I think part of the reason I’d been thinking about that Elephant Micah the last few days was because of the sudden appearance of a new solo record by Asa Irons on Monday, an album I’ve been hoping would materialize for years. For those who don’t remember, Irons was a member of Feathers back in the day and did an absolutely gorgeous album with Swann Miller around the same time. Since then, haven’t heard much.
Knife Gift Debt is certainly a continuation from the album with Miller, reveling in the same, restrained songwriting that made that record so, so great. Everything about Irons’ music has the feeling of being crafted over years and years, the wind and water eroding all the sharp edges and unnecessary elements until each song is a finely honed, smooth gem. “Go Light” is soft and wistful with Irons’ syrupy voice the light that guides it. In his songs there is always empty space, room to breathe and that is doubly true here. Even with additional instrumentation and guest musicians (Big Blood, Micah Blue Smaldone, etc), the music never feels cluttered or overwrought. Really, though, as intricate and beautiful as it all is, Irons’ songs are always a foundation for his voice. It’s deep and stout and instantly recognizable, never booming or frantic, but weary, soft. On tracks like “Child Is Snow” and “Apis Tone” each note in each melody is careful, drawn-out and held just long enough for maximum impact.
I was a little worried when I noticed the album was tagged with the descriptor ‘Irish’ but fear not… while there is a slight Irish folk tinge to a handful of the songs, it’s not over the top and works really well (felt most heavily on the banjo-covered “Avarice,” but goddamn if it’s not a great song). Knife Gift Debt is a stellar return for one of the last decades most underrated songwriters. I hope he makes a habit of this.
p.s. what happened to Swann Miller?