The French film director Jean Renoir once said, “The only things that are important in life are the things you remember.” Spoken to the average person who would only grasp the mere surface of this quote, the response elicited would likely be, “No shit.” But no matter how cynical or vulgar this response would sound to those who have a somewhat deeper sense of their lives, it would be for most a rather apt response. But to others, like Team Callahan, the moniker of the Denver by way of St. Petersburg (Florida not Russia) husband and wife duo Nick and Kathleen Arnal, Renoir’s quote is akin to the themes the pair share on the thirteen songs of their effulgent first album Afterglow.
Many of the themes tackled are familiar ones; those old post college blues, the times when the fun is over, the money’s been spent and now you need to start thinking about how to pay it all back. But Afterglow also deals with more important issues like human emotions and personal struggles.
Team Callahan come out swinging on “Point Doom,” a sly surf rock imbued melody born upon waves of innuendos, as Kathleen Arnal imparts the first of her many witticisms with “It seemed like centuries ago / When the monks crossed the mountain tombs / Malibu, El Camino / and a sipping tea lemonade room.” As funny as this is, things take a darker turn later on when Arnal laments, “That west coast tried to drag me down / Inside my cold and crazy head / Can’t get no sleep in LA / Gotta get back to my own bed.”
The fear of growing older, of having to leave the good times behind, surfaces from beneath the hand claps and Ramones riff on “Weekend Hot shot” where Arnal croons, “Weekends are fun when your young / and it feels like the whole world’s on your side / But we will get older, the good times much slower / and one day we will die.” Not sad enough for you? How about the heartsick alt country ballad “Mammoth Cave” intoned with the lines “I wanted to marry my best friends / But they didn’t wanna marry me.” Arnal then turns inward to narrate the nostalgia laden “Winter after Graduation,” an angst ridden tune, on which she reflects on her life so far while also trying to figure out her future.
I could keep rambling about the little details I found in each song and why I liked Afterglow so much, but I won’t. There’s not a bad song on the record. Credit also goes to the recording process. Speaking as a man who’s heard enough home recordings to last him several lifetimes, I was very impressed by the sound of Afterglow. It was recorded in the couple’s apartment, along with a little help from their friends Jackson Davis, and Shaundra and Brandon McGuire who helped out on added instrumentation and backing vocals. It was bare bones operation recording with a few mics, and a compressor and then mixing it down in Cubase. Go team. Go.
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