If you didn't catch our review of The Pilgrims Gate by Year 5000 back in March I’m glad you are catching this one. Year 5000 is a solo artist from Oregon (but apparently he records all across the globe). He recorded Ugly Ships In Broken Ports in Hong Kong, Korea, Oregon and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Year 5000 writes music that is pop and is a tad off-center. The music feels heartfelt, as well as accessible but experimental at the same time.
Ugly Ships In Broken Ports is a meditation on death. Year 5000 says the themes don't focus on the sad parts but instead “Tunes jump from sing-along murderers choices to haunting ballads about letting go.” While it’s arguable that you can't bring up a subject like death without sadness being brought into the equation. It’s pretty easy to agree that it is a subject that can be endlessly fascinating and thought-provoking and can give you enough lyrics to complete a couple of albums. I’m happy to report that Ugly Ships In Broken Ports achieves all these things without feeling pretentious or overly serious and at the same time has enough of an emotional anchor to have you feel connected to the music.
The album opens with “Here You Shall Die,” which brings to mind a drunken sea shanty that might be sung after one of the crewmembers was thrown overboard and eaten by sharks. He immediately does a good job at taking rather dark lyrics like “Cheaters, defeaters prepare for the knife/Here you shall die” and making them sound light-hearted.
The next song “Ebb And Wane” is a sparse song that revolves around Year 5000’s voice and acoustic guitar. It has an emotional weight that wasn't apparent in the first song. “Wishful Thinking” was my favorite song on the album. The lyrics are dark but they have a tinge of humor to them. I think it’s his voice that gives a lightness to the lyrics that make the songs more enjoyable to listen to.The album ends with a song called “The Temple Disengaged.” It sounds like it was recorded on a portable digital recorder in the middle of a market or something. It gives off a haunting vibe at times and was a bold way to end the album.
The only thing that took away from the album for me was the quality of the recording that differed from song to song. I feel like it would have been a bit more fluid if the recordings had a familiar aesthetic. Besides that the album is good. Every song is well written, Year 5000’s voice sounds unique and has a great way of taking a complex, sometimes unappealing subject and making it attractive.
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