Homesongs by Adem (Review)

A sense of warmth and comfort pervades every song on this album.
Homesongs - Adem

Despite all of the critical acclaim heaped on the band, I’ve never really been all that enamored with Fridge’s music. There are certainly aspects of it that I find inspired, but I also find much of it rather tepid and uninteresting. Not bad, by any means, just uninteresting. However, I’ve had no such problem with Fridge-related side projects.

First, it was Kieran Hebden’s Four Tet. Last year’s Rounds found Hebden sorting through a staggering number of sounds and loops on his hard drive, and sculpting and molding them all into some truly beautiful and affecting musical numbers. And now, Adem (née Adem Ilhan) has released the lovely and homespun Homesongs. However, Adem goes the direct opposite route of his Fridge cohorts, eschewing electronics, samplers, and laptops altogether and opting for a much warmer, more acoustic-based sound that could be considered “folk” — that is, if one considers Talk Talk or Sufjan Stevens to be “folk.”

If there’s one concept that describes Homesongs, it would be just that: home. A sense of warmth and comfort pervades every song on this album. One gets the feeling that these songs slowly emerged out of weekend improv sessions between Adem and his friends as they sat in the living room surrounded by an assortment of guitars, shakers, rattles, organs, accordions, dulcimers, whistles, and other sundry instruments. The songs are often loose and frayed like an old sweater, on the verge of coming apart at the seams but comfortable and familiar nevertheless.

This simple intimacy allows the album to sustain Adem’s earnest lyrics as he sings of friendship and community, of loyalty and relationships, and still come across entirely sincere and honest. A perfect example of this is the album’s centerpiece, “These Are Your Friends,” in which Adem asks “What have you done? You’re cutting your cord/You’re floating in space/But these are your friends/They’ll be your starmap home” before simply concluding “Everybody needs some help sometimes.”

On “Pillow” he softly implores “Could this be my home for tonight?/Rest my head upon the pillow… Could it be I’ve found my home?” to an unseen lover as delicate, harp-like notes softly pluck and unfold in shimmering, iridescent waves. And the album closes with a literal blessing, Adem assuring his friends that “And if all the lights that lead you/Lead you to my door/It will always be open… There will always be room at my table for you.”

I suppose some of my infatuation with this album might lie in the fact that I saw Adem in concert before I heard the album. He was joined on stage by 3 other fellows, all of whom shared a number of seemingly homemade instruments throughout the set. And on the final song of the set (“These Are Your Friends,” natch) he was joined by the members of Explosions In The Sky for a final singalong (the two bands were finishing up their tour together).

As the two bands (and some other friends) sang away into the night, my cynicism should’ve been going off like a fire alarm. But it wasn’t. I found myself joining in even, singing “Everybody needs some help sometimes” along with everyone else in the venue.

There’s something inside all of us, regardless of our personalities, that yearns to find a home, a place that can be returned to and shared with friends. This notion of community has become increasingly apparent to me over the past year or so, and it’s a significant shift from how I’ve lived much of my adult life. Whether he knows it or not — and I suspect that he does — Adem has touched on it with Homesongs, and the result is an album that resonates in a manner truly greater than the sum of its parts.

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