Originally written for Inkwell Press
There is a groggy morning light that Make It Easy on Yourself awakes in. The only other presence in the room is a solitary guitar being plucked, conjuring up a companion for itself with its echoing reverberation. Omeed Goodarzi (vox/guitar) barely cracks a word’s shape with his lips while cooing the record’s opening lyric, questioning his expression in itself: “What am I now, when I go to speak?”
Midi and the Modern Dance ached in a similar key before in “Stay Awake,” the opening track on 2009’s Twilight, How Sweet You Are (“I feel numb and painless, my dear/and there are no comforts here”). But where “Stay Awake” leaves traces of a lullaby to reassure (“but the night will come eventually/and there will be better days, you’ll see”), “I’m Sorry” simultaneously opens and closes the record with a despair so thick, Goodarzi can’t see the forest but for the trees. Maybe this is why a track like “Everything I Touch” was chosen to follow—it kicks off its predecessor’s drear with Mikey McGovern’s (keys) ecstatic Rhodes ditty and breaks of upbeat pop frenzy. This was a bit of Midi’s monogram in the days of Twilight, but “Everything I Touch” is a dishonest attempt, the defiantly sunny day which falls on the saddest afternoon of your life.
Dave Groener’s (Suns) poolhouse acoustics cloud the quality of the rest of the record into a lo-fi fog which also disenchants “Almost A Threat” and “I’m Sure,” two songs with kindred insincere half-smiles. These don’t give the record any levity, but sidestep the glaring undertone of loneliness and an element of emotional fatality introduced with “I’m Sorry.” Indulgent though it may have seemed, a thorough eight tracks worth of brooding would have solidified Make it Easy as a whole production. It’s hard to imagine “Everything I Touch,” “Almost A Threat” and “I’m Sure” as anything but outliers, regardless of how strong each track is on its own as substantial pop songs awash in riffy keys and the contagious ebb and flow of short tension and relief.
When the sparse guitar notes pluck back in, easing into “Lucky,” it feels exceedingly more comfortable. It’s just you, Goodarzi, and the smattering of keys and drums (Jack Aldrich) in the background, transparent enough to let the conversation begun in “I’m Sorry” continue on. The record’s reckoning is in “Where Do You Think,” the most powerful Midi track yet written. Goodarzi is tangible, leaning in amongst the tides of autoharp and fuzzed out guitar to trill, “There are better men out there you see/so many boys more good looking than me/where do you think I belong, if I don’t belong to you?” He continues to alternate between self-deprecation and a subdued kind of desperation among harmonies with McGovern and a pining autoharp sigh. In tense Okkervil fashion, feedback squeals once, twice and explodes into a blood-letting so comparatively abrasive and pained that it couldn’t possibly relinquish itself in any other line than a tongue-in-cheek “there’s a place in my head where thoughts of you spread/through the cracks in my bed, how I wish you were dead, how I wish you were dead.”
As of late, Midi’s taken many forms due to their member’s collegiate obligations, though Goodarzi is always a mainstay—sometimes solo, sometimes with Adam Levison (accordion, autoharp) or even Will Rutledge (Suns, drums). As far as that sad, solitary integrity goes, it’s best kept in these intimate performances—but emerge teeming with a full band. Midi aches and rejoices along with any other responsive being, and fall into each emotional step with ease. For us emotional creatures, this dynamism might just mean that this record will endure.