Benjamin Gibbard & Andrew Kenny: Home

Terry Sawyer

Benjamin Gibbard & Andrew Kenny


Label: Post-Parlo
US Release Date: 2003-05-20

Let's all give a hefty thanks to the brain trust at Post-Parlo for throwing together a title fight of a split-album. Both Andrew Kenny (of American Analog Set) and Benjamin Gibbard (from Deathcab for Cutie) strip away their bandmates for some quiet solo plucking and get in touch with their inner singer songwriters. Normally, this would be a recipe for disaster. Let's be honest, singer-songwriting is the genre of the junior high diarist, more egotistical than cock rock and more self-indulgent than incest amongst royalty. I've sat through many acoustic sets that felt like staring down the crosshairs of abject dullness. And that's from the people for whom this is their life craft. It's usually a thousands times more brutal when some frontman decides that he has a bucket of tortured poeticism lying around that he needs to publicly inflict.

Thankfully, Andrew Kenny and Benjamin Gibbard both come from bands that are experts in their respective forms of ambience. Instead of wincing through boneless political tirades or enduring the softcore tyranny of a batch of break-up songs, Home succeeds in importing the atmospheres of their homebases without picking any of the pitfall scabs of a genre covered in them.

Benjamin Gibbard takes the approach of the pastoral poet, culling together a few tracks that sound like love letters composed by a slacker drifter wandering dirt road nowheres. "You Remind Me of Home" is all sweetly tinged country and choked up melody with a perfectly drawn metaphor, including the closing line, "Sitting on this thrift store couch / I'm trying to get this all down". "Carolina" cradle rocks on Gibbard's almost absentminded hum of a voice, braided with tightly strummed chords worthy of the world's finest screened-in porch. Given his slight range, Gibbard's voice is remarkably weighted, hitting harmonies that beautifully gnaw. His half of the split is much more immediately accessible with its clean notes and urban country boy verse.

Kenny's songs swim in a Vicodin haze, paced like slow motion screen savers. It's a much more lilted and candlelit sound than that of Gibbard, like having him play in the dark with your head in his lap. Kenny's songs draw your measured attention in grains, with the press of his fingers on the strings and the quiet streaks of him changing chords. He has a churchy elegance to his writing that sounds so tearfully serious. "Line of Best Fit" stretches and ebbs so slowly it sounds like crashing waves of galaxy. He has an uncanny knack for making songs that are almost fetal in their calm.

Reviewing a split release begs all these questions that I'm sure don't interest you in the slightest. Do these blokes want to have themselves compared to one another? Is there some sort of hidden dialogue within the tracks? Are they dating? Is this some sort of drunken dare-bet, an unchronicled ranking ritual practiced by fey indie pretty boys? I'd rather avoid the anthropological gloss, and stick to the fact that it's just a great idea to have two incredibly gifted people having at a particular genre on the same release.

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