You Are All My People
Walter adds, \"I loved Motherless Brooklyn, but after reading The Fortress Of Solitude, a book I consider a stone cold masterpiece, I knew had to work with Jonathan. We carved out a couple days and met at his house in Maine. I hoped we would get a few things down and I was totally unprepared, and completely blown away, by the speed in which Jonathan gets ideas on paper. We would discuss the framework for a tune and he would be writing while we were talking. Then minutes later he would have several verses with internal rhymes, a chorus and a bridge. I was completely on the spot -– I now had to come up with melodies just as fast. We ended up with eleven songs at the end of day two. We decided that the project needed to be more than just an album of songs, and over the next week Jonathan emailed me several spoken word pieces. I recorded these with just voice, and the songs I recorded very bare bones, just voice, a single guitar and a simple drum beat.\"
Jonathan continues, \"The second act in the construction of I\'m Not Jim was our expansion from a collective of two into a collective of four (it\'s worth saying we\'re not only \"Not Jim\", we\'re also \"Not A Band\", but rather some kind of floating workshop or lab for making music -- Walter is our only public voice and face, and I don\'t play any instruments). It happened because Walter thought The Elegant Too (Philip Hernandez and Chris Maxwell) would be able to add some distinctive production to the tracks he\'d laid down. Of course it became much more -- Chris and Phil warped and enriched the music so completely that halfway through we realized we\'d really entered a four-way collaboration. Not quite Mick meeting Keith on a train platform with an armload of blues records, but perhaps almost as fun.\" Walter concludes, \"The Elegant Too took just my vocal tracks and built the thing from the ground up. Sometimes they used the same chords and beats I had played, but more often they subverted the melodies and juxtaposed different chords and beats to create new combinations. It\'s a remix album without having an original release. It\'s an original re-mix. Finally, by another small world convergence, Jonathan is good buddies with one of my high school classmates I hadn\'t seen in years, the painter Kent Matricardi, so it was completely natural to enlist Kent to do the album artwork.\"
So what exactly do these song sound like? Lethem and Humara’s songwriting takes the ordinary pop, folk, or blues song and makes it the occasion for what you might call ‘serious play’ – every lyric is grounded in emotion, but emotion twisted by language and wit into something recognizeable but new. The melodies that spring from Walter’s voice fitting itself to these unexpected syllables push the strength and warmth of his Silos work to a new range, sometimes featuring a Dylanesque self-consciousness or humor, sometimes a Nick Drake introspection. And when the skewed brilliance of the songs meets the paisley-pop-electronic-remix chops of Maxwell and Hernandez – the Elegant Too – the result always cuts against simple interpretation, pushing all the charm toward menace, and the sorrow toward ecstasy.