Ben Gibbard & Andrew Kenny: Home EP Vol. V
Morr Music

Decades ago, I added Rockpile's 1980 release Seconds of Pleasure to my collection but it was its bonus single of Everly Brothers' covers that turned out to be most affecting. The songs on the album were polished and their arrangements thoroughly developed, yet the stark combination of acoustic guitars and complementary vocal harmonies from Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds (not to mention the classic songs) proved more memorable than the album itself.

I'm reminded of this long-ago recording as I listen to the eight-song Home EP by Ben Gibbard and Andrew Kenny, since one could likewise imagine this little disc accompanying albums by the pair's regular outfits The Postal Service, Death Cab For Cutie, and American Analog Set. The EP's settings are naked and unadorned—acoustic guitars and vocals (though Gibbard does add a simple “Heart of Gold”-styled drum beat to “Farmer Chords” and Kenny adds subtle touches of piano to “Secrets of the Heart”)—and the results as pleasurable as that offered by the Rockpile set.

As the title indicates, the collaboration is the fifth in an ongoing series; each installment features two artists, with three exclusive songs from each and a cover performed of one of the other's songs. It should be noted too that Morr has licensed the disc from Post-Parlo where it was first released in 2003 (Gibbard's songs were recorded in June 2002) so it's not necessarily the artists' newest material; still, the material sounds great even if a few years old.

Gibbard's songs are comparatively more upbeat, with the opener “You Remind Me of Home” especially appealing. Pairing his plaintive vocal with acoustic guitar, the song's sweet tone is belied by its darker lyrical content (“You remind me of home / A broken bed with dirty sheets that creaks when I'm shifting in my sleep”); this home's “foundation is crumbling,” it seems; Gibbard's “Choir Vandals” adopts a more sombre feel too. Kenny's vocals are generally softer, with the hushed singing on “Hometown Fantasy” especially lovely. A lonely, desolate mood dominates the dirge-like “Church Mouse In The Church House” while the stately and lilting folk-waltz rhythms and soft harmonies of “Line Of Best Fit” lull the listener to sleep. If Gibbard's are geared for early evening, Kenny's are perfect for twilight, as they gently help one drift into sleep.

March 2005