Sleeping Cranes - Hold Empty
Record Label: Ishgnu Records
Release Date: July 17, 2009
Metaphorical overview: If Conor Oberst became somehow even more comfortable with the valleys and hills ahead of him, he may just be comfortable enough to hang out with AJ Ward, a.k.a. Sleeping Cranes.
Literal overview: Sleeping Cranes returns to the folk scene with his sophomore release Hold Empty. The record's production suffers, as Ward only had one summer to whip the album out before a cross country move. Still, though, he's progressed musically since his debut, and each track lends a positive touch to the soft country texture of the album.
Tracks: "Our Dowry" is easily the highest peak on the album. A calming acoustic guitar and violin dares one to melt into their chair before an orchestral display of stringed fireworks slams the ears into a new dimension of beauty. "Carving Water" opens the album with the meandering slide guitar Sleeping Cranes is so wonderfully associated with. From there the album empties into "Gypsy Lemon Wasps", a song so catchy and uncooperative with its own biting lyrics it makes the listener try and subsequently fail to hate it. "Haha Chicago," "Land Legs," and "The Only Horizontal Boy (In All of Creation)" add dissociative, synesthetic, and dramatic touches (respectively), and the album closes with the Hold Empty poetic opus, "Cake."
Obligatory lyric quote: Holy freakin' crap. I'm sifting through the lyrics, looking for something that stands out. It's comparable to having someone demand that you look up and find the bestest star in the sky, or trying to pinpoint the perfect Fruity Pebble in a freshly opened box. It is hopeless, and I'd like to glue the CD booklet to the screen, but the internet just doesn't work that way like I wish it would. Sleeping Cranes is all about the wordsmithing, which is just gnarly for me, a loyal disciple of lyricism.
Album theme: Sleeping Cranes is just an accepting kind of guy this time around. While the last album featured a few foreboding tracks, all is now well. The prevalent theme is becoming okay with the coming changes caused by the aforementioned move, from the explosively scenic Midwest to the mountains of Laramie, Wyoming. Throughout all of Hold Empty, Ward stays on a level plane with his struggle for acceptance while crafting some interesting melodies. With his potent lyrical imagery at the ready, Sleeping Cranes may have taken his improved songwriting and carved himself a comfortable niche in the folk world.