Every time something like that happens one is left with the sense of being alone in suffering. As every teenager knows, they are the only person in the history of the world to know their specific brand of alienation and angst; until they hear that Bright Eyes song that captures all that youthful torment burrowing in their wee chests.
Sure, I got my heart broken in one of those smash-things-up, cut-your-hair moments wherein both parties leave forever changed. Ultimately, such experiences can prove good for the soul, the self, and in the case of You Me and Apollo, good for the art one creates.
Brent Cowles, the force of reckoning behind You Me and Apollo, compromises my sense of individual identity in this same fashion. He manages to name the secret knowledge hidden in our hearts. The songs are so honest, hurled straight from his chest; you can hear it when he sings. There is a brutal force eliciting raw emotions out of authentic experience. Whereas some musicians may have the ability to convey that which cannot be spoken in the emotional content of their songs, Cowles goes a step beyond by putting the ineffable into words.
When I first came across How to Swim, How to Rot I was stunned… after I got past the initial first impression that I was listening to Joanna Newsom’s darker, younger brother. To think that art like this was created in the same place that put forth Arpaio and his brigade of racist, imperialistic fascists and Ping golf clubs changed my perception of the growing, however subaltern, artistic community in Arizona.
From this first EP, “Circles and Graves” has become my anthem for love lost. The subtle anger is hidden amid the fear of isolation and coupled with the exhilarating release that sometimes follows the ending of a long-term relationship. You Me and Apollo achieves greatness not only in capturing these pinnacles of emotion but in the observation of the nuances found in loss, like the transformation of mundane objects into something sacred. Harder hitting throughout How to Swim, How to Rot is the confrontation with the appalling and sudden isolation wherein one discovers the self in its hideous, wondrous glory, no longer reflected through loving eyes. Heartache is easy to write. Any tour of the radio will reveal uncounted ditties about broken hearts by sad bastards. What an artist does next sometimes reveals more about their true abilities as a musician…
Having recently attended a You Me and Apollo show I got to hear some of the forthcoming releases fans can expect. I was not disappointed. Rather the opposite proved true. Past the devastating, easily-relatable hurt, the listener finds Cowles disarming as ever. The sense of the songwriter emerges as something more than a conduit of shared experience, but as an independent spirit in all fullness and splendor.
I, for one, will be counting the days ‘til I get the actual recording in my hot little hands. Until then I will be listening to them like every other adoring fan… on MySpace, clicking through rough cuts. With infrequent performances, any chance to catch You Me and Apollo live is one that must be seized.