Michael Lerner may be the sole musician wandering the halls of his now two-album-deep discography as Telekinesis, but he creates indie-pop that comes across every bit as lived-in and spaced-out as it does immediate and bite-sized. This sort of pop carries with it the kind of clarity that eschews any stigma that may come from the admittedly adolescent navel-gazing that it employs so well. There is bravery behind the slight naiveté that makes you feel kind of lame for wanting to look down on it in the first place.
12 Desperate Straight Lines is Lerner’s second LP under the Telekinesis moniker, and it finds his introspection all the more labyrinthine, but his chops as a genuine architect nothing if not totally satisfying. It should be easy to write him off, save for the ear worms that he so effortlessly pumps out; 12 Desperate Straight Lines only further solidifies this justification.
Telekinesis’ self-titled debut introduced a relatively simple canvas for Lerner to begin painting. There was that pop-minded loftiness that was communicated in earnest. The typical structures of the songs, with their traditional timing, post-punk basics, and mid- to late-'90s indie-rock aesthetic found everything clicking into place. Even Lerner’s personality brought a charming indulgence to the proceedings that added myriad contrasts to a portrait that, perhaps, seemed more picturesque than it should have. Smartly, his follow-up does little to offset those colors.
Not surprisingly, save for the sporadic instrumental flourish, and the occasional structural anomaly, 12 Desperate Straight Lines finds all of the power pop melodies and generous hooks right where they are supposed to be. All the smooth poetry filled with equal parts irony and sincerity; all the lilting, filtered vocals soothing the ear drums in just about all of the expected moments. It is a winning formula that, sonically, may value slickness over passion, but that’s not to say that it fails to connect.
Like I said before, Lerner adds a charm factor that is rather endearing even when his lyrical skills don’t quite match up with his supposed penchant for cleverness. His mannerisms are downright genuine, if not a bit too precious. Album opener “You Turn Clear in the Sun,” while a fittingly bouncy starting off point for the album, is a little too pleased with its own metaphor. The track’s crisp, synthesized production qualities more than carry it on to success, though.
Later on album highlights “Car Crash” and the brilliantly biting “Palm of Your Hand,” Lerner does well to play to his various perceptions, having them work for him on top of the soundscapes, rather than against. The fact that he pulls it off so masterfully is an impressive feat, to be sure.
12 Desperate Straight Lines arguably contains some of the best hooks on a rock record of the last several years. Now, while the LP as a whole may not be a revelation, or (necessarily) a future classic, there’s something wonderfully encouraging about the pride Lerner takes in his work, blending his skill and confidence with genuine trepidation and precious little ego or posturing. Whether or not his brand, as it were, will continue to stay as straight-forward and effective as time goes on remains to be seen. Perhaps changing things up in the near future would a wise move, who knows? As for now, however, dude is two for two.
Telekinesis main man Michael Benjamin Lerner overcame some serious hardships to realize this second effort. The Seattle-based power popper ended the tour for his self-titled debut album with a case of vertigo, a wrecked van, a long-distance relationship that ended and no band. So Lerner holed himself up in Berlin’s warehouse district to write songs – songs with a deeper and more soul-searching focus than those on his first album. When he emerged, he recorded them at Portland’s Jackpot! Studios and hooked up with a trio of musicians to tour behind the release. A free download of the song “Car Crash” was offered online in advance of the album’s release.