Whether we’re sitting down with a good book, flipping through our latest stack of comics, spraining our thumbs during all-night video game sessions, or doodling in a sketchbook, The Pure Mood loves to have a record spinning in the background of our lives. Every week, we’ll spotlight a new album that demands listening.
Daniel Romano’s newest album is the kind of country music we’re not allowed to hear anymore. It’s a loud, declarative statement against the pop sensibilities of most modern country, packed to a bursting point of song after song about heartache, misery, fatherhood and an alcoholic dependency. Though filled with many country tropes, it’s much more than a nostalgic pastiche of throwback Hank Williams style tunes. Romano has serious and personal ideas to consider, namely the one referenced in the title – a man’s insatiable desire to cry. The perplexing and haunting male need to repress our emotions is revealed in many of the self-destructive characters throughout the 10 tracks on the album. In ‘He Let Her Memory Go’, one of the strongest tracks on the record, a divorced father attempts to run away from the images of his wife. There’s a heart-breaking fragility imbued in the descriptions of the man bringing his children to the park, wishing he could remove every aspect of his lost love from his life. “Bring my ring to the pawnshop on the corner/spend it on a man that you can stand.” Romano sings on another song about a broken man looking for acceptance.
Romano’s nasally and earnest voice brings to the songs a certain fullness. Another performer may have veered into self-conscious territory, but this sounds like honest-to-god heartbreak, country music located only at the bottom of a bottle of whiskey. “And when I sit inside my head/ I know I’d rather die.” perfectly captures the fatalistic element that makes the country music genre so unique. Just as David Foster Wallace manages to make crippling, brutal truths more accessible by writing in a conversational tone, “the one we hear in our head” as A.O. Scott put it, Romano strips away masculinity by singing in a voice that would define it. By singing in the way a lot of country music fans probably sound in their head, Romano makes his heartaching words sting that much more.
“I pray the truth won’t stay / But I’m always reminded” is kind of the apogee of COME CRY WITH ME. The characters are all running from a past of some kind, in bars, with women, with music. But we seem to get the sense that if these guys just sat down for a second and cried, really balled it all out, red in the face and covered in snot style…maybe things would be okay. Maybe if they faced their mistakes and moved on from them, things wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe those reminders wouldn’t sting the way they do. Romano uses country music, a genre most associated with masculinity and heartbreak, to challenge a way of life so many men embrace. If we can overcome our hatred of our selves and our fear of being weak, maybe we could actually accomplish something. The music gives us a hint that there’s hope in attaining that. “There are times when days pass / Like they’ve got some chance to last.” We’d be so lucky.