The world’s a shitty place, and I can’t wait to die
Jake Bellows, lead singer of Omaha’s Neva Dinova, has a penchant for writing songs about characters driven to their limits. Sad, angry or just plain tired, these derelicts are tragic figures, driven to their very ends, desperate and lonely. On The Hate Yourself Change, Neva Dinova’s second proper full-length album, Bellows spins eleven tales of people who have seen better parts of life and aim to pull themselves out of what could be the worst, even if it kills them, which some, even, would prefer. Like his contemporaries Tim Kasher and Conor Oberst, it’s likely that Bellows isn’t the unfortunate type he writes about, but damned if he doesn’t paint an ugly picture.
The haunting folky opener, “Hat O’er Eyes,” begins by introducing such a figure: “He wears his hat o’er his eyes/and he’s trying to keep it on/says he’s sick of living his life/and he’s tired of being alone.” Drenched in reverb, the song recalls My Morning Jacket’s more subdued moments, but the rocking “AHH” picks up the pace, sounding a little more like Grandaddy, with its fuzzy guitars and sweetly melancholy melodies. Another heartbreaking narrator emerges on “Yellow Datsun,” a more upbeat track, despite its darker undertones: “Now I ain’t gonna live/And I think that Doc knows why/I got morphine in my sleeves/got some stars in my eyes.”
As the album nears its center, the music slows down considerably, though the Hell-bent road trip tale “A Picture in Pocket” returns to more of a rock sound, albeit one heavily informed by Leonard Cohen. As haunting backing vocalists howl, Bellows moans “I can’t slow down, I’m headed straight into a burning town, on the interstate, I’m going down.” It’s easily one of the best on the album, though if I haven’t made it clear already, narrowing it down isn’t easy. As depressing as some of these tracks may be, they’re goooood. And the fact that they’re that emotionally draining just proves how effective a songwriter Bellows actually is.
The people that Bellows sings about may seem like they’re doomed, but they’ve got spirits just bright enough not to be. Just take a closer listen to Change. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, they may all be in the gutter, but they’re looking up at the stars.
Now I ain’t gonna live, but I’ll race you to the sun, I can’t lose I’m gonna win in my yellow Datsun
Dolorean – Violence in the Snowy Fields
Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.