Aug 18, 2015, 09:39AM

Ghosts in Humid Hell

Overturned Trash Can Lid by Sick Lion is full of phantoms and distant regret.

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In the final days of summer, nothing has suited me better than Overturned Trash Can Lid by Sick Lion, a sometimes solo project/sometimes band led by Lucas Rambo, veteran Baltimore musician and former member of Human Host. Rooster Quibbits may be partial to Another One by Mac DeMarco, but this record is a gloomier and more sedated take on humid heartbreak and loneliness than DeMarco’s new chirpy breakup songs. The comparison ends there—Overturned Trash Can Lid is closer to R. Stevie Moore and early Ariel Pink, warped transmissions from warbling tape machines with plenty of pitch play, each song sung in a monotone alternating between the voice of God and chipmunks, over a bed of decaying guitar chords, velvety keyboards, and ghostly drums. The record ambles about like a man underwater without a care in the world. One of my favorite tunes is “A Frame,” opening side two with candy cane hooks and the most upbeat energy on the album, with a gliding, insistent rhythm that carries along a beautifully poppy vocal melody and complementary synth parts. There’s a clarity and instruction in Lucas Rambo’s singing on “A Frame,” as if imparting lessons and experiences to the listener, giving advice.

Most of Overturned Trash Can Lid is the sound of distant regret and longing. Without a lyric sheet, I grab what I can—“I know it’s still there,” “Seem alive in summer the most,” “Tell a lie seems like most of the time”—from “Shadows and Darkness” and “The Reasons Why,” respectively. “The Reasons Why” is a mirror of “A Frame,” driven along by rapid high-hat hits and mournful guitar arpeggios, conjuring an uneasy feeling that something bad is about to happen or already has. Rambo’s vocals are coated in delicious flange, my favorite effect, and applied with care and precision. Lots of records like this, laid to tape in smoke-choked bedrooms and basements, cop the superficial aspects of home-recording gurus gone past, or rely strictly on texture and shrug off songwriting, but Rambo’s experience makes Overturned Trash Can Lid a deceptively well-organized and thought out piece of work, greater than the sum of its parts. It rewards repeated listening, as details emerge out of the smog, like the string stabs that end “Deception Painting.”

Rambo asks “to visit me in my room” on “Daniel,” over distant piano chords and wah-wah damaged, detuned guitar. This isn’t a casual invitation—Overturned Trash Can Lid is a house of ghosts and phantoms, hiding behind moldy furniture and creeping out of cabinets, not malevolent but lost, stuck in purgatory. Rambo intones, “My window looks like wild life,” and you can see the vines growing over cracked windowpanes in a room full of dark energy, missed opportunities, mistakes, and overwhelming regret. There are no apologies here, just dispatches from the other side, where spirits howl at the moon and haunt the places they cannot leave. This is a remarkable record, at times disturbing, melancholy, and full of heart, evoking the afterlife in a way that lesser imitators and 8-track dilettantes never come close to capturing. The ghosts of Overturned Trash Can Lid don’t want to scare you, they just crave your company. 

—Follow Nicky Smith on Twitter: @MUGGER1992


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