Nearly six years after his last release, indie rock veteran Jeff Martin of Idaho opens up his latest album You Were a Dick with the line “I hope you don’t take it personally that I disappeared like that” on the title track, an olive branch sure to resonate well with his loyal fan base. With this mentality, Martin puts his vulnerability on the table as soon as the listener hits play.
This album has all the qualities that have made Idaho records great in the past, minus Martin’s classic 4-string baritone guitar licks that symbolically put his personal signature on most other records. “Impaler” (ironically number 4 on the tracklist) is the first track in which the baritone guitar gets a feature role, and even then it is minimal. Martin creates heavy textures of Wurlitzer piano, feedback, and acoustic guitar on songs like “Weigh it Down,” a beautiful song in which Martin unexpectedly stops singing and allows a higher-octave female voice to finish the song for him. A piano and acoustic guitar accompany Martin on “Reminder,” in which he states “pull yourself together and it won’t hurt anymore,” a line nearly inaudible at the end as he fades out his own shaky vocals.
Lyrics such as these are given a personality as Martin seems to battle with whether or not he truly believes what he is saying. In “The Happiest Girl,” his vocal production switches to a lo-fi background noise as he shakily sings “I want to make you the happiest girl in the world.” This is immediately contrasted by the confidence and volume exemplified in the next song, “The Space Between,” as Martin nearly shouts “you’re not givin’ me the dedication I want!”
Fourteen songs, most ending around the two-and-a-half minute mark, of introspection and examination make up Idaho’s return. Much of the genius of these songs lies in the journey they take the listener on in such a short amount of time. While most of them are primarily based on musical hooks reminiscent of older Eels or Soul Coughing, Idaho never gets stuck into a jam, and aren’t afraid to venture into atypical chord progressions. This album tries hard to tug your heartstrings in unconventional ways, and often succeeds. A hint of an opera singer glimmers in the layers of vocals in “A Million Reasons.” Complex acoustic guitar tapping flows effortlessly on “The Setting Sun.” And even though Martin channels a lower octaved-Prince voice in the last track “What was That?” the harmonic-ridden guitar strumming that finishes this album officially makes You Were a Dick a comeback album worthy of purchasing.
Guest Rating: 9.5/11
Can’t Miss: “Weigh it Down” “The Happiest Girl” “A Million Reasons”
Can’t Hit: “What was That?”
Author’s Note: You can stream this album in its entirety at Idaho’s Bandcamp site, and also purchase it in just about any form you would like. Any physical form of purchase includes extra tracks and Martin’s short film The Serpent and the Shadow.