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Here’s To Nowhere

[Self-released ; 2011]

By ; April 29, 2011 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

It’s been just over two years since James Cooley released Cherry Blossoms and made the Mesita moniker something more than just a name. Those years might seem long on paper, and the wait might have been stressful for fans who fell in love with the piece-it-together chirpiness of his debut album, but I’d bet the years felt even longer for Cooley himself. To the casual fan the output in the following years to 2008’s Cherry Blossoms seems substantial and pleasing, and anyone could easily accuse Cooley of being pretty productive. But the fact is that the two EPs Cooley released in 2009 and 2010 were themselves attempts to follow up his debut album – unsuccessful attempts which led him to release a taste of his sound as it progressed, (good for us) but had him starting again (bad for him). It’s kind of been a vicious cycle for Cooley and the sadness of it all is easily overshadowed by the enormously upbeat nature of the music he creates.

So if there’s anything to be said off the mark about his follow up, Here’s To Nowhere, (originally titled The New Age), it’s that it feels like a huge weight off of Cooley’s shoulders. But he doesn’t drop it all on the listener in one heap. Instead the album begins with “A Million Shades of Sky,” a calming big open space of a song that feels like the equivalent of Cooley taking deep breaths, trying to gain perspective. And it pays off: the song shuffles along with energetic strumming patterns, a plodding bass line with some nimble guitar work lurking in the middle of the song. If you compare the song to the other opening tracks of his previous discs it has inherent similarities, but it simultaneously feels like something completely fresh and different. It’s a brave step for Cooley to make, and in retrospect it’s a perfect introduction to something that’s been waiting inside of him for years now.

And what’s good is that this is space he’s found is returned to right at the end of the album on closing track “Lose The Plot.” But instead of him breathing in and out calmly, he goes more for a style that matches the track’s title. With its huge chorus the song sounds more cathartic than anything else as he sings “And I lose the plot/ So I can let you go.” He might be referring to a particular person, but he could just as easily be singing about the album itself as he’s gives it his everything so he can finally move on from something he’s been wanting to release for years. It’s also a hell of a song in itself; with its spiralling electric guitar work and wailing horns it’s probably the most anthemic you’ll ever hear Cooley be.

In terms of new ground covered musically, the seismic chorus of “Lose The Plot” is probably the only thing here – but that’s no bad thing. Cooley’s still young and, with every release, is constantly moving forward as a musician, and there’s always going to be another place for him to hit another high. I can (and will, predictably) say that there’s nothing as undeniably uplifting as “Living/Breathing” on the album, but the song’s presence of the Living/Breathing EP is one reason (of many) that I go back to it over and over. When I want that hit of huge release from Cooley, I’ll know to come straight to this album.

Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for experimentation. “Friend To The Horizon” is an interesting cut that matches Cooley’s most textured percussive patterns with an onslaught of layered vocals. At first the song comes across as a little jumbled, recalling the construction of the songs on Cherry Blossoms, but if you sit down and give it your full attention it becomes a fun song just to deconstruct and to simply listen to. “Involuntary Dreamer” also shows off a series of curious layers as effects skitter about above the guitars and energetic drumming. It’s also worth pointing out that Cooley’s drumming style in itself is something to be considered almost experimental, as he successfully matches both articulate and simple rhythmic patterns to everything here.

Compared to his previous work the album itself seems to feel like it should be classed like all those other albums that you root so long for and want people to give considered attention to: a grower. I say it “feels like it should” because the effect isn’t as you’d expect. The songs don’t unfurl or creep up on you. Instead it feels a little more like they are simply songs that you have to get to know, so as to know how to appreciate them. That sounds silly but how many times have you found yourself liking a song just because it’s catchy or because it’s evokes a certain mood? Here the songs work as a whole; or at least as two halves. And chances are you’ll favour the second half more, but you do because the first makes it worth the wait. That’s not to say the first half of the album isn’t worth your time but simply that a greater number of better songs are from track six onwards.

The opening half of the album does have good songs – “A Million Shades of Sky” and “Friend To The Horizon” as already mentioned, and the calming interlude “Lone Wolf” – but stuck in between are songs that’s aren’t so much bad, as tracks that just don’t feel particularly memorable. Earlier mentioned “Involuntary Dreamer” does have its curious streak but that feels like the only notable feature, while “Off The Map” feels like a rehash of “Your Free Spirit,” with its caffeinated guitar line and chorus that begins on the same notes. “In A Life After” is easier to forgive, as it feels like a set up for the final trio of great songs, but on its own it feels like an energetic rush towards nothing in particular.

But those three songs are the only moments when the album feels like it’s dragging or unfocused. And it’s greatly beneficial that around these songs are ones of fine quality like “Somewhere Else,” which sounds almost too easy for Cooley, and “Time Away From The World” which may be one of the best songs Cooley has recorded, just for its wonderful flurry of a coda.

One thing it’s hard to fault the album for is its consideration. Those tracks may seem like missteps but at the same time they feel like a required part of a bigger picture. Two years is a long time, and it’s taken that time for Cooley to bring this album together and release it with the satisfaction that this is what was lurking inside him for all that time. Personally I’ll concede that this isn’t the best Mesita disc out there, but it definitely feels like one Cooley is happiest to release and give to his fans if not merely because he’s tried so many times to get it right – and I’m not one to question what feels right for Cooley. It’s pleasing just to see him arrive somewhere he’s been waiting so long to get to.


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