The expanding universe theory states that the energy of the Big Bang is greater than the mass of the universe. Everything in space retreats from everything else, forever, and eventually all the stars go dark. Cheerful stuff, really.
It takes an accomplished lyricist to explain that notion with just two lines (and to not make it sound like homework), and it takes an emotionally mature vocalist to carry the weight. But during the bridge of "High Resolution," that's the sort of synergy Graveyard Fields songwriter Brian Risk and vocalist Andrea Connolly generate: "Will the stars expand for eternity/ will the sun collapse with gravity?" Connolly belts, referencing telescopes powerful enough to measure the residual energy of the birth of our universe. With that indescribable size comes an irreconcilable loneliness, and they capture the feeling perfectly with a ballad that owes as much to orchestral rock as to R&B.
This 17-minute EP starts off strong, with a crackling, not-quite-two-minutes chamber punk explosion, "Life Gets Messy." Elsewhere, the Fields tend toward slow introspection through music for gray weather when no jacket is warm enough. "Jubilee" sets its vivid imagery to a somber swing. "The car was frozen/ right to the street," Connolly sings, setting up the sardonic lines "a crowd pressed open/ in front of me/ with children hoping/ for jubilee." "I Know Where You Go"—by far, the record's darkest moment—chronicles an abusive relationship with an unsettling extended metaphor to the predator/ prey dynamic. "In the fire of stinging rage/ some animals were meant for a cage," Connolly sings low and steady, spinning in a middle ground between fury and dejection. Like Gershwin's "Summertime" gone to hell, the song is a dark swing, broken by the sort of deeply troubled and frustrated guitar solo Marc Ribot contributes to Tom Waits records.
Granted, this is a young band, and some of the songs (notably the Sirens of Titan-inspired title track) come across as sketches. But it's a fantastic start—melodic, catchy, literate and depressing in all the right ways. That's not such a bad orbit.
Correction (May 6, 2010): Brian Risk is Graveyard Fields' songwriter (see comment below).