Album review by Christian Best

Greetings from Marquette: Joe Pera Talks With You Season 2 digital album by Skyway Man (2020)

As suggested by its lengthy name, this is the soundtrack for season two of comedian Joe Pera’s underappreciated comedy series on Adult Swim. The show itself is quite singular, a holdout in a time of instant gratification, of 30 second clips, of engineered digital addiction. This is a slow-paced, meandering show. It celebrates and unveils the gentle beauty and humor that can be found in everyday life, in mundanity, should you be open to it. So I begin this review with a question: Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the beauty of everyday human interaction?

Last week a worker at Royal Farms gave me a free piece of chicken. He said I seemed like I needed it and unceremoniously slipped it into my bag with a wink. This moment of kindness felt like a lightning strike. I do believe we are inherently good. Before and after this tender event, I listened to this record. They’re therefore inherently linked.

This brings me to the music, created by Oakland based James Wallace, aka Skyway Man. This suite of six tracks is as gentle, conversational, and subtly sentimental as the series it accompanies. The palette is warm-hued, the instrumentation cozy, familiar and accessible. Each composition shares a melodic optimism. This music could lazily be labelled Americana” but that would ignore the overarching, meticulous eye cast toward textural elements throughout. I feel this record shares as much common DNA with Krautrock/Kosmische records of the 70s — or perhaps something released under the Ethiopiques series — as it does American country music. The production centers the sonic character of the studio room itself, its warming influence acting as a silent protagonist, interpreting and shaping the listener’s perception.

Introductory track A Sugarloaf” sets the tone. Delicate piano reminiscent of Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou and acoustic guitar intersect. Piano notes playfully invoke falling rain. The piece is over before we have time to settle into the ambience, but the piece serves to invite the listener toward its warm glow. Wires (instrumental)” plays out over a trilogy of movements, jumping from a guitar led march, into a triumphant locked horn section, before spilling into its bar-room boisterous honky-tonk conclusion. Each section a fluid continuation of the one before, gaining momentum as we go. The central statement of this collection of songs is Driving to Milwaukee”. Built around a buoyant, spacious bass line and shuffling drum beat, woodwinds shift between collective statements and individual flourishes. Each participating voice is allowed room to speak alone — saxophone, flute, bass clarinet. Each sound warm and wooly, each line conversational, never indulgent. Album closer Dinner with the Neighbor’s Kids”, like the introduction, centers the piano. Upright bass and drums pedal the track along, marimba and strings punctuate the progression. As with each track in this collection, the tone is measured and wistful.

From start to finish, Greetings from Marquette invokes a sentimental, observational tone. Like driving through a city and observing strangers going about their daily lives. If you feel there is beauty in that, then this could be your soundtrack. And with the RoFo employee in mind, keep your eyes peeled for the gentle ways we extend each other kindness every day.

Christian Best

IG: @christians_worst

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