Homeliness, as those who have been following my online music appraisal career for some time will perhaps be aware, is a troubling concept for me. Therefore, an album that attempts to take on that topic head-on will usually manage to attract my attention; Manorlady’s Home, telling the band’s “semi-fictional story of … finding their way Home”, certainly did.
Helping the concept hold together is the band’s familial ties and common origins. Consisting of husband and wife Aaron and Melissa Bailey along with her brother Donald Wooley (and sometimes drummer Tony DeAngelis – “brother of the band”), Manorlady identifies foremost as a “family band”. The three core members grew up in Eastern California before relocating to Charlottesville, VA.
It is the former that seems to have made the biggest contribution to their sound, however, as though exploring the Eastern Californian landscape, this album swoops and soars, riding the dizzying heights and the shadowy lows, doing wonders with their instruments and voices that successfully conjure the rich diversity of this terrain. The songs are diverse, ranging from the sheer intensity of International Boys Club, which opens like the climax of a western, where the crashing guitars may signify the last climactic stand-off as the lone sheriff facing the clutch of villainous gunslingers wanting to take over his town, to that of which you might consider the ‘eye of the storm’, Waltz for Couples, the saddest music box in the world. Throughout, the Baileys’ voices weave in and out and over and under each other, in a fascinating sort of slow danse macabre (the closest existent visual image I can think of as a comparison to this is the music video for Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker’s Mary Jane’s Last Dance), and while Aaron typically leads this dance, when the two step together they fit so well as to seem part of one unified organic machine.
The subject matter of the lyrics themselves are not quite in keeping with the vast cinematic scope of this sound, ranging from “misbehaved pets, un-had vacations, reality television disasters, [to] disagreements over baby-making”. The juxtaposition is sublime. As the overarching theme of homeliness weaves in and out, various ideas as to what it is are presented, but in the end, with Sungazing, these thoughts are rather abruptly cut short and the question, “What or where is home?” seems to be left unanswered (or unanswerable), a starkly cold – but fitting – end to a tremendous debut album.
If “home” – the concept itself – could be said to be where the day-to-day trivialities are coupled with a sense of intense emotional significance, then this album nails it. If home feels like a shelter from a storm, it is that, too. And if home is simply something to which you want to return when its warmth has at long last faded, then – above all – Home is that.
Watch the video for the original Home Away EP version of Boy and Flippers:
And stream Home in its entirity here, or below: