Small towns are strange. Ask someone growing up in one where they want to end up and they’ll likely say, “anywhere but here.” Look them up in ten years and you’ll likely find them there, still sucked into its familial orbit.
I grew up in small, midwestern town roughly the same size as Mike Adams’ Claypool, Indiana (population: 311). Casino Drone, the new album from Mike Adams at His Honest Weight, is a meditation on the kind of discontent that can hang over a small town, that ineffable longing that makes us ask: What’s happening on the outside? What might my life be like somewhere else?
Adams now lives in the larger city of Bloomington, where he owns a home with his wife and son. He does what he loves, but that discontent still lingers. “I got everything I ever wanted, and I’m still restless,” he says. “I’ve been struggling to have this adult life, and I’m there. I’m at that point. Now what?”
In Casino Drone—premiering today on Nerdist—Adams explores those feelings with unapologetic honesty, fighting against “settl[ing] down” in spite of “settling in.” He comes to terms with the new moments that define his life: hugging his son, being with a partner for the rest of your life, waiting for the car to warm up on a cold day. Change isn’t easy, though, and with an earnest voice he sings through a constant flux of emotions, negotiating guitar harmonies that oscillate frequently between major and minor keys.
“On the Fumes” is exemplary of his deliberation: a fervent chorus cuts through the rest of the song’s major key pleasantries; the tonal guitar runs end in dissonance; wavering strings add an equivocating air to his otherwise steady voice. The 11-song LP is rife with examples like these.
Everything culminates in the record’s ultimate track, “Ideas Man,” which opens with a steady, four-minute ascension of ambient noise and alien blips. As guitars and drums enter the fold, he sings: “Caught my hands reaching something / something I don’t want / No I don’t, I don’t.” He’s giving voice to the indecision that rages inside most of us. What now? What do I really want? As Mike Adams at His Honest Weight repeatedly show us in Casino Drone, those aren’t simple questions. Life is not a set of cause-and-effect binaries—do this and you’ll be happy, do this and you’ll be sad. It’s complex, filled with decisions and unexpected feelings. You can either come to terms with that reality, or you can test your luck and get out of town.
Casino Drone drops on May 20 and you can pre-order it here.