[sic] Magazine

Case Studies – This Is Another Life

The Sacred Bones label isn’t known for its singer-songwriters, but in former Dutchess & The Duke songwriter Jesse Lortz , aka Case Studies , they have themselves a good one. His strong debut was nevertheless heavy going, drawing on cathartic tropes from the genre’s masters and sounding out his own well-deserved niche in their shadow. According to Lortz himself, that debut was his “ black record, this one is gray “. He has a point too, for, amongst other things, including country violin and cello, the piano has been introduced into the Case Studies mix for the first time and it adds a breath of freshness if not an outright injection of joviality to proceedings.

As light then as This Is Another Life has to offer, Lortz hits a breezy peak on the whimsical “From Richard Brautigan”, its hand-clapped rhythm unavoidably upbeat. All the same it sits a little uneasily in the greater context of the LP, and though it may be an example of Lortz heading towards his “white” album, it must be said that he seems more at home in the doldrums. Picking up, for example, where superlative cuts like “The Eagle, Or The Serpent” left off, the rather wonderful “House Of Silk, House Of Stone” evokes the dark step and shuffle of Leonard Cohen crossed, perhaps, with the modern journeyman work of Bill Callahan . In turn, the jaunty piano line that tries to escape in “Everything” is quickly smothered by confessional storytelling and dog-eared recollections of the American dream.

Going one step further, “Driving East, And Through Her” is pure travelling music, its country-tinged open-road echoing no other than Bob Dylan , the track pinging and squealing through high-end guitar abuse, at which point it also seems appropriate to make mention of the weird back-masking that ekes out a creaky line of psychedelia during “You Say To Me, You Never Have To Ask”. A bittersweet midpoint, “Villain” even sees Lortz team up with fellow miserablist Marissa Nadler for a touching duet in which the inevitability of bad behaviour is lamented from both sides.

Of course there’s no point telling stories if you have nothing to say however, and the scrunched-up melody of “Passage / Me In The Dark” is made all the more powerful when decorated with takeaways like: “ I never made an enemy who didn’t fall in love with me for a while “. That its bare-bones percussion and guitar are both set to gently weep make it especially affecting and one of a number of a tracks that evoke a familiar timelessness reminiscent of too many greats to list in detail.

How selfish is it precisely to wish an artist remains in an emotional nadir? Screw silver linings. Bring on the black clouds and let it rain.

Advised downloads: “House Of Silk, House Of Stone” and “Passage / Me In The Dark”.

~This Is Another Life is released June 10th on Sacred Bones .~