Elvis Perkins has been quietly making music since 2007 when he released his debut album Ash Wednesday. Since then, it’s fair to say that he’s not really made the commercial impact of either of the other two musical Elvises, yet his unobtrusive brand of folk has a habit of getting under your skin the more times you hear it.
It’s difficult to say why Perkins has never quite made his mark on the public consciousness. Arguably, he’s more famous for his backstory (his father was legendary Psycho actor Anthony Perkins, while his mother, photographer Berry Berenson, was on one of the planes that crashed into the Twin Towers on 9/11) than his music, but Creation Myths may well be the moment that he begins to move to a different level.
For Perkins’ fourth album feels like a bit of a step up. It’s an album that’s full of intricately arranged melodies, with a slightly woozy air to them – as if Damon Albarn‘s side-project The Good The Bad & The Queen had decided to rob Glen Campbell‘s songbook. It’s not an especially immediate album: in fact, on the first few listens, it could be dismissed as a bit dull. Given time though, you notice a wave of blissful sadness sweeping over each track.
Opening track Sing Sing sets the tone by taking on a queasy air, as if emanating from a particularly spooky fairground, while Promo is almost at the opposite of the spectrum, positively bouncing along on a bed of horns and piano. He’s at his best when he’s at his most introspective – the gorgeous pedal-steel accompanied Mrs & Mrs E tugs at the heartstrings, and The Half Life is the highlight of the album, a ghostly country lament about walking through life on autopilot: an appropriate soundtrack for 2020 where just about everyone has been forced into a half-life of their own.
Creation Myths is definitely one of those records where little delights are unearthed on each repeated listen. Sam Cohen’s production gives See Through an epic, sweeping quality where Perkins begs “leave me alone with my headphones, I’ll be alright” while a mournful brass section accompanies him. A similar trick is pulled with the closing Anonymous, which sounds more odd and disorientating as the song goes on.
There’s a yearning to the whole of Creation Myths, a longing for something undefined. Perkins’ voice is the embodiment of that longing: while it’s not the strongest in the world, it’s perfectly suited to these stringed-out, spaced-out lullabies.
It won’t be to everyone’s tastes, and it’s certainly an album more designed for the long haul than a quick fix. Sometimes, Perkins can get too bogged down in the melancholia, and then songs like Iris can quickly become a dirge if you’re not in the right mood. Given time though, these strange, eerie little vignettes will be the perfect accompaniment for the cold winter months ahead.