Music is a pretty self-centred thing, and so it's refreshing to hear a few songs that are focused on 'you' rather than 'I'. This record's obsession with the second person is apparent from the moment you read its title; You, for the most part, is a breakup album, and its central protagonist isn't giving up without a spell spent wallowing, obsessing, begging, pleading, et cetera.
But the name doesn't merely refer to the departing partner. Check out this line from You Part 2 (Attempt to Dance):
"It's hard to accept that it's you, not me."
Now, the "it's not you, it's me" line is generally used to soften the blow of a breakup, to assure the other party that this sad state of affairs isn't their fault. But this song examines the sad implications of that old cliché; the narrator would rather it were him, because then he could do something to make it better. As it stands, it's not him, it's you, and that has left him with a rather scary sense of powerlessness. No attempt to dance, no personality transplant will rerail the relationship at this stage.
You is the first in a trilogy of albums that My Name Is Ian (part of Quiet Marauder's ITNA KLOF collective) will be releasing this year, and I'm curious to see what trajectory the next two albums will take. I'm predicting that the next one will be a depressed, post-breakup album, and that the final part of the trilogy will be a more optimistic affair, a set of songs about moving on and looking up. The Eels did something similar with Hombre Lobo (the lustful courting album), End Times (the sad breakup album) and Tomorrow Morning (the happy 'life goes on' album), although E admittedly didn't attempt to pack those three albums into one year.
This one is from End Times, the Eels equivalent of You.
Time will tell how things go from here. In the meantime, all we've got is the first chapter of Ian's trilogy, and even if the breakup album isn't going to conquer the world alone - I'm sure it will be even more interesting as part of the whole set - it's still pretty good fun. Ian has a real talent for making pop culture references that hit the sweet spot between 'too obscure to appeal to anyone' and 'too obvious to be remotely effective'; in I've Never Played Monopoly, for example, he compares his relationship to a series of popular games (Twister, Mouse Trap, Battleships) before remarking, "I've never played Monopoly, so I definitely don't want to play your games."
Musically, it's a pretty rough-edged listen, which is hardly surprising given that it was recorded in just 24 hours. There are a few rocked-up instrumental moments (the seven minute-long Wiggle Pow Wow being a central example), but on the whole, it's a more charming listen when Ian is actually singing. The lo-fi jams aren't as interesting without those miserable witticisms on top. Here's a great titbit that you'll hear amid the Hefner-esque noise of It's Over and I'm Bitter:
"If a double-decker bus crashed into us then Morrissey would sue, but I'm broke as fuck - what can he do?"
So, to sum up: the signs are definitely positive at this stage, but I'm reserving judgement until I've heard all three albums. This is only the first part of the trilogy, and I'm optimistic that the other two will only enhance the whole shebang.
You is out today, and you can get it from My Name Is Ian's bandcamp page.