I heaped high praise on Roof Beams' previous album, Tectonics and it turns out the band has only gotten sharper in the past three years. Charon is sprawling in terms of theme: it takes on love, politics, religion, and the intersection of all three. But the music and lyrics themselves are tighter than ever. Nathan Robinson's trademark vibrato gives an urgency to the songs -- whether they're political jeremiads or steadfast declarations of love, Robinson's voice demands your attention. The band anchors his intensity with a determination of their own. This isn't vapid indie folk: it's a solid statement.
A few years back, I also wrote that Robinson is one of the best lyricists around. That's just as true today -- especially so. There are too many small moments to choose one to call attention to, so you're just going to have to listen. The album repeats several motifs throughout: the idea of a modern love, of Charon (both the ferryman of the River Styx and one of Pluto's moons), and our sense of obligation to each other. Charon is a vital album right now: woven into the astronomical imagery and lyrical twists is the belief that we have universal experiences to draw in that, if we really wanted to, we could use to understand each other. And that could maybe fix this mess.
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