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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Portastatic
Autumn Was A Lark
Merge Records

Rating: NR/10 ?


October 1, 2004
One reason I adore Portastatic's latest full-length, Summer of the Shark, so much is that it indulges many sad or listless feelings but functions as a sort of catharsis upon each listen. It has a strangely healing effect, where the heartbreak and fear lyrically threaded throughout can be simultaneously explored and comforted.

Autumn Was A Lark is a companion to that release, and is similarly touching and therapeutic. Things have taken a decidedly more spare tone this time around, and yet recovery is still in sight. Five newly polished gems begin the disc, so that it can maintain its status as an EP (despite its twelve tracks). Of these, we begin with the seasonal track, "Autumn Got Dark," which takes us squarely to the aftermath of Summer of the Shark. Fast forwarding to a gritty, rollicking number, the sugary highs are pointed as though clamoring to cheer oneself up. As the track decomposes to a slowing, lingering sigh, we are left with the stark reality that despite a trying exterior, reality is still weighted and changed.

Next, we are treated to a cover of Badfinger's "Baby Blue", featuring Tift Merritt on backing vocals. As it begins, "I guess I got what I deserved," with a trudging, retrospective pace in tow, we are reminded of earlier, easier times when heartbreak was far more simple, even na´ve. The cover is appropriately yearning and harmonized in charming, tinny tones.

"Growin' Up," the first of two covers paying tribute to The Boss, is fantastic in reverence and meaning. A tune of maturation and adjustment is humbly captured by Mac's jaunty vocal range; and the mixture of dangling melodies and spot-on energy shows that the two songwriters are of a brilliantly similar disposition: they can turn reflections on serious matters into widely moving anthems, and allow their voices to be that of Everyman. As Springsteen intended, the lyric "I strolled all alone through a fallout zone and came out with my soul untouched," is as powerfully hopeful as it is heartbreaking. Mac not only does the song justice, he taps its true feeling.

A full band version of "In the Lines" fills in imagination from the stripped-down version presented on Summer of the Shark, and is distinctly despondent and slowed from its previous incarnation. The tune is solemn and crushing, yet stands true to the beautiful melody at its foundation.

On the final opener, Ronnie Lane's "One for the Road," Mac evokes a classic, rolling country sound and reinforces the same guarded optimism embodied throughout. While dreams may be broken along the way, the way does continue. This seems to be the poignant theme of Autumn Was A Lark: one of disbelief and mending.

As the recording ventures into solo radio performances unearthed during Portastatic's spring tour, we are left with one man and the annals of his catalog. Felt emotions, vulnerable acoustic renditions, and another look to Springsteen assures the EP a sense of history and sincerity. Autumn Was A Lark does not upstage the events of Summer of the Shark, but it ensures that restoration has continued despite the odds. It is a disc truly worth its weight.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters

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