Never gone — The unremitting spirit of Forget, Forget

One of my favorite lines on You’re Not Gone, the second album from Portland-based duo Forget, Forget, arrives midway through “Seashells,” track five. It’s when Patia Maule sings "let’s get takeout and go see a show.” Kind of a throwaway line, and an odd one to find refreshing or unique. But it’s unlike almost every other lyric on the album in that it’s absent some intention to move, to inspire, or to connect.

The etymology of the word “inspiration” means “to fill the mind with grace,” or to feel “the immediate influence of God or a god.” I don’t know the particulars of the religious faith of Maule or Tyler DeVos, the two members of Forget, Forget. Hell, I don’t know whether they have any at all; that's besides the point. But one of the band’s core qualities is a seemingly avowed interest in making music wholeheartedly — that is, with their whole hearts — in the hopes of getting the room to sing along. This music seeks to inspire.

Naturally, this sort of vulnerability can make for some wincingly earnest moments. “Ohh, I'm prepared for an interval of time. Ohh, I'm prepared to believe in mankind,” begins frontman DeVos on album-opener “The City.” In a cultural landscape chin-deep in irony, such displays of naked sincerity are jarring.

But this is, fundamentally, a music of hope, and there’s something plainly beautiful about that. As a listener, it makes me grapple with my own belief system. Again putting aside religion, I rarely share any feeling of unvarnished faith that DeVos seems to conjure on this album. And while I have some buried instinct to write critically from that particular crossroads, that would as much indict my own cynicism as anything else.

Forget, Forget’s first album from five years ago, was a big affair with a lot of musicians. This one’s stripped down to DeVos and Maule, who tackle guitars, vocals, synths, and programming between them. The moments of bombast in the sprawling, six-piece band from years ago are replaced by a more driving new style, more new wave than Neon Bible.

On We Are All, the band’s 2013 debut, DeVos wrote lyrics culling from the perspectives of his clients. A counselor who worked with the mentally ill and otherwise in need, he arranged the quotations and first-hand accounts in song. Here, there's evidence he's still taking on characters, but they're far more abstract and sublimated. “Week Or So” takes on the narrative of a father, possibly a universal one, in a state of reflection. In “Year of Transition,” he addresses someone being saved from the stormy weather of some unknown dread.

It all makes for a noble and worthwhile project. It’s certainly true that there are only so many ideas left to mine in this genre, and DeVos and Maule don’t seem particularly impelled to reinvent the form. But the album can’t help but bring up complex thoughts about what inspires people today, and that’s worth thinking about.

“Seashells” make for one of the album’s two finest songs, standing along with closer “Your Kid Sister,” a single from 2015, as comfortable and radio-ready. The ascendance of Maule as a sometimes-lead vocalist is a huge asset on the album. Her voice is delightfully nimble and expressive. On songs like “Public Places,” the band more recalls Blondie or Aimee Mann’s more calculatedly upbeat tracks than the Arcade Fire or other of their indie forebears.

And DeVos’s vocal presence is steady and sound as well, a trickier task this time around with four fewer musicians around him. With this more measured formation, you can follow DeVos moving through registers and playing with deliveries far more, particularly on the slower stuff. But DeVos and Maule are best when they move. To me, each of the album’s upbeat songs add a necessary urgency to the group’s earnestness. Maybe it’s just easier to run alongside spirit this strong rather than stare it directly in the face. 

Forget, Forget | You’re Not Gone, album re- lease with Cape Cannons + The Empty + Super Psyche | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | $8 |  

This article has been edited for clarity since publication.  

Last modified onWednesday, 06 September 2017 14:34