off your radar

by devonsp

One outstanding album each week recommended & analyzed by a dozen music writers & lovers.
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I Love You, Go Easy by Devon Sproule
Released On May 27, 2001
Released By Tin Angel Records
This Week’s Selection Chosen By Davy Jones

The very first thing you hear after starting I Love You, Go Easy is a description of the fauna of part of a particular pond. “The back part of the pond belongs to the pilots and yellow belly sliders,” Devon Sproule sings, before advising “If you push to that part of the pond, on the mossy dock, and fall in, hang onto your bits.” Oh snap. Literally.

It’s a very specific piece of advice about a specific place I’ll almost certainly never visit, but the opening track goes onto illustrate holding on in a different sense — enduring the “miserable rhythm” of competitive running — before the chorus defiantly proclaims “If I can do this, I can do anything.”

From turtles to running to a cohesive thematic picture. That’s Sproule’s brand of brilliance: stringing razor-sharp stream of consciousness vignettes together in ways that lend meaning and significance to the details of her surroundings and relationships.

I first encountered Devon Sproule in Charlottesville while on a half-music, half-beer press trip with fellow Off Your Radar contributor and Virginia Tourism ambassador Andrew Cothern. Sproule was playing a daytime gig at a spot called The Garage, where musicians perform for an audience that’s spread out across a steep hill on the other side of a narrow street.

There happened to be an event going on within The Garage called Letter Writing Day, where you were encouraged to hand-write letters to the people you care about. Buying my copy of I Love You, Go Easy then seems fated now, given how beautifully the album mimics the warmth and detail of old-fashioned, personal correspondence.

The Warning Bell” may contain my favorite example. Tell me this doesn’t sound like the middle part of a letter or email you’d get from a sibling or parent who had a short to-do list that day:

“I’ve been waking up early to the tune of the neighborhood rooster. The cat’s in the dark yard hunting birds. Pretty much all the leaves on the mulberry tree came down overnight. But she’s still blending in all right.”

Sproule sets scene after scene with as much deliberate care, and in doing so, she forms this really interesting link between physical and emotional spaces. If the person you care about can’t physically be there with you, you tell them what “there” looks like so they can kinda sorta be there. Or, if the person you’re with isn’t happy where you are, you offer to hit the road, as she does in “Now’s The Time.” Connecticut, San Diego, the hill country… with apologies to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, home is wherever the narrator and the one she loves are together and happy.

One line I can’t get enough of from “Now’s The Time” is “You can tell Keith that if he needs to he can come.” It doesn’t even seem like a song lyric when you type it out like that — it’s so direct, like a quick logistical text. I called her vignettes “razor-sharp” in part because so many other verses contain this kind of single expression or turn of phrase that’s surgical in its wit and ingenuity. “I learned how to question attack back” in “The Unmarked Animals.” “It was Missouri in a hurry” in “The Faulty Body.” And the amount of internal rhyme is staggering. Lyrics that are this meticulously constructed shouldn’t flow so naturally, but here, they drift along on the gentle tide of Sproule’s prosaic gift.

I’ve talked a lot about lyrics, but I Love You, Go Easy is an absolute feast for the ears of anyone interested in unique arrangements and instrumentation. Guitar, bass, drums, synth, wurlitzer, trombone, saxophone, clarinet, flute… they all make appearances, but they’re used judiciously and steadfastly avoid dragging songs out of the realm of the personal.

In the spirit of Letter Writing Day, I hope Sproule considers this an open letter in appreciation of and thanks for this wonderful album.

Davy Jones (@youhearthat)
Idealistic Seeker Of Neoteric Sounds