Click to hear: “Lost Sailor”
Mousa is multi-instrumentalist Vince “Aleric” Nez, a musician of uncommon versatility who’s played with groups as diverse as the Vaudevillian project Over a Cardboard Sea and mountain-music men Matt Meyer and the Gumption Junction. Songs of the Universe employs a kitchen sink-full of sounds and styles across nine tracks that combine to provide nearly an hour of extraordinary music. The themes are established early: heartbreak, hangovers, loneliness and longing. And it’s clear from the very first song that Nez is as gifted with a pen as he is with other instruments.
Far too many lyricists these days think they can get away with clichés or incomprehensible crap masquerading as poetry. The imagery, detail and wordplay in Nez’s work are wonderful. “And yesterday’s liquor still swam in my brain, and dogpaddled its way down my veins,” he softly sings on the opener, “Tha Couch,” while ukulele, acoustic guitar, fiddle, hand claps, and the sounds of a murder of crows mingle to make the musical bed.
“I plotted your destruction. I toasted to your fall. I wrote you a dirty epitaph, as I waited for your call,” Nez sings on the next cut, “Yer a Losin Battle,” affecting a lounge-country croon while a cheap keyboard blips in the background. The cadence of Nez’s phrasing on long, elegiac tracks like “Birdy Song” and “Patterson Pond” is strikingly original and achingly lovely, especially on the latter, a remembrance of nights with old friends at a forbidden swimming hole.
“Lost Sailor” could be mistaken for a Leonard Cohen song (it’s that good), with lines like, “You could sidestep her razors and kiss her gentle lips / You could touch her buttons as you hold her wrists.” Or take this line, from “S.B.C.,” which stands for “slow burnin’ crush” (and perhaps someone’s name): “He sure hopes this trend becomes the norm / finding strands of your hair on his clothes.”
Nez leavens the heaviness with a couple jokier songs, including “Belle of the Western Head,” about an encounter with a mermaid. Songs ends with “Aftermath,” a long, quiet reflection on a lost love: “outside the Crowbar, you lyin’ on the cement / I took pictures with your phone that I never saw again.”
Songs is available on Bandcamp, but lucky are those who manage to get a physical copy of the CD, which includes a booklet full of fun photos and all the lyrics. A show scheduled at Slainte on April 25 might be your last, best chance to pick up one of the most remarkable albums made in Maine last year.
— Chris Busby