If we are truly living through the Great Resignation, I’m expecting that the coming months will hold a heavy release of “Future Endeavors” albums and straight-up “I Quit” albums. Early to the party is Outer Space, Iowa, the second album from Burlington-by-way-of-Portland musician Dean Gorman.
In the album’s description, Gorman writes that last year, mid-pandemic, he and his family moved from “a tiny bungalow in Portland, Oregon to a timber-frame house surrounded by 7 acres of woods just outside Burlington.” The songs on Outer Space, Iowa were all written and recorded in the basement of that timber-framed house in the months since Gorman landed in Iowa, and somehow it shows.
There are ambitious arrangements throughout the 10-song set, all of which share a wrinkled edge. (Many of the bass parts sound like they were recorded while Gorman played in waterlogged rubber boots.) The album begins with “Depression,” which sees Gorman trying out an understated Fabian-esque ballad behind soft keys and “shoop-shoop” harmonies. It appropriately sets the tone for the remainder of the album’s first side. From the dream drunk romp of “Rossi Wine” to the pop-chorus hook of “Around for Good,” Gorman keeps his musical palette condensed, neatly pledging allegiance on an alt-country altar.
But his voice and lyrics work best when pushed hard against the turned-up twang that fills the final five songs on the album. Gorman seems to know this, saving his strongest for last. This side should come with a sticker warning: “Many Big Star records were consumed during the making of this half of the album.” The quintet begins with “Wild Things,” complete with some Kurt Vile acoustic guitar melodies, stonily resonant and ever-ringing. “I Had Time” is a youthful lamentation on earlier days, when the currency of unscheduled time still beat the promise of crypto.
I had smoke coming out of my ears
I had blood coming out of my eyes
I had strange coming out of my tongue
But I had time
On “One More Day” — in fact, throughout the album — Gorman’s piano playing is subtle and superb. Then the album ends on a travel tune that references Highway 61, wrapping things up with a straight up-and-down stunner. “A Buck and a Prayer” begins with a deer’s blood drying between a driving car’s headlights, leaving the driver stricken with guilt:
Say a little prayer for him
Not sure where praying gets you anymore
You used to sit and close your eyes
Now you just hope there’s something past the door
Don’t worry, though. It wasn’t all a waste. Gorman sings that someone came back in the night to cut off its horns. I guess that’s a little relocation, too, one I think we all can understand.
This article was originally published in Little Village’s May 2022 issue.