End Times Undone, the beautiful new record from David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights, opens with the sound of guitars drifting down slowly, like rain on a windowpane. It almost sounds mournful, grey streaks of sound pooling together. Then, after about 50 seconds, it stops short and redirects entirely. A big, clanging guitar figure enters, the clouds break, and the song lightens and expands. The effect is arresting, as if the musicians were suddenly and simultaneously struck by a different idea and decided, all at once, to enthusiastically pursue it. As Kilgour explains it, that secenario is perhaps not too far from the truth. “The more you think about music, and the more you work on it, the more it stinks,” he says. “We were trying to just let the songs be in their organic state, and to catch them while they were as fresh and lively as possible.” To do this, Kilgour convened the group only once every four months or so. Rather than approach each session with a set of pre-written songs, they simply got in a room and waited for the muse to arrive. The process was so inspiring, there’s even a song on the record about it: the glistening space-cowboy ballad “Coming On.” “That’s about the muse coming to visit,” Kilgour says. “‘It’s coming on — just go, grab it now! Bang! Whew!‘”
The resulting record is Kilgour’s best since his 1991 masterpiece Here Come the Cars, a collection of sparkling guitar-pop built around Kilgour’s graceful, effortless vocal melodies. All of these qualities are on full display on End Times‘ gently-weaving centerpiece, “Christopher Columbus.” As guitars swirl like fireflies around him, Kilgour sweetly delivers the song’s refrain: “Everybody needs a rest, they need a rest.” And though the song has its roots in Kilgour’s contemplation of capitalism while stranded in Barcelona after the Primavera festival, that chorus lines up neatly with his life philosophy. “I’m a pagan punk hippie,” he says. “As a pagan, I worship nature. I give thanks for what nature gives us. From punk, I get the ‘fuck you’ attitude — this is what I do, and anyone can do it. And then the hippie side of it is, ‘Love everybody. Send out light. Be good to each other. We can get along if we’re just fucking nice to each other’ — it’s not that hard.”
Even the album’s title — taken from the Kilgour painting featured on its cover — hints at that hope. Buried in End Times Undone is the belief that our course for the apocalypse is not set; that it’s not too late to redirect and to, as Kilgour puts it, “be fucking nice to each other,” and that often there is no cure more soothing than the power of a delicate melody. “It’s a magical thing, melody,” Kilgour says. “I’m still in awe of it. I don’t know where it comes from. I don’t think I’m very talented. I think that sometimes, something just kicks me up the ass.”
End Times Undone is just the kick we’ve been waiting for.
[End Times Undone will be released by Merge Records on August 5. Preorder it here.]