Small Houses, Michigan native Jeremy Quentin, has a new album entitled Exactly Where You Wanted To Be, out 26th February on Yer Bird Records. I’ve been a fan of Small Houses since the previous LP North (and have since discovered his debut album Our Dusking Sound), and the new album builds upon Quentin’s strengths to form a collection of rich songs that fit together perfectly as a collective whole.
Exactly Where you Wanted To Be is an album of recurring themes, where each song is placed precisely amongst it’s fellows. This isn’t a superficial collection of singles that has been thrown together, it is a piece of art that was assembled with care. Quentin’s finger-picking style sounds natural, organic, gloriously free from gimmicks and stylistic gestures. This isn’t to say it is overly simple or lacking in talent, but rather that the sound is faithful to the lyrics, the gentle piano evocative of the nostalgic summers of which he sings, the harmonica yelling into the wind of the freedom of travel. He avoids the temptation to try and score meaningless points from lazy listeners, to resort to the instant but empty gratification that is so often achieved by the musically belletristic tricksters that seem to win over the public for a fortnight before being dropped for the ‘next big thing’. It feels like music crafted for an individual listener as opposed to the faceless masses, a personal record, honest and warm. Of course, for this to work, it has to be backed up with quality songwriting. Luckily, Quentin delivers in spades.
The overriding theme of the album (at least for me) is that of distance, both spatial or temporal. ‘Oh Hiding Out’ speaks of dreaming of Illinois, of St Louis awaiting his voice. It speaks of driving to the city and of travels to different and exciting places. ‘Our Sweet’ talks of summers and winters and of driving away. The closing track ‘Homes and Photographs’ is packed with nostalgic imagery, a song of promises to be places that he is evidently away from, and of a lot of driving in between. There is a perfect blend of home and travelling, maybe indicating our inherent need for both. The line ‘give you something you can keep like a penny laid on a railway, I bought a diamond for your ring' sums up the whole album, the juxtaposition of the adventure of being away with a vital sentimentality and desire for belonging.
This idea of distance, of time and travel, brings to mind an interesting thought that is often on my mind; the idea of our lives as a journey to (or away from) some ideal destination, some better time. David Foster Wallace, on describing Franz Kafka’s central humour, puts this better than I ever could.
That our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home…To envision us readers coming up and pounding on this door, pounding and pounding, not just wanting admission but needing it, we don’t know what it is but we can feel it, this total desperation to enter, pounding and pushing and kicking, etc. That, finally, the door opens…and it opens outward: we’ve been inside what we wanted all along.
Whether it is intentional on Quentin’s part or whether he meant something else entirely, the title Exactly Where You Wanted To Be seems to encapsulate this sentiment. The album tells of nostalgic pasts and hopeful futures, but what it really does is illustrate the here and now - life’s long journey - people at the mercy of their hopeful dreams and rose-tinted pasts. It captures the present, exactly where we want to be.
You can get the album from Yer Bird Records from the 26th or pre-order it here. Check out the video by Zachary Gibson for ‘Oh, Hiding Out’ below and have a listen to this great little session from Folkpedia too.