acts like Chvrches and Portland’s Chromatics. Even more pertinently, i would add another Portland band, The Decemberists, to the list, and, even more so, the synth-infused singer/songwriter-dom of The Postal Service. Lynn’s warm, reedy vocals owe allegiance to both Pacific Northwestern mainstays, as well as The Decemberists’ unique storytelling quality and Ben Gibbard‘s ability to make melancholy sound downright desirable.
Lynn is no stranger to melancholy, or other forms of mental illness. He celebrated eight years sobriety from cocaine addiction and alcoholism shortly before releasing Adieu. In that time, Lynn’s been active in raising awareness of mental health, most notably through his Keep Oregon Well campaign, which has featured performances from an impressive list of musicians, including: Bleachers, Kevin Bacon, Sia, Band of Horses, The Dandy Warhols, Kanye West, Of Monsters And Men, Pete Yorn, Charli XCX, Walk Off The Earth, Britney Spears, U2, Kurt Vile, Flo Rida, Priory, Ariana Grande, Radical Face, Michael Franti, Tori Kelly, WET, Josh Ritter, David Gray, Cheryl Strayed, Matt Nathanson, Collective Soul, Blitzen Trapper, The 1975, Violent Femmes, Beirut, Graham Nash, EL VY, Tegan and Sara, Ra Ra Riot, Lissie, Blind Pilot, Charles Bradley, Third Eye Blind, Dar Williams, Cage The Elephant, Jason Isbell, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, JoJo, Twenty-One Pilots, Debbie Gibson, Kyle Craft, CJ McCollum & Portland Trail Blazers, Phillip Phillips, X Ambassadors, Florida Georgia Line, Vintage Trouble, Backstreet Boys, The Heavy, Brian Fallon, Tears For Fears, Usher, Nada Surf, Sam Hunt, Panic! At The Disco, The Chainsmokers, Sting, Jay Mohr, Billy Idol, Miley Cyrus, and Mike Doughty.
Adieu is particularly well-suited for the vinyl format. First off, the blood red double platter is ridiculously attractive – you’ll want to pull it out just to stare at it as often as dropping the needle in the grooves. The longform, uninterrupted format lends itself to close scrutiny of Lynn’s painfully fabulous piano pop. With digital music, it’s all-too-easy to let things just wash over your ears and back out again, like a New England tide. With three or four tracks per side, it’s easier to take the album track-by-track, as well as whole-cloth, which is to its benefit, as Adieu features great songs and actual tunes, like the ridiculously catchy “The One” or the glammy, seductive “Before The Truth Comes Out”.
Adieu is also a particularly Portland album. Although there is no single overarching aesthetic in this fair City Of Roses, a playful disposition, ironic sense of humor, and an accessibility masking hidden, somber depths is a pretty good musical analogy of what it’s like here. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s so damn pretty in Portland, while also being almost suicidally bleak half of the year, due to omnipresent rain and cloud coverage. Or maybe it’s the juxtaposition of the wealthy, beautiful, and fabulous against true desperation, mental illness, addiction, poverty, and buried prejudices from Portland’s past, coming together for a tango to the death.
While the identity and the future of Portland, Or. are still being fought over, in real time, hearing real Portland is more important than it’s ever been. This city’s become what it is by being welcoming to artists and weirdos. As is always the case with late capitalism, there runs the risk of those who created the culture no longer being able to live here and enjoy it, like every other cultural center of the United States in the last 100 years. Here’s your chance to both support Real Portland Art & Music, while also hearing a small sliver of what it actually sounds like.
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Tune into every Sunday night/Monday morning for Morningstar: The Light In The Darkness @ Freeform Portland! Exploring the dark side of techno, hip-hop, shoegaze, metal, psych, folk, and soundtrack. You can listen to the archives online at mixcloud.com/for3stpunk.