Mark Rogers & Mary Byrne have seen their fair share with him in The Loom and her in Hot Young Priest and now it’s time for them to record their fair share. Using 2” analog tape and a little tasteful studio bit of aftertouch, this is their debut. I Line My Days Across Your Weight is not only an enigmatic title, but an adventurous and intimate listening adventure.
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- I Line My Days Along Your Weight by Mark Rogers & Mary Byrne
9/10 Robin Staff review, 06 February 2015
Here’s a clunky kind of beautiful. Its title is strange and full of intangible meaning, and ‘I Live My Days Along Your Weight’ offers that uncanny vibe in its music too: this is folk that’s full of mythology and that thing Phil Elverum calls lost wisdom. Mark Rogers & Mary Byrne marry subtle American primitivism (including the most primitive of objects, a one-hundred year old mandolin) with modern pastoral songwriting to make a gorgeous record that sounds like it’s slowly unthreading -- like hell’s gonna break loose, but not just yet.
Byrne’s lyrics are the first knot: they become more surreal the more she sings, each track based around verses that could be self-contained: “Hospital” is an abstract song about living with long-standing illness and staring out hospital windows. Its disconnected, meandering lyrical approach perfectly characterises what it’s like to be stuck in bed all day, bargaining with different thoughts for the same old sights. “A Racing Heart” is a resolute slow-burner that traverses six long verses about death, isolation, and time, and the duo weave a long tapestry of brief metaphors through it, recalling John Darnielle’s propensity for anthologising personal admission with striking imagery.
Musically, the record responds: the guitars are clean, the piano a fleeting source of comfort, and the mandolin sounds the way it should for us youngsters trying to romanticize the past (you know how we mistake history for log cabins?). Like Byrne’s lyrics, though, the duo’s music sounds like it’s straining to keep itself in line: on “Hospital” notes seem to hit and transition slightly left of centre, and “A Gracious Host” abruptly exchanges rusty strums for clean, wide-open picking. Byrne’s voice itself is great for counter-balancing the rurality of the music the duo are making: where twang begins to filter into “A Gracious Host” and “Walk With Me”, her voice remains sonorous, stricken with the kind of romantic apathy Anna Lynne-Williams (Trespassers William, Lotte Kestner) possesses. There are plenty of gorgeous instrumental flourishes on ‘I Live My Days Along Your Weight’, but it posits more reality than that -- its lyrics are as confusing as life and their singer is as confused as us. Beautiful record, though, and sometimes you have to give in to the fantasy: “Cold Spring” is country revisionism through and through. Hop on the train.
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