As previously mentioned in my Psychic Twin review, anyone saying electronic music can’t pack a punch better check themselves (before they break themselves). Strange Diary was exhibit A. Exhibit B is If you see me, say yes, the debut album by Flock of Dimes.
Flock of dimes is, of course, Jenn Wasner, far from the gothic Americana rock of Wye Oak, now head deep into a vast ocean of neon lights, rain-soaked sidewalks, and Members Only jackets. Or is it really that far? Sure, the arrangements embrace the electronica genre, but the lyrical themes resonate with Jenn‘s usual themes. Isolation, the comedown from tour into “real” life. Cycles, endless and ridiculous by nature. This is Wasner at her lyrical best: honest, emotional, unapologetic. If you see me, say yes graciously dances into the recesses of your soul. Arabesque, kick, kick, turn, and jump. A clear love of 80s pop is here, but never falls into the nostalgia trap. Instead, it’s used snare wild emotions, with homespun bits of knowledge driven home sonically by Wasner‘s emotional vocals.
Make no mistake: for all the beautiful glitz of synths, the driving force of Flock of Dimes will always be Jenn Wasner‘s gorgeous vocals. The right amount of dreamy intonations, with an inflection that conveys both longing and hope. ‘Flight’ embodies this. An instrumental base echoing Jean Michel Jarre and Commodore 64 game soundtracks, ‘Flight’ is a perfect track and you will find yourself singing along the “flight” parts of the chorus. Soar from the cold, barren earth to the clouds above, where the sun always smiles and the sapphire blue sky is endless.
Every electronica album should include a “banger” track on its repertoire and ‘Ida Glow’ is our John Travolta-in-a-leisure-suit track. An arpeggiated chord, alone in a well-lit dancefloor, taps its foot, then weaves its arms with utmost passion. Maybe other notes will join in, indulging into the infectious notes that bounce back and forth. Or maybe that arpeggiated chord will end the way it started: dancing alone, without a care in the world.
‘Semaphore’ was the first video for If you see me, say yes and as a visual statement of Flock of Dimes, it works perfectly. The song is sweet and reassuring, but the video can feel unnerving. This disconnection again manages to convey the duality of Flock of Dimes and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both the dress worn in this video (and the album cover) and the signature guitar have a black and white pattern. It’s not about being either/or, it’s about being caught in a binary position. Only yes or no for answers. Nothing else. This duality is the main theme of If you see me, say yes and it becomes apparent the more you immerse yourself into the music and the fledgling mythology.
‘You, The Vatican’ is my fave from this collection. Nostalgic waves encompass Wasner‘s vocals and there’s a certain degree of acceptance in the inherent sadness of the track. Reading a little about this song, there is a certain connection to the death of close relatives and the intimate thoughts ooze through, especially with the cascading piano notes that create a chaotic ending that fades away, peacefully.
If you see me, say yes is a tactical album. There’s a perfectionist approach to make a statement and it has the precision of clockwork. ‘Sometimes it is right…’ and ‘…to have no answer’ bookend this collection. 12 tracks for 12 feelings, your brain processing a series of thoughts and mad ideas, in an orderly fashion. Then you make a decision.
“If you say yes, what will you say no to?” This question was posed to Jenn Wasner by her friend, Rachel Monroe, in a letter. The album won’t answer this for you, because that is the point of If you see me, say yes: tackle the question, process it slowly, relish on the bad and the good, and somehow, the answer will break on through. It will differ to you and me, but the answer is there. Take if you want it.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López