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Marah: Life Is A Problem

B

Marah

Album: Life Is A Problem
Label: Valley Farm Songs

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Life Is A Problem is a problem. The 10th full-length by Philadelphia’s Marah kicks off with some sampled barnyard noises before easing into “Valley Farm Song,” a song as bucolic as the band’s prior work is bombastic. The vibe is laid-back to the point of listlessness, but it may be meant as therapeutic: Marah’s 2008 album, the rowdy Angels Of Destruction!, ended with the 10-minute opus “Wilderness,” the sound of a band coming apart at the seams. And that’s exactly what Marah did after the release of Angels: Most of its members quit, including longtime co-songwriter Serge Bielanko, brother of leader Dave. That schism bleeds all over Life’s scattered, disjointed Americana. In spite of a couple of almost-rockers—including the tellingly titled “Together Not Together,” which only rouses itself from gorgeous melancholia long enough to indulge in some delicious atonality—the album is a sketchy, spacey mess stitched together with whispers and fishing line. Like Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Big Star’s Third, Life is a damaged piece of work. It doesn’t harness its damage as well as those influences do, but there’s a quiet bravery and a breathtaking vulnerability to Bielanko’s newfound experimentalism. And in that sense, the album is a problem that solves itself.