With his newest release, Heart Murmers, Minneapolis native Jeremy Messersmith makes a bold statement, as he become known for doing in his incredibly witty concept albums.
The Reluctant Graveyard (2010) tells a story of 11 dead characters, and his 2008 release, The Silver City, pokes fun at the unappealingly terminal nature of modern suburbia. Chalk-full of satire, Messersmith’s newest album takes a clever jab at the modern love song.
At first listen, Heart Murmurs is merely a well-constructed collaboration of enchanting indie-pop songs. However, if listeners actively invest in the lyrical content, the eerily sarcastic conceptual undertones will make their mark.
The album begins with an endearingly melodic track, “It’s Only Dancing,” which is reminiscent of an upbeat version of Death Cab for Cutie. Amid the mosaic of syncopated beats, entrancing strings and guitars that bring strength and girth absent from typical Messersmith records, the lyrical message bites.
In the album’s swinging single, “Tourniquet,” Messersmith describes love toward a significant other as smothering and constricting, like the very tool designed to discontinue blood flow in a human appendage, a tourniquet.
He continues to use analogies in his writing to paint a convincing picture. In the second-to-last track, Messersmith says, “I need a hitman for my heart, someone to throw it off a balcony.”
Along with his vivid imagery, Messersmith is an expert storyteller. With musical attributes reminiscent ofThe Beatles, he utilizes his support of heavily distorted bass, fluttery guitar patterns and various shakers to tell the story of an all-too-immanent relationship failure.
“I’m gonna hurt you, bleed you dry, all I need is time,” he sings in the track “Bridges.” He also talks of his friend feeling the pain of a breakup and just needing a kiss under the moonlight in the song “Steve.”
The satirical nature of Messersmith’s writing brings such a distinct element to his music. However, it is not exclusively his lyrical brilliance that makes this album such a gem. The diverse spectrum of musicality that Messersmith explores is something to be admired. His sweetly melodic vocals soar over a blend of colorful sounds.
Messersmith has used a full sweep of musical styles and moves flawlessly from the energized folk rock track “Ghost” to the bitterly facetious acoustic “Someday, Someone” (which happens to be fully equipped with baroque-style strings), from the delicately soulful “Bubblin” with a full brass section to the ambient swells of the cello-infused “You’ll Only Break His Heart.”
In his latest record, Messersmith points his finger straight at the ideal mainstream love song. By exploring all the ways a heart murmurs, he has created an authentic, conceptual masterpiece. Messersmith lives for exploiting kitsch and presenting reality; in the case of Heart Murmurs, he has pulled this off in a fashion that is both beautiful and brash.
RATING: 4.5 stars
KEY TRACKS: “Tourniquet,” “Bridges,” “Hitman”