Van Gogh once said that “great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”
People often think music is a flash of greatness, a stumbled upon riff or perfect couplet that defines a song, but van Gogh’s observation is usually more apt. It’s also a perfect description of the songs Jim Guthrie wrote for Takes Time.
Although the sounds Guthrie creates are often airy, nothing was instantaneous in creation. Forget the magnitude of layers Guthrie adds, the key contributors were a discerning ear and patience. Time quickly became an irrelevant factor as Guthrie tried endless combinations of emotion, tone and texture until the final dressing was right. These songs are finished products; even on the most casual listen you hear complex and complete thoughts. All things considered, the most remarkable aspect of Take Times is that even with Guthrie’s constant tinkering and meticulousness, the end result is a record that breathes deeply and savors each moment.
Guthrie combines elements in a way that not only transcends the limiting classification of indie folk, but also breaks through the sonic stereotypes of the individual instruments. The slide guitar on “Wish I Were You” doesn’t weep gently, it performs the much more daunting task of anchoring the strings and surging melody to ensure the listener still feels the longing. The soaring harmonies and horns of “Before and After” aren’t added as a simple escape or embellishment. They fight doggedly to defeat the sadness in Guthrie’s words.
Takes Time might seem like Guthrie’s return after almost a decade, but he’s spent those years exploring the textures that make this record so fresh and alive. This record benefits from his work on video game soundtracks, movie scores, and harmony-laden folk, but most of all it benefits from a perspective that only comes with age. Takes Time is more than a humble title or a apology to impatient fans, it’s a reminder that our only real journey is to discover our purpose and then put our entire heart into that process.
Takes Time is a celebration of letting go, starting over and simply living. Joyous applause rises from the static that starts “Taking My Time” alerting us that these songs are different, and in case we forget throughout the listen, Guthrie adds cheerleaders reminding us to be bold. Ten years ago - when Guthrie was receiving acclaim for Now, More Than Ever - Postal Service was exploding into the ears of millions. They sung of a perfect world that only happens in dreams. They sung of perfect weather and wrongs righted and a happiness that only exists when we escape from reality.
Guthrie, in an almost discarded couplet, offers a far more realistic dream. His subconscious thoughts are of a man that ran out of time, building time machines. On the surface, this hints at our own mortality and the constant battle to cheat death and keep living, but on another level, Guthrie shows us how we all waste life trying to find perfection instead of accepting what we are forced to deal with and living with love and passion.
For a few brief seconds, “Never Poor” fuses the limitless hope of “Auld Lang Syne” and the finite sadness of a funeral march, before transforming the song into an artists anthem. The billowy soft melody of gentle picks, harmonies, strings and percussion is the perfect backdrop for Guthrie to sing proudly not of what he has, but who he is. He asks us all to soak in the moment, knowing what we create is of more value than any future wealth of which we waste time dreaming. There is no vanity in his ask; this is four minutes of purity that somehow moves slowly but is gone in the blink of an eye (especially as Jim leaps into the majestic “The Rest is Yet To Come”). The footprints of this song could barely imprint on fresh snow, but without question, they leave a mark.
We’re often talked to in military sloganeering. “Keep calm, carry on.” “Keep fighting. Stay the course.” Guthrie refuses to bark orders, he just quietly hopes we see life for what it is and embrace it. We can’t can’t escape the crippling weight of life, but these songs remind us that we can triumph over whatever hand we are dealt if we simply allow ourselves the freedom to believe in who we are. Don’t stand in formation, stand defiantly and have faith in your own worth. Forget whether or not this is the best record of 2013; that might be the most important realization of the year.
We are thrilled to offer up an exclusive listen to the demo of “Difference a Day Makes.” Enjoy.