Lots of singer-songwriter types go for that shambling, quietly desperate and plaintive vibe, but few them do it as well or as effortlessly as Aaron Calvert, who teams with Mikel Garmendia to form the nucleus of Winfred E. Eye. Til I Prune, the latest product of the duo’s decade-long relationship, consists of twelve songs that explore the common indie themes of loss, isolation, and introspection in a fresh and decidedly not maudlin way. Calvert’s deft touch with lyrics is nicely complemented by the album’s decidedly low-tech production values. Til I Prune is an understated masterpiece, as unexpected as it is wonderful.
On the surface the album appears similar to countless other albums based on minimal instrumentation and cryptically thoughtful lyrics. Calvert and his bandmates continually rise above expectations, however, whether it’s the simple beauty of a line like “I’ve spent whole days in the bedroom/ Just sick of missing you” on “Two Baby Moths,” or the heavy bass on “Sweet Poison.” In addition, Calvert’s quiet, almost spacey delivery never allows the subject matter to overwhelm the composition or trend toward self-pity. Each one of these musical decisions is minor in the context of the whole album, but each song is a result of a series of these choices, making the album at once cohesive and fascinating.
Til I Prune will reward listeners who put time into uncovering the subtleties that went into creating it. Winfred E. Eye, the band, under the guidance of Aaron Calvert, the songwriter, has managed to create a collection of songs that evoke sadness without reveling in it and removing much of the artifice that serves as a veneer on the label of independent music.