Graves: Yes Yes Okay Okay
Reviewed by Rebekah Zietz
It isnâ€™t easy living ones life with their heart on their sleeve. There is pain, rejection and an abundance of uncertainty. Perhaps that is why it remains refreshing to listen to music that questions one of lifeâ€™s biggestmysteries- love. Yes Yes Okay Okay, the new album from Portland, Oregonâ€™s Graves, seeks to bring to the surface, without clichÃ©s or affectation, oneâ€™s apprehension about love.
Through the lovelorn lyrics of singer/songwriter Greg Olin and company (Adam Selver, Tommy McDonald, Shelley Short, Cory Gray, Erick Messler, James Adair, Adam Forkner, Dave Longstreth and Marie Marchaisfrom) Yes Yes Okay Okay thrusts the listener into a whirl wind of down tempo, heart-stricken rock that brings to mind such musicians as Jeff Tweedy, Stephen Malkmus, Mark Kozelek, and even The Sea and Cake.
The introductory track, â€œThe Will Nowâ€ is a prime illustration of the bandâ€™s crisp and earnest sound. Luring electric guitars, drums and swelling vocals build for atmospheric resonance, and head-swaying beats lay neatly juxtaposed to lyrical themes of settling down in a serious relationship. With lyrics like â€œIâ€™m gonna call you when I am suppose toâ€ and â€œIâ€™m gonna cut your name into a willow, â€ ancient forms of courtship are resurrected and molded into what one can only hope will become a modern day norm.
From there the album leaps into a Wilco-esque ditty entitled â€œHolding Your Arms,â€ which begins with some serious hand clapping action that overlaps neatly with the monotonous beating of drums. Olin once again reminds the listener of his distrust for love with lines like â€œItâ€™s hard trying to love someone whoâ€™s holding your arms, whose holding your arms and your heart.â€
The standout track on the album, â€œSugar Cane And Tough Loveâ€ marks Olinâ€™s ability to swoon-fully craft a lyrical story line while simultaneously honing in on a sound that combines the noise quality of Sonic Youth with the keys of The Red House Painters.
Yes Yes Okay Okay gracefully embraces lost love and tries to resurrect it for all of us. The result is that rarity- an inviting, melodic album of renewed sincerity.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Yes Yes Okay Okay
For some, the sub-mental drunken yuppie balladry of Jimmy Buffett is paradise. For others, it’s the stereotypical melodies of Caribbean steel drum players. And for others still, it can be the sound of waves crashing, or even nothing at all. I, on the other hand, find the sound of Graves to be paradise. The Portland group has only one setting for their music: slow and steady. It has a sort of laid back vibe that I can see people enjoying in performers like Buffett. Only they don’t suck ass. And despite never speeding up or rocking out, they pull off an album that’s truly interesting and never wears out its welcome.
Graves’ main songwriter and lead singer, Greg Olin, has a soothing baritone that falls somewhere between Mark Eitzel, Hayden and Joe Pernice, but nowhere near as morose as any of those singers. And each song is built upon a simple melody played on Olin’s acoustic guitar, often accompanied by little more than brushed drums, a little piano, some electric guitar or distorted Casio keyboards. It’s a strangely simple idea that stays fresh, most likely due to its lack of pretense or grandiosity.
From the get go of Graves’ new album, Yes Yes Okay Okay, Olin sings “I wanna settle down” over a gorgeously chaotic wash of keyboard, mirroring his desperation perfectly, whether intentional or not. And it sets the stage for the rest of the album, as it’s all easy and breezy, never veering too far into noise or anything that would overshadow the brushed drum beats.
The piano accompanied “Connection Time” is awkwardly romantic, as Olin sings, “My ten fingers are trying to undo your blouse/ because buttons aren’t forever girl/ and zippers only rust/ they say love is for the patient few/ so let’s hurry as we must.” It’s witty, sad and touching all at once, which is just the sort of strange conflict that Graves present. The next track, “Headphone Brigade,” is one of the best moments on the album, if for no other reason than the stellar trumpet leads.
However, in the next track, “Shake the Walls,” Olin declares, “This is not the best part/ the best part’s coming later.” After hearing “Headphone Brigade,” you’d think it had already passed, but “End Love” is also in the running for best track on the album. The two-chord song is simple and melancholy, with plenty of strange lyrics, like “Shit was cool/ then birds died at end love.” It’s all very strange and makes little sense, but sounds absolutely fantastic. The last track on the album is a fifty second, French sung version of a verse from “Connection Time,” which is appropriately, and cleverly, titled “French Connection Time.”
Yes Yes Okay Okay lasts around a half-hour, making it all too brief a listen, but for that half-hour, you’ll be hypnotized. It’s gentle. It’s charming. It’s paradise.
Greg Olin, songwriter and principal member of the Graves, can be accused of sounding like a lot of people, and rightly so. One thing he cannot be accused of is being insincere in his music. Sure, sometimes his vocals lack emotion and conviction, preferring to cohabitate peacefully with the nylon guitar and ringing pianos. Sure, his lyrics donâ€™t make the most sense, even when you can make them outâ€¦ but he has really made an impressive record. Granted, I didnâ€™t like it the first two times I heard it, and I had to talk with some friends about it, but eventually I came around to my senses.
With a lot of help from his friends, the Type Foundry crew of Portland, Oregon, Olin lays out ten three-minute pop songs that drip with sweetness and light. Mostly driven by drums and bass, with some modest guitar work over top, the songs are really successful when the vocals reach harmonies. Olin alone isnâ€™t satisfying enough to really listen to for long periods of time. There is, however, something magical about his interplay with the other singers, that hints at what his skills at songwriting and melody. â€œConnection Timeâ€, with its countdown from 10 really burns brighter than most everything else on this record.
In the end, this is a great record to put on in the background. That isnâ€™t always a bad thing, and in this case, it is a great thingâ€¦ This record is sweet and light and doesnâ€™t really weigh on you when itâ€™s over, even though it is beautiful to come back to each time.
If you liked the Norfolk and Western albums, or the work of Kyle Field and company, this is a sure bet for you. If you like the quiet pop that Hush has come to specialize in, then this is for you too. If you donâ€™t, well, then why are you reading indie rock reviewsâ€¦ go pick up Spin or Alternative Press and rock out to the Hives!
It’s a brilliant ploy; Olin’s a clever songwriter who seems to know that too much cleverness just comes off as smarmy, so he tempers it with semi-confidences and wry, self deprecating humour. His lyrics, while not as laden with pop culture references, are often as quirkily impenetrable as Stephen Malkmus’s, but without the former Pavement frontman’s occasionally overbearing sense of self-satisfaction.
The Graves are more accessible than The Microphones and more organically rooted than Grandaddy, two bands who they have been compared to. This albumfollows on the heels of the Film Guerrero release of the Tracker LP, another wonderful piece that is also the brainchild of an individual who is helped out by many of his friends. They seem to be working as a collective up there in Portland and the results are good.
Lost At Sea
Love Love Love
Easy, breezy, beautiful…. it’s definitely not Maybelline, so maybe it’s The Graves. Sweet pop music, how I love thee so. Well, sometimes I do, and sometimes I hate you. But when
someone like Portland’s Greg Olin writes you and gathers together his “friends, lovers and friends of lovers lovers’s” (that is confusing) to perform you under a name like The Graves, I love you, pop music. Truly I do.
Comes With a Smile
The Graves | Love Love Love (FILMguerrero)
Another textured delight emerges from Adam Selzer’s Type Foundry Studios in
Portland Oregon. Essentially the work of singer-songwriter Greg Olin, with contributions from Selzer and fellow Norfolk and Western acolyte Rachel Blumberg, and a handful of others, ‘Love Love Love’ is an imaginatively constructed set of mid-fi, mostly mid-paced songs delivered in Olin’s breathy, lazy drawl which occasionally invites comparison to Joe Pernice (albeit through a cheap-mic a la Sparklehorse).
The titles of several of the tracks on ‘Love, Love, Love’, the Graves’ debut release, are suggestive of an artist who doesn’t take himself too seriously, and, like Jonathan Richman, many of Olin’s songs are indeed imbued with a quirky charm and whimsical wit.
Not only is Love Love Love an instantly satisfying pop release, but it is also a very rewarding album. On top of the delectable melodies that we’ve all come to love, these fifteen songs also manage to present a wide array of interesting concepts and beautiful atmospheres.
Incorporating a lo-fi pop ethic (in the K Records vein), The Graves (aka Greg Olin) craft elegant, smooth tunes that work their way into your humming repertoire flawlessly.