Songs for the Half Awake
There is probably no better time to listen to Songs for the Half Awake than during a gloomy Pittsburgh winter; with this album, Several Conclusions has fashioned an appropriate soundtrack for sufferers of seasonal-affective disorder.
The record sounds like it could have been a jam session recorded by frost-bitten friends in the middle of the woods; in reality, Several Conclusions is just one person, multi-instrumentalist Robert Gray. (Gray also lends his multi-instrumental abilities to local psych-country rockers House of Assassins.) The cumbersome alias aside, Gray has a knack for crafting sparse and chilly folk tunes. "Ghost of a Friend" is one of his strongest and simplest songs, with simple banjo picking over lines like "when you leave this place my heart it will tear."
Using an assortment of instruments, including guitar, accordion and saw, Gray layers sound like blankets; the saw in particular runs like a cold wind through nearly every track. Sometimes, like on the haunted-sounding "Sister Flesh," this creates a kind of stripped-down noisiness similar to Mount Eerie, while the wistful, foggy "Thick as Thieves" sounds more in line with reverb aficionados My Morning Jacket and Fleet Foxes.
It sounds like Gray is trying to find his footing with Several Conclusions. The closing track, an 11-minute Tom Waits impersonation called "Gasoline and Burnt Coffee," is a little excessive, and comes off more as a vocal experiment than something for public consumption. Ultimately, Songs for the Half Awake seems more like a work in progress than a cohesive album -- though sometimes that adds to the record's charm.