PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

The Feelies: In Between

Quieter but no less energetic, mature but still playful, the Feelies’ new record confronts the challenge of aging with eyes and hearts open.

The Feelies

In Between

US Release: 2017-02-24
UK Release: 2017-02-24
Label: Bar/None

The Feelies' new record opens with the sound of a crackling campfire and chirping birds, an implication of contentment in place and time. Then there's that defining strum, the jangly interplay of guitarists Glenn Mercer and Bill Million. Mercer's voice enters, speak-singing in a worn whisper "Make a plan / Let it be", seeming to echo that initial impression of peace. But as he continues, here and throughout the Feelies' sixth album In Between, it becomes apparent that finding contentment is hard work, an ongoing struggle against doubt and a hundred other internal and external complications.

Even the album's collective song titles, all two- and three-word phrases, amplify a sense of dis-ease amidst the search for inner peace in later life: "Turn Back Time", "Stay the Course", "Been Replaced", "Gone, Gone, Gone", "Time Will Tell", and then the book ended versions of the title song "In Between". How cleverly evasive it is to place the "In Between" on the ends, thereby encompassing all else here. Does Mercer have a message for us: Is everything "in between"? And, if so, what are the defining poles? Well, that last answer seems obvious, and the sense of being in between is perhaps heightened by an awareness of which side of the mortal clock Mercer, along with most of us who have long followed his band's career, is on.

But this is not a record about death; rather, it is one that firmly embraces life (again, the "in between") while contemplating the complexities of aging. There is contentment here, but it is not untroubled: such is the reality for anyone who has undertaken life's trials and persevered. Maybe the scariest thing about growing older is the realization that so much of what used to matter gets stripped away and revealed as an external distraction from our internal growth. Mercer's lyrics throughout the album seek to strip away the extraneous, to bore into the core of being.

Sometimes in art, it takes strict adherence to a framework to reveal the deepest levels of creativity and mastery of vision. In Between is a testament to that truth. The Feelies have always been defined by Mercer and Million's droning guitars, but the atomic clock precision of drummer Stan Demesky along with the contributions of percussionist Dave Weckerman and bassist Brenda Sauter fill the framework of the band's sound so thoroughly that to remove anyone would destroy the group's cohesion.

Weckerman's mad box of percussive tricks spices the mix of every song, sometimes subtly, as with the blocks and cowbells of "Turn Back Time", at others in the forefront, as when his sleigh bells bring acceleration to "Make It Clean" or where his wood block pulse provides a foundation for Mercer's Spanish guitar run. Most importantly, his interplay with Demesky allows bassist Brenda Sauter to break away from the rhythm section and find her own sonic space. Sometimes the effect is to give a song something like multiple heartbeats, each working in synchronicity but nonetheless distinct. At still others, Sauter's deep bass lines are the melodic foundation upon which Mercer and Million build their famous jangle. But at significant points on In Between, Sauter will move to the lower strings, her higher tone serving as the primary engine of the sound. In the break between choruses in "Turn Back Time", for instance, she is leading from behind, the rest of the band following along. So, too, in "Stay on Course", Sauter's chugging bass is the engine of forward motion for the song, while, in "Gone, Gone, Gone" her playing provides the swing in what might be the world's first existential angst dance record.

The extended, Velvet Underground-inspired jam of "In Between (Reprise)" offers a strong statement of music's life-affirming power. That this mostly quiet album ends on so loud a note is no accident. The poet Galway Kinnell once wrote of our mortality as "being forever in the pre-trembling of a house that falls." Mercer seems well aware of such poetic truth. Despite intimations of mortality, there's plenty of rocking and rolling left in this house.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.