Stars of the Lid // and Their Refinement of the Decline // Kranky // 2007

Last January, I made a post mentioning that I’ve never made a New Years resolution. It’s lovely to see that one year later, I still have no desire to do so. Firstly, I don’t like the idea of myself (I), a dynamic, ever-evolving individual, being reduced to a spark of courage and inspiration on an otherwise arbitrary day of the year. I’d prefer taking the pieces and implementing them throughout the year, as obstacles approach and the need for change becomes more apparent. Secondly, each resolution seems to disregard the brutal tragedies and inconceivable joys we may encounter in a year. Though I suppose if we could peek into the future, there wouldn’t be as much to resolve, would there?

April of last year marked the ten year anniversary of  Stars of the Lid’s And Their Refinement of the Decline, an incredible followup to their seminal 2001 release, The Tired Sounds Of. This passage of time has hit me harder than any New Years ever could. I doubt my 2007 self would have lent this release my ears or time, but I’ve lost so many hours over the past several years to it. At some point it’s nice to piece together two fragments of time, highlighting the change that occurred between them. At that time, it was much more simple to focus on life’s harmonies. As I’ve grown older, I’ve encountered and consequently found ways to deal with life’s dissonances. Each one manifesting itself as either small, insignificant instances or as massive, brooding singularities. Both are tragic; both necessitate change.

There are many problems that we, as a nation; us, as a community; myself, as an individual, must face. I’ve spent many nights over the past several years in somber reflection of what these problems may be and where their solutions may lie. That purposeful contemplation is never better reflected for me musically than in And Their Refinement of the Decline. The principal constituent of my life over the past year has been about pacing – finding an effective midpoint between lacking drive and being too ambitious for my own good. I fear the former; life’s beauty will pass by if I am not proactive in my search for it. I fear the latter; I cannot afford to overlook it. On a thin line between the order and chaos on both sides lies our discernment of life’s beauty and our capacity to appreciate it. Life is unfathomably tragic, invariably, for us all. The passing of a friend today is another somber annotation in my own life, reiterating the inevitability of tragedy.

And Their Refinement of the Decline is no medicine, and happiness is not its goal, but there is beauty hidden in the cracks of its dark passages. There is a gargantuan, looming fear central to the album’s atmosphere, make no mistake about that. But ever present in the deepest, darkest recesses of the album’s brooding environment is the resounding reassurance that tragedy can be offset by those willing to look it in the eye. Of course it is not simply a mindset, it is also execution. It takes time, there is a rebuilding period, and life does not offer us a break in between them, often overlapping several insurmountable tragedies in either a volume or time frame we believe ourselves unable to handle. But we can, and quicker than we think, we do. Staggeringly, people often do this without the lamentations that plague comparatively minor issues. When presented with real, implacable tragedy, we stand ready for battle, if for no other reason than we must.

“Why do dragons hoard gold? Because the thing you most need is always to be found where you least want to look.” – Jordan B. Peterson