Album Review: Nadalands — ‘The All Souls’ Day EP’

The All Soul’s Day EP, the newest release by Nadalands, is, apparently, firmly in the post-songwriter (po-so?) tradition. This may mean that John Lindenbaum, Nadalands’ heart and soul and only official member, is engaged in employing the trappings of the singer-songwriter tradition to consider topics and ideas that are not generally the stuff of, say, James Taylor or Joni Mitchell or Neil Young songs. Or it may mean something else entirely.

Either way, The All Soul’s Day EP is comprised of five quirkily lovely and frequently disturbing songs driven by unusual imagery and Lindenbaum’s thick-honeyed, often angelic voice. It is brief, but it is rich, and like a particularly rich meal, it may well benefit from moderation.

Lindenbaum, who hails from Colorado, has a deep relationship with the Iowa City music scene. Along with this record, which (like other Nadalands releases) features beautiful harmony vocals by Iowa City’s Alexis Stevens and Brian Johannesen, Lindenbaum is also in the Lonelyhearts and Rust Belt Music with Iowa City arts executive and essayist Andre Perry.

The EP opens with “We’re All Slaves in a Capitalistic System, Aren’t We?” in which, we learn immediately, a man finds his own corpse in the trunk of his Corvette. The song continues as the critique of capitalism its title suggests, but the oddest, most oddly beautiful moments in the song are found in its chorus: “Oh, man, I don’t know how he got there but / He’s got my face and my clothes and even my haircut / After our co-workers go / Would you care to help me dump this body?”

There’s something about “even my haircut” that lends pathos to the strange, disorienting moment of discovery. And the formal shaping of the request for aid — “Would you care to help…?” — is, delivered in Lindenbaum’s plaintive voice, courtly and romantic. Which is, of course, weird.

The corpse in the Corvette is immediately followed by a bag of 54 human hands at the top of the next number, “The Amur River.” Despite the grisly opening, it’s something of a love song, set in Siberia. “Plagues,” the EP’s third track, convincingly introduces synesthesia into its storytelling. It’s followed by “Red Light Runners,” which opens with the lines “I am the last terrestrial hermit crab / Kept as a pet / In the American Southwest” and ends with the gut punch of “Admit if you can that all of us are Abrahams / More than willing to sacrifice our sons.”

The EP closes with “Deep Thoughts From Arizona’s Most Affordable Mental Health Community,” which turns out to be the Grand Canyon. The song features an image both predictable and powerful that Lindenbaum fully sells with the ache inherent in his voice: “They told me the natural beauty / Would help me forget all the shooting / But I just see the far side of the canyon / So close I can almost reach / So close I might just leap.”

Throughout these songs, Lindenbaum allows the musical lines to shape how and when he delivers various words and phrases. The technique adds to the EP’s off-kilter beauty and rewards repeated listening.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 278.