Euphoria Again - Bedroom Recordings Remastered
(Z Tapes 2013)
Though they only have a couple cassettes (plus a digital compilation) to their name, Slovakian label Z Tapes has quickly become one of my favorite purveyors of fuzzy sad-pop. Late last year, the label caught my attention with the release of Jackie Trash's wow so sad, a jangly look at the lo-fi ethic of early Modest Mouse and Built to Spill. Last Saturday, I received the second addition to my Z Tapes collection, a collection of home demos recorded by Euphoria Again, the solo project of Salt Lake City's Johnny Forrest. Though not as fast-paced and poppy as Jackie Trash's offering, Euphoria Again more than makes up for its minimalist aesthetic with patient songwriting, impressive maturity and a ghostly aura that pairs well with its cover. Without resorting to gimmick or flashiness, Euphoria Again has received a permanent seat in my family's car's cupholder, which holds albums reserved for listening on the way to school.
At 17 tracks, Bedroom Recordings might seem like a daunting listen, but it really isn't so. Many of the tracks are rather rough sketches, usually containing just a single verse and a chorus, and the whole tape clocks in at a reasonable 40 minutes. I'll admit that a good majority of these whispery lo-fi acts have very beautiful, almost brittle sounds, but it's rare that one of them has had me humming their songs in the hallway at school, and so often. Tracks like "X Marks The Time", "Ol Rudy" and "Janis Klonopin" will stick with you even after the cassette is ejected and tucked into its case. They're just that forcefully catchy, creating powerfully memorable melodies from rudimentary materials.
If there's one band Euphoria Again reminds me of, it's Uncle Tupelo. The gritty sound quality and trudging chords landing on heavy bass note footfalls remind me very much of the slacker-folk duo's more melancholic cuts like "Fatal Wound". This is especially evident on "Uncle Sam's Adopted Sons", a sludgy track that rolls along on droning chords and a shimmering tambourine. If you must listen to one of these bedroom recordings, though, it has to be "X Marks the Time". It's intro features absolutely gorgeous vocals, wordless coos heavily affected by a tremolo pedal. The vocals have a sort of jump-rope rhyme repetition: "Black as my brain / cold as your heart / white as my skin / tough as your hands".