Funeral Advantage — Please Help Me


Funeral Advantage is Tyler Kershaw, and Tyler Kershaw, if this EP’s titular plea is earnest, needs help.

To Mr. Kershaw—sole member of Boston indie dream-pop outfit Funeral Advantage—I say “fair enough”, but these days, help is in high demand. One only needs a few moments on Facebook or Twitter to be inundated with calls-to-action for support for this cause or that, or compelled to console yet another friend with a string of bad luck. What’s more, people today are distracted and fickle. In short, Funeral Advantage might be a long-shot to win over the crowd. So, what offering does FA give us as an overture? In this case, we find a glossy, yet haunting, six-song EP slathered in sparkling guitars, head-bobbing pop-hooks and (lots of) heartbreak. But is it enough to make us stop, listen and perhaps lend that helping hand? Lets find out.

Please Help Me is the followup to the 2015 debut album, Body is Dead, both released on Disposable America/ Native Sound. Here, Kershaw brings the pain, specifically the emptiness and despair found at the end of a deep relationship. Existential crises and biting last words abound on this release, and it runs the risk of being whiny and overdramatic. However, with a deft songwriting touch and really lovely music, FA keeps the listener in the moment, engaged and wanting more. We are given vignettes, like puzzle pieces, that fit together to reveal a truly sad story, but one that offers some reprieve, and possibly, a bit of hope.

Sonically, I am confident speaking of the EP in totality, as there are no wholesale changes in style and instrumentation from song to song. That is not to say the EP is repetitive or boring, but rather works to create a cohesive narrative and a sense of familiarity. Guitar work is featured prominently. Swirling and ethereal, the guitar tones are really, really beautiful, sitting nicely between Cocteau Twins and Beach House, a bit hazy and trippy but never bogged down with effects. The inclusion of an acoustic gives a bit of singer-songwriter feel, reminding me a bit of The Sundays. Synths accompany nicely, especially when introducing a given track. The drums are really tight and bouncy and bass is driving, both incorporating enough runs and fills to let the rhythm section leave its own mark. Kershaw is no doubt a real talent for each instrument and the interplay between and it shows here. The music offers a bit of brilliance to balance the darker lyrical content.

As for those lyrics, Kershaw eschews the cliché tropes that could bring down a record dealing with these topics. Instead, we find heartfelt story-telling about struggling. There are some heady and abstract sections, echoing a lost traveler gazing down into the abyss, looking for answers and finding none. The second track, CEOT7K, opens with the ponderous, “Is it impossible to pretend you’re not alone?”. Double negatives aside, we know what type of questions Kershaw is really asking here. He is trying to get to the heart of things; the ugly guts, the cold nothingness and ultimately he just finds more questions.

Where I think where the songwriting really shines is in the tidbits and details. Like a fly-on-the-wall, we overhear personal conversations and witness the moments where things went wrong. Songs like the titular opener and We Lost of Home remind us that when we lose a partner, we not only lose that person, we lose those shared friends, special places and events that complete us and color our lives. These are the moments in Please Help Me that really, well, hurt. That said, my one complaint is that the vocals do get lost in the mix and I had to rely on the posted lyrics to make out most of them.

Funeral Advantage brings it all together nearly seamlessly. Please Help Me is a wonderfully crafted piece of music. It is simultaneously dark, atmospheric and catchy, melding a dreamlike soundscape with a heavy and personal story, all this while keeping its pop accessibility. A lesser artist might have gone too far in any one direction. Kershaw keeps his balance.

In the end, is Tyler Kershaw deserving of our assistance based on this release? I would say so. However, my hope is that art and music like this will serve to remind us that we all have stories like his, and sometimes we need to help and be helped. It is up to us if we can ask for it, or respond when asked. I think the last verse of the EP’s namesake opener sums it up nicely:

“So is it too much for me to ask?
But I miss those days when you gave back
And I thank god that I’m still alive.”

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