I get it. You work your ass off. You slave for years mixing and matching to get your modern indie folk band sounding exactly the way you want — you do some great local shows, then small tours, then bigger tours and finally get a chance to make a quality record. You get a more-than-acceptable amount of blog press and build a better than average size fan base over three years
and then …
Some dude, gets dumped by some chick named Emma, moves to a rural cabin in Wisconsin, writes an entire record about it. Dude sounds a little like you — but turns up the rootsy, cranks up the forlorn and the subsequent release hits Top 3 on the freaking Billboard Pop Chart!
That must drive a mofo crazy, right? Well it must have really bugged Jesse Lortz of good times Seattle boy/girl-fronted folk act The Dutchess & the Duke because he broke up his band and made a record that has the all the classic ear-markings of Bon Iver’s debut, For Emma, Forever Ago (replacing a mournful falsetto for a monotone baritone). Lortz calls his solo project Case Studies and his initial release The World Is Just a Shape to Fill the Night (released on Sacred Bones) really suffers from its similarity to one of the most well-known and most purchased indie releases of all time. Even the back story is similar, the record was also recorded in a rural shack, in response to a bitter break up and is an attempt to find one’s self though loss spent in quiet, pastoral self reflection. That does not make it a bad album. In fact, I think it’s actually better than average, possibly a bit tedious due to the unemotional vocal delivery, but a real attempt here has been made to make quality music. I can hear that. Then why sound and act like the biggest artist in indie rock when you had a cool thing going already?
The music is a sort of deadpan country folk, key cut. The second track, “The Eagle, or the Serpent,” has a light string accompaniment and poker-faced vocal, while “California Ghost Story” is a bit more dramatic but with that same unemotional vocal style. “My Silver Hand” attempts to add elements of country to the mix. The accompaniment is very spare, strummed acoustic guitar, light percussion, hushed background vocals and it sports a very spare dry mix. All things I usually enjoy.
This record is a fine sounding record. In fact it’s possible I allowed the The World Is Just a Shape to Fill the Night’s press release to undo me. Being sold on a record because of a story just-recently-told (and told very well) doesn’t sit well with me. And if For Emma, Forever Ago had never come out, I might be singing this release’s praises. But as I can’t get down with Amerie when I can have Beyonce, I can’t get down with Reno when I can have Vegas, I can’t get down with Case Studies’ The World Is Just a Shape to Fill the Night when I can have the original.
Words: Stephe Sykes