Marjorie Fair: Self Help Serenade

Awakening from a dream that you can’t quite grasp, caught in that void of restlessness, trying to remember the images still swimming in the darkness. You then find yourself awake, dazed in bed, comfortable in your warm cocoon, while contemplating sacrificing the day to the high king Sloth. After long memories of lovers, windy beaches and the long-dead trees you used to climb, you slowly rise and swing your legs over the edge of the bed. Gently kicking at past heartaches, you remember your family, the highs and lows; you remember the laundry list of mundane things that you have to do. You stand and throw on your trusty jeans to face yet another day. Now these types of mornings have a soundtrack, and it is the latest Marjorie Fair offering titled Self Help Serenade.

Singer/Songwriter/Multi-instrumentalist Evan Slamka sounds as if he spent a Friday night staying home, watching nature documentaries while fawning over a cute girl whose standard garb includes black glasses and layered old sweaters. Songs such as “Waves,” “Stare” and “Silver Gun” paint a picture of pastel watercolors; it is soothing but lacking in positive or negative energy, they just seem to be. The lazy flow of music blends toned down feedback in the mold of Radiohead with simpler melodies. The same acoustic guitar lines tend to pop up and repeat themselves in most of the mellow arraignments. The result is as inoffensive and as reassuring as a cup of warm cocoa.

The highs such as “Don’t Believe” never soar and the lows such as “Cracks in the Wall” never uncover the murky bottom. Some lyrics, along with the title of the album, hint at a darker content under the surface, as in “Halfway House” – ‘He lives in a halfway house/his mother doesn’t tie/his bootstraps down/they found him by the highway side/with bloodstained boots and glass in his eye.’ This is certainly a disturbing image when read, yet the words are delivered in such a monotone manner they stir little feeling. Nothing seems to get the Mr. Slamka that worked up or that depressed, he simply floats along a Prozac river, like “Self Help Serenade” as a whole, like the space between waking and dreaming.

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