By: Robert H.
Joe Pernice can explore the intricacies of sadness in a song as few artists have ever managed, but like the masters of the art he avoids maudlin trappings or narcissistic misery. There's always a slightly energizing hopefulness that shows itself through the care in which the descriptions are couched or in an optimistic lilt to the melody. Never has Pernice's talent in this area been on more display than in his new incarnation. Even the album's first song, "Everyone Else Is Evolving", which begins and ends with the declaration "I hate my life" avoids cliché in its despair through a melody that subtly changes momentum and direction three times in the first minute. Add to this Pernice's eager voice, the sibilance of which suggests a sigh behind every lyric, and you have a recipe for success that even comparables like Will Oldham and Jay Farrar cannot, in my humble opinion, approach.
Chappaquiddick Skyline is more toned down than Pernice Brothers, and wears Pernice's No Depression/country origins less on its sleeve than his Scud Mountain Boys. The usual ensemble includes an acoustic guitar and a sedated bass with a trimmed drum kit thrown in occasionally, but the sparseness of the instrumentation only foregrounds the beauty of the basic song structures. The lyrics focus upon the details of isolation from the perspective of missed moment solitude and unrequited estrangement: a glimpse of two friends sleeping after a party, a view from a cold street into the apartment of a former lover, iron-white skies and frozen hands. Together, these twelve songs give the complete package and should provide the soundtrack to many a snow-driven February, at least for those of us who won't be wearing red or eating chocolate on the 14th.