Addiction is a horrible thing. You find comfort and wholeness in something that inevitably will destroy you, crushing your loved ones and turning your life into another statistic. My addiction is Rainer Maria’s A Better Version of Me and it’s ruining my life. If I start one more work day spinning this CD and singing poetic lines from it’s content on the bus one more time, I’m jumping on the third rail and putting an end to this madness.
I admit it, I have an English degree. I find the lost art of poetry to be beautiful. I find interesting and new ways to express emotions in language to be an amazing thing and I think that Rainer Maria has finally figured out how to compliment their thoughtful poetics with pop-like music dynamics. Matured vocal power and solid song structure have replaced the cacophonous ways of their youth. Where once their darkness was lost in their own self-absorption and disjointed experimentation, now this displaced midwest trio from New York has learned how to present themselves much more clearly.
“Ceremony” is a perfect example of an unseen potential of years ago. The verses are sweet and ample, but suddenly the chorus explodes in a wonderful crescendo and exits perfectly into the bridge. Drummer William Kuehn accents at the perfect places to keep the sharpness from fading away completely. “Atropine” is a sorrowful lullaby that presents bassist/singer Caithlin De Marrais growth as a vocalist. The quiet guitar work plays a perfect foreground to the vocal centerpiece while the steady drums and bass infect the background like a grey storm looming in the distance. “The Contents of Lincoln’s Pocket’s” is Kyle Fischer’s lone vocal performance aside from a few supporting functions here and there. This is problematic as he seems to have finally mastered the art of his shaky off key voice creating an exciting look at both the contents of President Lincoln’s pockets at death, the vision of poet Walt Whitman and Fischer’s own understanding of histories and poetics. This is perhaps Rainer Maria’s most upbeat and energetic song and shows the band at it’s best as De Marrais complements her partner perfectly with beautiful harmonies. It is this combination of the band’s strengths that makes it hard to escape the musical scope of this album.
A Better Version of Me is a beautiful and exciting surprise proving the depth and vigor of the band’s ability to write songs. Gone are the days of confusion and youthful experimentation that often muddled the bands true impact. This album showcases this band at it’s best and with any luck will elevate them up the plateau of indie rock. As for me, it’s hopeless. No intervention will pull me out of the misery I have induced upon myself. It’s best you just leave me singing sad lines to myself and allow me to loose myself in poetic confusion. But thanks for the concern.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times. Thanks everyone.