“The happiest you’ve been hasn’t happened yet,” bitterly admits a brooding Tim Presley on the final track of Family Perfume Vol. 2, “King of the Decade.” On the anticipated second component of his double album Family Perfume Vol. 1 & 2, L.A.’s Presley admits with a blunt honesty that he’s failed, hard. Life has smacked him in the face with a relentless backhand, and yeah, things certainly could have been different.
The two albums comprising Family Perfume Vol. 1 & 2, although physically both part of the same release, conceptually represent two distinct dualities of Presley’s continuing personal growth. If Family Perfume Vol. 1 can be seen as a progression where Presley is settling into his skin, Family Perfume Vol. 2 is a cathartic catalogue of letters never sent, the consequences of past decisions poignant enough to keep Presley musing, wide-eyed, remorseful — but nonetheless hopeful.
Decidedly different from the Family Perfume Vol. 1, Presley has shed any traces of punk and crunchy garage jams, replacing them solely with folk musings. Yet not unlike any of his previous works, Presley demonstrates that a songwriter need not be verbose to be heard. “Upstart Girls” and “Real Smiles” are fuzzy lo-fi pieces where vocals are not the centerpiece. Instead they’re toned down to an honest mumble, like something Presley’s been afraid to admit for a long while. “I apologize to friendships I’ve left in dreams,” he remarks sorrowfully in “A Good Night.” The words themselves are difficult to discern, and rather can only be felt.
“Groundskeeper Rag (Man’s Man)” nearly channels George Harrison, a gorgeous piano opener melting into a breakdown into Presley’s characteristic lo-fi ‘60s pop. Haunting vocals layer over a lamenting chorus in “Be At Home,” arguably the most sorrowful track on the album. Chorus “And I know that you will always be at home” becomes half mantra, half a vindictive response to a place and people marked by crippling stagnation.
“It’s Confusing When You Wake Up” and “Makers” bear a startling reminiscence to Beck’s honest blues-folk wanderings circa One Foot in the Grave, melodies flowing and confessions burning. “Stomach Sexes” evokes an inevitable wanderlust where Presley dreams of imprinting past troubles on distant highways, leaving everyone and everything behind.
Family Perfume Vol. 2 contains a considerable dose of regret that trickles in through a guise of distorted folk ramblings. Yet for someone who’s realized that they’ve fucked up, Presley never forays into the confessional of disaffected twenty-something, wallowing about choices he should have made. Instead, the album demonstrates a songwriter coming to terms with decisions he’s made. There’s a slight twinge of hope in Presley’s tone amidst the yearning that reminds himself — and by association, you — that everything is cyclical. Amidst regret and the inability to change the past, life indeed goes on.