In a semi-recent post for The Grey Estates, Future Oak’s Fredrick Arnold wrote about, amongst other things, the charm and danger of hindsight. “There have been times,” read the final line, “even recent times, where I’ve accidentally caught myself feeling like this has been a fantastic river to drift along.” There’s something unyieldingly true about the sentiment, something, for lack of a better word, human. Because, while the thought drags past misery back into the present and raises a slew of hefty existential questions, there’s something beautiful in its poetic simplicity – something comforting and reassuring in the knowledge that other people are living and thinking in such ways.
Dan Knishkowy’s latest Adeline Hotel album, It’s Alright, Just The Same, feels something like the musical equivalent of Fredrick’s words. Produced by Will Stratton, the record is undoubtedly about sad and melancholic things, though almost indirectly so. It’s as if it’s written from a comfortable vantage point, where everything can be viewed in context and with a certain degree of fondness. But, rather than fall headlong into the nostalgic-hindsight trap, Knishkowy clings to the edge and faces upwards, forwards, using past strife as an energising force to colour the present. Opener ‘Oh Well’ is a good example, a slow-burning, almost ironical song about looking back and moving on and ending up being yourself, culminating in a frantic, joyous instrumental.
“I’m going back
Always going back
Can we ever go back?
When you move somewhere, you can be anyone else
But I’ll probably just be myself
As we described when premiering the song, ‘Near You’ is upbeat and carefree, with “a faint sadness linger[ing] between the chords… a gentle melancholia which makes you thankful for what you have and have had”. ‘Lay Low’ has a Molina-esque sparsity while ‘Disarray’ is a bona-fide country song, loneliness and work woes compounded by a lingering longing for lost love, despite it having been a source of disturbance at the time. ‘So Recognizable’ confronts this problem, the lunacy of missing out on the present because of worries about the past or future.
“Missing all these moments when I’m gone
Every time I hold my breath too long
I always loved away the present tense
Moments just as means to other ends”
If ‘Oh Well’ took a cynical view of the narrator’s position, then ‘My Friend’ serves as the opposite view, a sincere telling of a friend’s trouble, because nothing ignites our belief in hope like the suffering of a loved one (“There’s nothing I can do to help him if he won’t / Let love in a little”). ‘Wonder Why’ is rooted back in the personal, lost amidst a relationship gone sour, longing for the day when the mess can become one of Fredrick’s rose-tinted fantasies (“Then one day we’ll look back and laugh / Til then recoil with no face to the past”). The finger-picked guitar on ‘Magnolia’ ticks over like time itself, the lyrics shocked that seasons pass, though closer ‘Reciprocal Ages’ manages to find a moment of clarity, the aforementioned looking forwards, as though everything preceding this moment was merely a prologue.
“We talked of Big Nothing forever
You laughed when I told you my name
Surprised that I made you feel better
I said “it’s alright, just the same”
It’s Alright, Just the Same is an album of conflict. Conflict between old and new, here and there, him and her. A conflict between the past and the future with the present caught in the crossfire, hopes and heartbreak old and new swirling the narrator’s head so that he can no longer feel the sun on his face. However, through dry humour, other people and plain old chance, Adeline Hotel show that it’s possible the air just might clear now and then, affording a clear view and the feeling that sometimes, just sometimes, this could be a fantastic river to drift along, for a while at least.
Album art by Michael Steiner