ENUMCLAW

Home in Another Life
(Run for Cover Records)
Add date: 9.3.2024
Release date: 8.30.2024




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Speak to Enumclaw singer Aramis Johnson for just a second about his band’s sweeping second album, Home in Another Life, and he’ll tell you how he doesn’t want to be seen—just another millennial-pilled musician, someone too deep into therapy-speak and ceaseless vulnerability to tell you just how fun it can be to play in a rock band. Johnson is 28, after all, still sporting the kind of youthful swagger that suggests most everything might just be a joke. Put on Home in Another Life, and you can spot that esprit instantly: the way the guitars swell and screech behind him as he talks about beer, thongs, and love during the inescapable “Spots”; the surging hook about Sally’s lack of apparent stupidity above the sunbaked jangle of “Grocery Store”; the shout-out-loud protestations that clamber atop arena-sized drums during “Not Just Yet.” Recorded in a four-day Seattle sprint by Enumclaw’s four dudes last winter, this is the kind of explosive record you want to blare during a top-down drive along the California coastline or while aiming headlong into a Midwestern sunset.

But keep talking to Johnson about Home in Another Life for very long at all, and that formidable façade steadily collapses, a stone wall slowly being pulled apart. As breathless and alluring as these songs sound, they are powered both by Johnson’s abiding self-doubt and a drive for self-improvement, the desire to be more than he is right now. It is written into each of these 11 tracks, Johnson’s heart tucked just beneath the sleeve of these pulsing tunes. Work backward from tender closer “I Want Some Things for Myself,” where Johnson yearns to swap his anxiety and hopelessness for patience and focus. “I Still Feel Bad About Masturbation” examines shame from every direction, aiming for self-acceptance amid imperfection. And magnetic from first second to last, “Change” is an absolute anthem about trying to be anything more than fucked up, about getting past the habits that hamstring you. Are you really millennial-pilled if you’re just trying to figure out your own life?

Speaking of figuring it all out, Enumclaw did quite a bit of that before cutting Home in Another Life. When they issued their Jimbo Demo cassette in 2021, Johnson, drummer Ladaniel Gipson, and guitarist Nathan Cornell were less a band than a loose confederation of Washington state acquaintances who happened to like indie rock. In fact, Johnson’s much younger brother, bassist Eli Edwards, joined only just in time to make their much-buzzed debut LP, 2022’s Save the Baby. Even then, Johnson was the clear leader, bringing songs with arrangements to the rest of the band. But in the brief but busy period since, they’ve toured the States and Europe, begun collaborating more as they built the songs together, and started to break the barriers that separated mere practical bandmates from actual friends. At one point, Johnson even told the rest of the band that their relationships were the least vulnerable and real in his life. He hoped that might, well, change.

It is hard to imagine it wouldn’t considering the candor of Home in Another Life, where the worries of Johnson’s first three decades propel most everything. When Johnson was 10, for instance, his father died of complications from sickle-cell anemia. He considers the cruelty of chance during “Haven’t Seen the Family in a While, I’m Sorry,” watching his father’s ashes float away even as he celebrates his mother’s birthday. And no matter how massive “Not Just Yet” sounds, it’s about Auntie Dale and Uncle Mike, the couple that long took him camping and to church and basically taught him how to be a polite kid. Uncle Mike was recently diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, so this is Johnson’s distressed ode to him, to the way “he taught me everything.” And the multiple songs that mention a baby—“Spots,” “This Light of Mine,” “I Want Some Things for Myself”—are a true-to-life chronicle of a promising relationship that collapsed after an abortion, when Johnson and his partner realized they simply were not ready.

There is talk about God and sex, drugs and regret, all direct transmissions from someone wrestling with the weight of growing up. “Can I make it different? Can I make it small?” Johnson sings during one perfect moment of “Sink.” These songs do just that, reducing a life’s struggles to three minutes at a time so that they can not only be understood but sung above the clatter of what has quickly become a very, very good band.

It makes sense that Johnson doesn’t want to millennial-pilled. He is a Black man leading a mostly Black band in the often-lilywhite space of indie rock, and he doesn’t want his feelings to be doled out as currency for audiences eager for tastes of trauma. And he knows that we all have our own baggage, anyway, troubles and hurdles that keep us from becoming whatever it is we think we can be. He doesn’t want to pander or regard himself as necessarily special. But that’s not how actually Home in Another Life feels. It is simply a powerful and poignant album that has fun with the truth, that takes the blues that come with trying to sort through what the rest of your life may be and transmutes them into songs you will not soon forget. Here is an album about doing something more, but not being so stuck on that idea you can’t have a good time right now.