Grief is a near constant in life. With every end, with every thing we stop doing, we lose something, something we need to mourn. We must go on though, some have a sun-bursting utopia unfurling ahead of them, perhaps after leaving a job they hate, others an all-consuming gloom, an abyss where no light gets in. Stone Irr most likely wound up in the latter category after the breakdown of his relationship; an ending that prompted him to rip up his Indiana roots and grow them anew in Los Angeles.
Indeed, Irr pictures himself in free-fall on second album ‘Performance’. He declares that he’s “hitting ground” on ‘Storyline’, while opener ‘Nose Dive’ sees him do exactly that, the end of his relationship akin to being thrown out of an aeroplane, no clue where you’ll land. It’s on ‘Storyline’ again where he best surmises the record’s subject matter, singing “My calendar is anchored in / A heartbreak that gave my life a map / Now I’ve moved away like the love before me”.
It’s not an album steeped in woe, rather it’s one that looks the lousiness of the break-up in the eye before revelling in the births which bloomed from that death. Those new beginnings are mostly felt in the freedom of Irr’s music, which ebbs and flows unpredictably, it’s like a day you don’t know how to dress for, unsure if rain or sunshine awaits in the distance.
Irr is daring, blending aspects of sparse music – a voice set well back in the mix, woozy soundscapes – with aspects of denser, bulkier music – swelling strings and triumphant brass. It makes for a record that’s synonymously cavernous and full-bodied.
For the most part, the tracks are fun. ‘All We Want Anymore’ could’ve been pulled straight from The Beach Boys back catalogue, ‘Fine With You’ has a glorious, extricating chorus – a prominent feature on the record – while ‘Incessant’ carries the sun-blitzed glimmer of Real Estate. There are somber moments, the ironically titled ‘Cheer Up’ sees him sing on a bed of strings, while ‘Lift Your Shirt’ is set to little more than an acoustic guitar.
‘Performance’ is the sound of Irr enjoying himself, spreading his wings, seeing things in his new home city for the first time, carving out new relationships. He’s lifted himself up, brushed the dirt off his clothes and set out on a journey of infinite reward.