Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fear of Swimming

This past week, Kirsten Opstad released a studio album. She's my bandmate and one of my best friends, so of course I'm going to write about how good it is. That's what I'm supposed to do. One might actually suspect that there was something shut off inside of me if I didn't leave some sort of internet-documented evidence that I enjoyed this album that my partner worked so hard to record.

Here's the thing though: it actually is seriously good.

For those who already know and love Kirsten, this is the album we all hoped she would make. For the uninitiated: do your heart a quick favor. This is a half hour of two- to three-minute songs that will almost definitely make you feel better than you feel right now.

Kirsten Opstad sings with the weathered yet energized charm of a hip young aunt who lets you drink her liquor, tucks you into her afghan after you pass out on the recliner, and makes you an omelet at noon. She's been through all the same bullshit you're going through, and while she'll promise to cut the bullshitters "in the throat," she seems to want nothing more than to lift the spirits of everyone close to her, even--maybe especially--the women she doesn't love anymore.

Fear of Swimming is the kind of album a depressed person can and should memorize. It starts with a burst of resigned frustration, bangs and soars through the usual barrage of guilt and loss, and ends with a wistful shrug on the way to the rest of the world. Each song is a note passed during class--some sweet, some cruel, some glum, some funny, but all desperately honest.

Stylistically, it sounds somewhere in between The Mountain Goats circa The Sunset Tree (with intended compliments to Jon Crawford's production) and Kimya Dawson at her least precious. But the songs are all Kirsten's; to hear these songs is to get to know the singer. And take it from her fake ex, Kirsten Opstad is a great person to know.

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