The Tower & The Fool - How Long
Run For Cover Records/Earshot Media, 2012
Every once in awhile, an album comes along, out of nowhere, and just stops you in your tracks. It's a rare but beautiful thing when you can listen to a record for the first time, completely free of all expectations, and have it knock you down. Last year, a pair of records landed in my top ten from artists that I had known nothing about prior to my first listen: the first was Charlie Simpson's Young Pilgrim, a gorgeous folk-pop effort that was right up my alley from the get-go. The second was Mansions' Dig Up the Dead, an emotionally intense set of break-up songs that wormed its way into my consciousness as the year moved on until I couldn't ignore it: I expect that a similar fate will befall How Long, the excellent full-length debut from Rhode Island-based rock band The Tower & The Fool, a break-up album that encompasses some of the best melodies, the most emotional vocals, and the most stunningly heartbreaking lyrics that I've heard all year (or, perhaps, all decade).
A swell of B3-organ keys and a scorching guitar solo are the cornerstones of penultimate cut "Die Alone," which serves as the climactic peak of a heartbreaking record. Desperation cuts through Correia's voice as he belts out the song's chorus ("And I'm praying to God that her love keeps me afloat/'Cause man, I don't wanna die alone") but we feel distinctly like there's no end to his suffering here, and the closer, though it reaches resignation, is one of the album's hardest-hitting moments. Set to the backdrop of a single acoustic guitar, softly finger-picked in a swirl of intimacy, "Who Does She Think She Is?" lands very much in the tradition of great break-up album closers. It's a slow-burn of regret and resignation, where Correia sounds tired and broken, and just like many of his predecessors in this tradition, like he has nothing left to give or to say. "Love is a horrible thing," the album concludes, and though The Tower & The Fool may be inviting a pity party of sorts with this record, that's an important part of the tradition as well.