2009: The Round Up

#11. Richmond Fontaine - We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River
(Decor/El Cortez, 2009)

Hands down, the best album title of the year. One of the best ever, even. The album also has a under title too, 14 songs written around and about the Pacific Northwest. That, though ain't something new coming from this band. The last album, Thirteen Cities, were written in well yes, thirteen different cities and places around the western United States. Now it seems the band and songwriter/novelist Willy Vlautin is back in Portland, Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Do that make them sound any different?

Well, both yes and no. Thirteen Cities were made with some help from the guys in Calexico, so that album had some desert twang and Mexican mariachi to it. Those things are a bit toned down in this one and the sound is more similar to the one the band had on their masterpiece Post to Wire. That said, the most important thing with Richmond Fontaine has always been and probably always will be Willy Vlautin's lyrics. Vlautin also has written a couple of novels and that is fitting, because his lyrics are short stories that would stand their ground even without the music. So the lyrics doesn't necessarily need the music, but the music make the lyrics even better.

"And the over pass where the endless miles of cars would pass, it hummed night and day and night and day. We used to think the freeway sounded like a river, but all that slipped away that day."

"You Can Move Back Here" may be one of the best songs the band has ever written. With its catchy melody and the chorus that tells the person that the song is written to that even how bad things get that you can always move back here and that you will always at least have the Western sky.

All the songs here are stories of their own, stories that has to be told and stories that should be heard. The song "Maybe We Were Both Born Blue" with its line "..You were bleeding when I first saw you. I didn't tell anyone but I could tell you were falling apart.." or maybe "Two Alone" with the lines "..She's got religious candles burning on the sill. And my records are sitting in boxes still. My head's pounding and I have an hour 'til the old men give me shit 'cause I don't like sports and I never will..".

Musically my favourites on the album are "Maybe We Were Both Born Blue" with its haunting pedal-steel melody, "You Can Move Back Here", "Lonnie", which almost could have been a Hold Steady song and the instrumental "Walking Back To Our Place At 3 A.M."

Although I liked both the sparse The Fitzgerald and the more catchy Thirteen Cities this album is my favourite Richmond Fontaine album since Post to Wire. Better than they were on that one they probably never will be but still. Amazing band and outstanding lyrics.

Richmond Fontaine - Lonnie (Live at the Academy 3, Manchester, UK, 16/09/09)