I almost hope that the gentlemen behind Stars of the Lid -- Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride -- never see this review, as I'm about to describe their record in a way that they might not immediately appreciate. You see, The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid is basically a musical yawn.
Before you assume anything, bear in mind that I'm not saying that the record is boring. Nor am I indulging in the time-honored critical sport of turning a group's suggestive album title against them. I'm speaking in terms of physical analogy. You know that gentle, pleasurable release of pressure that comes when you yawn? The intangible but enervating tingle that suffuses your muscles when you stretch? That's what The Tired Sounds of... presents, in musical form -- two hours of gentle, autonomous and oddly refreshing sound.
If that doesn't sound utterly enthralling to you, you're certainly not alone. No matter how much you enjoy the music, it's not easy to come up with an exciting description for Stars of the Lid's low-impact efforts. It's not that the music is dull or uneventful; McBride and Wiltzie have expanded their sonic palette to include strings, piano and horns, greatly increasing their options on the textural front. Nor is the music unpleasant; unlike many of today's explorative artists, Stars of the Lid have a keen ear for melody, favoring rich instrumental tones over trendy mechanical pops and clicks. However, even in their most musical work, such as "Fac 21" (one of a handful of tunes on the second disc that are not specifically identified as part of a longer piece), the duo's musical objectives are simple and vague. Take away their neoclassical sheen and their textural foreplay and their reverse-gate effects and they're only one evolutionary step beyond the monotonal endurance experiments of JLIAT. You'll enjoy the music -- but it will be a blurry, "someone is stimulating my pleasure centers" response rather than the short, sharp, defined appreciation of orgasm.
You see, The Tired Sounds of... never reaches the vigorous pace that our event-based modern existence requires. It sets no obvious goals, reaches no distinct waypoints, has no urgent agenda. At the risk of sounding pompous, I'll suggest that the disc's true audience isn't humans, but creatures for whom time moves like a senior citizens-only DMV waiting line submerged in a lake of treacle. To a giant redwood tree, it probably sounds like dance music.
Therefore, you'll enjoy this album the most when you're at your slowest -- clinging half-heartedly to consciousness, ready and willing to be carried away on its gentle, billowing waves of sound. At a time when you don't want to concentrate on anything, when you're ready to will your mind from your body with a single exhalation, The Tired Sounds of... will step in, ready for action. The title's message is simple, when you think about it: if you're tired, these are your sounds. Sweet dreams.