Print, Reviews December 2, 2018

Album Review: Igaus Davis – Keep Your Candles Close By

by Jack McManaman

Keep Your Candles Close By, the final release by the recently retired Igaus Davis, creates solemn vignettes of despair and resignation. Musically, the soaring horn arrangements and quick time feels may lend themselves to an exciting listen, but the lyrics detail a beautiful, dull misery.

The EP often finds itself anachronistically presented, evoking a time long past. Matthew Davis’s seemingly autobiographical lyrics are presented through this lens, often accompanied by haunting banjo and arco bass which feel right at home against the backdrop of eerie barn doors creaking or homestead fires crackling after dusk. A frankly spooky presentation harkening to a less on-the-nose emotionality – à la early Decemberists. Thematically somber throughout, any hope the lyrics may provide is quickly taken away, describing the inevitable lonely shapes our lives will take. You may finally find water, but it’ll be “the day before you die.”

Glum as it may be, the EP never feels like a slog. There’s a loving admiration of life in its vivid, naturalistic depictions, even if the lyrics provide a sense of inescapable self-damnation. A constant lyrical relationship between family and cultivation lies throughout, with depictions of growth and roots taking the thematic foreground, conceptually furthering the band’s first release Too Fallow, Too Long. In fact, some tracks from that first EP find a new, better home on this release. You can see considerable growth between the releases, especially with regards to the triumphant, Beirut-esque horn arrangements by The Burroughs’ Alec Bell and engineering by local recording hero Michael Olivier. Even the songwriting itself is better executed this time around.

Keep Your Candles Close By is sonically, emotionally intimate and thematically concise, teasing at something we won’t see pan out. Some strife within the band has lead to this being their final release, the songs almost begetting their miasmatic message into existence. But even while Igaus is constantly reminding you “things turn to ash,” hidden deep in the lyrics is a message to “not give up, but to give back.”

Keep Your Candles Close By is out December 1st on Bandcamp with 100% of its proceeds going to the Immigrant and Refugee Center of Northern Colorado.