In an alternate universe, Elliott Smith is still alive and resides in Brattleboro, Vermont. He doesn’t suffer from noticeable depression or substance-abuse issues, and he uses his natural musical talent in a largely impressionistic sense, constructing gentle Green Mountain pastorals using only his voice and guitar. He calls himself Chris Weisman, and his latest album is The Holy Life That’s Coming, via NNA Tapes.
So blatantly comparing one artist to another is something that normally makes me, as both a listener and a writer, throw up in my mouth a little bit. But not to do so in this case is to ignore a very big elephant in the room. From the wispy and frequently double-tracked vocals to the nimble-but-subdued acoustic guitar to the unpredictable construction of the songs themselves, it seems upon first listening that there’s more to compare than to contrast. But is that really the case? Smith’s songs were a glimpse inside his troubled soul, while Weisman’s themes are deeply rooted in the bucolic landscapes of Vermont. If there’s ever an ode to a winter hike in the afternoon, it’s “Backpack People.” He approaches his surroundings with a good-humored curiosity, singing in “Confessions of a Reckless Rainwear,” Darkness is so warm/The comedy has its charm/I haven’t solved a lot of things just yet/But now I just get wet.
Eschewing predictable chord progressions, Weisman does occasionally recall the off-kilter pop of his Vermont brethren. “Thorn,” especially, has some Ryan Power–esque moments. Weisman was, notably, one part of the hugely underrated Happy Birthday (with King Tuff’s Kyle Thomas), whose self-titled 2010 album was a memorable collection of brash weird-pop. And also, one of my favorite albums from that year.
“Don’t Be Slow” is the first single from Weisman’s upcoming album The Holy Life That’s Coming—out February 26 via NNA Tapes. Curious minds can also delve into his sizeable back catalog, which includes releases from OSR, Spookytown, and YouTube. The icing on the cake, though, is his concise 2013 Year Ender for the Hassle.