photo by Meghan O'Leary
'Days Like Pearls' named a hidden gem of 2019 by Tom and Goldflakepaint
Words by Sammy Maine
When he isn’t drumming in Friendship, writing songs with Hour, co-running the prolific indie label Dear Life Records or working as a bread baker, Maine-raised, Philadelphia-based multi-instrumentalist Michael Cormier is ruminating on the miniscule moments that make up the bones of our reality. Moulding these moments into modern folk tales, Cormier is an artist that likes to peel back the plastic sheen of inauthenticity to tell stories that are texturally veridical and genuinely moving. While 2019 debut solo albums Days Like Pearls and M-F introduced us to Cormier as a visceral, vulnerable artist, new album More Light!! sees Cormier build upon these foundations with an earnestly relatable and empathetic eye.
Primarily describing himself as an instrumentalist, Cormier evokes our collective anxieties and inability to focus through abrupt and unpredictable chord changes, twisting major and minor keys in coexistence. These combinations, teamed with catchy and indelible melodies, offer an unexpected expedition through Cormier’s world. It’s a practise that mimics our relationship with our phones: sporadic keys, scattered field recordings and sharp, electronic landscapes mimic the draining, superfluous nature of social media while brooding strings, lethargic drums and serene harmonies embody the apathetic aftermath.
Lyrically speaking, More Light!! deals with darker source material than his previous records, but Cormier is keen to stress the catharsis that comes with reconfiguring these kinds of feelings. Inspired by the diaristic tones of Iris DeMent and the semantic nature of Virginia Woolf, he’s an artist that strives to shun traditional structure in order to loosen his grip and widen his perception. “It feels like we can only control how we choose to notice things, like the way the light hits something,” he says. “It’s about treating our own perceptions as an artistic pursuit.”
Swirling concerns, existential thought and the pursuit of a positive, amusing outlook are interlocked throughout these songs. The gentle, country acoustics of “Buggin’” shares the bubbling panic of keeping on top of texts and being unable to feel as deeply as his dog; “Control” provides the perfect metaphor of pants caught in a moving escalator, while “Last Hurrah” creates a bittersweet scene of growing old. The album is nevertheless punctuated with silver linings: opener “Degradation” honours the doom of existing yet juxtaposes it with the optimism of a matchspark; the shadowy tones of “More Light!” lists the comforting nature of torches under blankets and night lights shaped like cartoon characters, while the sweet, finger-plucked closer “Empty Mugs” splashes sunlight across our face.
It’s an album that is the direct result of Cormier being able to fully focus on his artistic output. Describing it as an “open collaboration,” Cormier worked remotely with close friends including producer Lucas Knapp, Lina Tullgren, Erika Nininger, Lou Turner, Heeyoon Won, Will Henriksen, Wendy Eisenberg, Meghan O’Leary, Frank Meadows and Friendship members Dan Wriggins, Jon Samuels and Pete Gill. Allowing these artists to improvise over tracks Cormier sent from his bedroom, these songs evoke the kind of collective nature that inspires a freeing, playful honesty with ourselves and with each other. By repurposing his anxieties into a self-aware, altruistic narrative, More Light!! tells us that, despite it all, we can always lean towards the transcendent and the overtly beautiful.
Releases on DLR: