Judging by his Instagram account, Nico Haag is doing something with his 20s. He is going to interesting places, taking pictures of random things, spending time with beautiful people, and growing ironic mustaches. He is also working on the first full-length from his bleeklino project, which will be entitled Sleep Castle. Having a sweet Instagram, stuff to do, and working on an LP would be enough for most people, but not Haag. He has just dropped an EP replete with all the stuff that doesn’t quite fit on the forthcoming full-length.
On top of everything else, and in case yo were wondering, the EP is a particularly stellar effort, especially for someone who seems like a side character’s new boyfriend in a Brett Ellis novel.
Since we last checked in on Mr. Haag he’s apparently been listening to a lot of Atlas Sound, a little bit of The Unicorns, and read the entirety of Henry Miller’s work. The songs are insistent, sometimes coy, and always just aloof enough. At one point he threatens,
When I’m feeling low I get a tattoo
Or grow a mustache
It’s nice I think, Sometimes when things can change to my own design
It makes me laugh
There is a lot going on in the roughly 15:00 minutes that make up River Bones, so much so that it doesn’t seem like a bi-product of a larger process, but rather its own thing. The songs plod along like they have someplace to go, but are in no hurry to get there. Haag strums and huffs. The doleful reverb and click-bap drum beat makes for a sludgy, murky time. The guitar moans like a slinky, noir skin-flick. Something sloshes inside the song like jello shots in a tub. When Haag harmonizes with himself over a self-produced track it’s like watching some sonic form of masturbation. And that’s not a bad thing. What better metaphor for someone locked in their bedroom, seeking pleasure with their eyes closed than self love? In that respect the record is one big, writhing, one-man orgy. A neo-new wave onanism wiggle. A soundtrack for a circle-jerk fantasy where the same lithe male body is cloned and set to work on itself.
Also, there are songs. Sort of.
The songs aren’t so much songs, but moods. “I’m On My Way” is a sometimes regal, sometimes ragged, barely-tuned Saturday afternoon waltz, designed for sharing cigarettes over. It is purposed for soundtracking your Spring day full of lazing around in your underwear. (Turns out April is the perfect month for this lush, plump EP about being horny and doing something about it).
“Evil Lies” borrows the tune from Will Smith’s ode to his kid “Just the Two of Us” and places it underwater. Haag’s song is melodically similar, but thematically the only thing it has to do with having children is that it discourages you from pulling out. It’s a trippy, open-relationship of an exercise that can be fun, and even transcendent at times, but is also pretty confusing. Subjects are switched for objects for poetic effect, like when Haag says “I don’t play my guitar/ My guitar plays me,” and I am still not sure if the word “puddles” from the song “People Puddle” is being used as a noun or a verb. It’s all an interesting experiment, though. It’s essentially a guy playing with ideas and using his guitar as a chop saw for his heart.
Yet, there is something epic about it. Not epic like a story about a snake who undermines gods’ relationship with man. Not epic like Asgardians fighting the entire pantheon of WWE Superstars with the survivors of the conflict punching holes in the firmament. I am talking small-scope epic. Epic like when you drive from New York to Chicago over the course of one harried evening, without stopping to pee. Epic like when you manage to eat 27 habanero peppers in a sitting. Epic like when you drunkenly decide to go to the circus and end up challenging the strongman to an arm-wrestling contest. Just epic enough so that you remember it fondly, but not epic enough to change anyone’s life.
The record soars, but not over a city scape, or the ocean, just from the dresser to the bed. The record surprises, but only in the way you are surprised when they play a rerun of Law and Order from the Chris Noth Era. The record is ambitious, but only ambitious in the way that it’s ambitious to make “not hitting the snooze button so much” your New Year’s resolution.
That is to say the record fits in your pocket, gets you from the subway to your apartment, gets you from last week’s one-night-stand to next week’s, gets you from Haag’s disorganized smattering of songs on his soundcloud page to his full-length. But sometimes that’s all you need.