— nprmusic (@nprmusic) February 10, 2015
— Stereogum (@stereogum) February 25, 2015
NNA is happy to set off the new year with the latest full-length record by veteran songwriter Chris Weisman. A long-time resident of the creatively fertile valleys of Brattleboro, Vermont, “The Holy Life That’s Coming” is the newest addition to his vast, accomplished discography that includes numerous full-lengths, limited cassette editions, collaborations, and conceptually ambitious releases (the 2012 88-song YouTube release “Maya Properties”, for example). However prolific, Weisman remains somewhat of a cultural hermit, remaining quietly tucked away on his throne in the hills of “Beatleboro”, giving very scant live performances or appearances, and little public insight into his music and creative world. Weisman instead remains a reclusive gardener diligently tending his artistic crops. Fortunately, we as listeners are given rewarding musical offerings in the form of his unique and personal recordings that serve as documents of the creative process, and as insight into Chris’ observations on the world around him. Militantly adhering to a limited palette, his recordings are all captured and constructed on a four-track cassette recorder, lending to the intimate, homegrown quality of the songs contained within. In the case of “The Holy Life…” in particular, the instrumentation is limited to steel string guitar and voice, with the occasional subtle keyboard accompaniment. These rudimentary tools are a deceptively conventional songwriting setting for content so melodically, harmonically, and lyrically unconventional as Weisman’s songs. His personal brand opts for a more twisting, shifting journey, a chordal harmonic exploration that often keeps the listener on their toes and guessing what will come next. Perhaps born out of his studies in jazz and music theory, Weisman’s style thrives on the juxtaposition of withholding traditional melodic progressions, but at the same time, the glowing, distant ember of Lennon/McCartney influence is never too distant. Despite these structural complexities, the core of Weisman’s songwriting remains deceptively simple: a process of surrendering to a universal flow and “letting things happen”, embracing the results and allowing ideas to take shape on their own. The outcome is reliably delicate and gentle, creating worlds in song that are heartfelt and vivid. This is the case for “The Holy Life That’s Coming”, perhaps his most welcoming record yet. Seemingly influenced by the manic qualities of New England seasonal shifts, this LP comes across as the quintessential “winter” album, reflecting the state of psychosis that can develop when faced with the grey, unending bleakness of a Vermont winter (a familiar feeling for those of us who have endured the madness). There are a range of topics that are touched upon, stemming from observational thoughts about daily life and one’s surroundings. The mundanity of bathtubs and chimneys are met alongside feelings of dissociation and dissatisfaction with earthly reality and the human existence. A nostalgic longing for emotional connection, paired with a desire for the dissipation of the human self and a reintegration into the infinity of the cosmos. We also encounter a spiritual personification of objects in nature brought about by casual walks in the park, making observations on the backpack people around us, pondering concepts of birth and death, while entertaining the juxtaposition between cynicism and enlightenment. Other songs come across as Surrealist poems, traveling through hallucinatory dream worlds induced by the endless circles of time, or triggered by those chords that dad used to play on his guitar. Weisman succeeds in binding fragmented ideas together with universal human feelings, never intending to solve problems or answer questions, but simply exist inside them. “The Holy Life That’s Coming” is a record that rewards the listener with new discoveries upon each listen, a gratifying quality that is the signature of a musician who has succeeded in personal diligence to their craft, while endlessly staying true to oneself.