Album Review: The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick – The Iliad and the Odyssey…

[Count Your Lucky Stars; 2024]

When listening to The Iliad and the Odyssey and the Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, the follow-up to The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick‘s 2020 debut Ways of Hearing, you can become many things. You might feel like a wandering soul lost in pensive thought, grasping for any cherishable memory to project into the future for the sake of hope, or a lamplighter crunching leaves underfoot, weary from a soul-sucking day of work. The world they create is meticulous and full of care, yet carved out in a way that allows us to scour our own selves to great lengths, longer and farther than even the breathless title of this comeback effort.

After navigating the challenges of a pandemic and pursuing various extracurricular musical projects, the slowcore band’s new album is slow-churning but breathtakingly sprawling. The drifting sounds of this album perfectly encapsulate a searching heart; sometimes yearning and sometimes confoundingly overjoyed by the small miracles of life itself too. 

Driven by an innate urge to release and untangle pent-up confusion, The Iliad… is a journey that never quite reaches a cathartic climax. It’s a collection of insinuated feelings, oblique images, soft voices, and instinctual arrangements. But where this project lacks in resolve and the overt, it compensates with a palpable tension that lingers through musical ideas that extend and morph into wandering passages to lose yourself in, creating space for smaller, delicate images to emerge; endearing reminders of life’s fleeting celebratory moments on the brink of oblivion. These gentle echoes veil the mundane concerns that typically consume our daily emotional capacity.

For instance, “April 25”, the album’s stirring lead single, resonates with a vibrancy and warmth that feels like a comforting embrace or a dependable shoulder to lean on. It breathes with a brightness that radiates upon the waning ebbs, flows, and rhythms that might occur throughout the year. Life changes and withers; couches get clawed and worn by cats, while wells thaw and freeze as seasons cycle. Yet, come what may, the birthday of a loved one, regardless of how many they experience, stands as a testament to the inherent value of life itself. Like many tracks on The Iliad…, “April 25”, swirls with momentum, maturing around these fleeting, precious images, which, despite their fragility, are like protective trees, shielding this important though transient celebration from life’s disruptions.

But all birthdays end, and with them come the inevitable shadows of longing and life’s inherent bleakness. And that’s perfectly fine — these shifting rhythms of life are meant to be felt. “She simply had to suffer / she simply had to cry,” Ben Cuttright and Becky Hanno duet on “Wild Rose”, like two narrators cutting in to break the fourth wall during a play. When we let ourselves feel this array that we become more free. Winter may preside longer than expected, but spring is always approaching. A proverbial frost coats this record, but despite the apparent signals of isolation (“System of One”), futility (“Mr. Settled Score”), and death (“First Time”) wrought throughout — the transition into a new season offers hope — an apt metaphor that seems to encompass the album and is visually reflected on the album’s cover.

An impressionistic rendition of J. M. W. Turner’s Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus (1829), the painting breathes light and color in a moment of triumph on the heels of near death. It depicts Odysseus and his crew triumphantly escaping and sailing off into the dawn after scorning and then blinding Polyphemus, who ensues to throw huge rocks towards Odysseus’ fleeing ships. In this death-defying effort, however, the sun peaks just above the horizon, casting determination and promise over the scene.

Despite the melancholic shroud veiling the lyrics of The Iliad…, the band’s slowcore orchestration fosters a contrasting reassurance where delicate vocals rest upon stirring musical movements, weaving harmony and texture to evoke tranquility and introspection. These evocative arrangements, reminiscent of the painting gracing the album cover, slowly unravel to reveal the enduring glow at the heart of the record. They remind us that amidst uncertainty, desperation, and fear, there exists that light at the end of the tunnel, a better tomorrow for the weary lamplighter and a clear pathway home for the wandering soul.