[sic] Magazine

Rivulets – Stray Songs: 2000-2010

My introduction to Rivulets was only a few short months ago, by way of the acoustic version of ‘Stead’ from 2003’s Thank You Reykjavic. Since then, I’ve intermittently taken the opportunity to listen to a track here and there and continually reminded myself that I ‘must hear more someday’. Never was a better opportunity presented than with the release of Stray Songs: 2000-2010 – a collection of live versions, alternate takes, covers and songs that have been featured on various compilations – 27 tracks spanning a decade of work.

Ten years is a long time, and Stray Songs quite aptly takes its own time. At just over 140 minutes, Rivulets’ minimalist and primarily acoustic slowcore makes for an occasionally faltering but compelling journey. I tried a few different approaches when attempting to convey both the expanse and intimate nature of that journey in a way that I thought did it justice, and I kept coming back to one memory in particular.

When I was young, during long road trips with my family I’d lean my head against the window and look out as the suburbs faded to country scenery. The vibration of the window would make my ears hum slightly (which I liked because it tuned out most sounds), then I would simply watch as various people passed through my vision. Obviously I only ever caught glimpses, brief moments of other lives, but I found it fascinating. I would imagine what they were doing, where they were going and what they were saying to one another long after I couldn’t see them any more. I still have some vivid memories of those moments and I still wonder.

Listening to Stray Songs reminded me so much of this that my efforts to come up with a better way to describe the effect of the album just couldn‘t express it in the same way, which owes much to its introspective and personal nature having inspired the same kind of reflection. The album is comprised of moments that are, or have been, in various ‘elsewheres’. Like vignettes captured and collected in a singular vision to become a poignant travel through time, easily made both personal and familiar for how they allow you to wonder about them.

The best example of that is when I saw the first track title, ‘I Told Jesus Christ How Much I Love Her’, I thought it was such a richly detailed line. These are the kind of details I appreciate the most, particularly when it comes to lyrics. To put it as succinctly as I can, even though the words tell you something quite clearly, it’s what remains unspoken that captures my attention. My intrigue, however, lies more with just being able to contemplate stories behind words. The tracks are so full of those kind of details that’s there’s rarely a moment I’m not left conjuring my own subtle aspects to them. I always give thanks when songs allow me to do that.

Stray Songs is an appropriate name, while never quite bedraggled, many of them feel like they have travelled a little distance to be brought to one place. Some are slightly weary, some are flawed containing mistakes or stumbles. Others linger going off in their own direction, yet remain subdued. Others still have the blues or are quietly shoegazing, but they all have their own moment to speak of, each is content to wait its turn. And it never feels in the least bit odd that Rivulets’ sometimes painfully sad murmurings are really quite comforting.

If you’re already familiar with Rivulets, Stray Songs will offer a unique view into a 10-year history. For the casual listener or mildly curious, patience is needed and there’s a chance 140 mins will be too long. If you just put it on in the background, you will at least likely be able to appreciate the delicate, softly spoken songs and find them pleasant, soothing and undemanding, while the odd one every now and then will creep out to gently tug at your heartstrings.

But then compilations such as these aren’t generally intended for the same purpose as those of the ‘greatest hits’ variety. They are to add insight and altered perspectives, so they ask for a different kind of attention and not necessarily a long attention span. This is music to close your eyes to and indulge in. While these Stray Songs don’t need close observation, they are all the better if you give it, and I’m sure that Rivulets won’t mind if you set your own pace to do so.

Stray Songs is out now on self-released digital format only. It can be found at Amazon, iTunes and at cdbaby.com