Glossary’s fourth record For What I Don’t Become has been waiting almost a year for its official release. It is a strange incident of life imitating art—an album existing in the same limbo that its subject matter examines so effectively.
These Murfreesboro stalwarts have been making music in some incarnation for almost a decade, and their fourth full-length release sounds like it, which is both an asset and a liability. Glossary are no longer the new kids on the block—anathema to most indie kids—but the rich, rootsy melancholy of this album masterfully conjures life on the road, empty bars and lonely nights. Weariness is the perfect inspiration for the lush, lilting sounds of For What I Don’t Become—a sonic portrait of the inevitable wear and tear that comes with struggling to get your music heard for 10 years.
That’s not to say these songs don’t rock— they manage to take that late-afternoon ennui and turn it into something resplendent and beautiful. The head-nodding energy of the lead track “Shaking Like a Flame” sets the album in motion and it rolls forward with an unstoppable momentum, expressing the regret that things simply didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to. This tension between fatigue and idealism is what makes the record so intriguing—it captures that moment we’ve all had, when looking forward and looking back hold equal sting.
The rollicking nature of the production captures the quintet’s live energy and buoys these songs against their darker themes. The sound is pretty and tight, but includes well-placed moments of dissonance and distortion that recapture the listener’s attention and hearken back to some of Glossary’s earlier work.
Frontman Joey Kneiser, now the sole songwriter, seems transfixed by the passage of time. The language is not flowery or ironic but instead bracing in its simplicity. On “Days Go By,” Kneiser sings, “I know that time changes a lot of things / and I’m afraid I can’t be fixed / But I would give up everything not to feel like this.” That wistful feeling is embedded in the band’s boisterous sound, in Todd Beene’s wonderful pedal steel work and Kneiser’s deceptively nonchalant delivery.
Musically, there are some truly exquisite moments, like the acoustic intro to “Time Rolling,” which sounds like a classic country tune written by Bruce Springsteen, or the final moments of “The Reckless,” when backup vocalist Kelly Smith’s gothic chant is nothing short of arresting.
On “Headstones and Dead Leaves,” Kneiser sings, “I don’t want you to cry over me...even when everything you ever thought you wanted turns out not to be enough.” Isn’t that the story of being in a band? If only we could put out a record; if only we could get written up; if only we could do a national tour, then it would be enough. Over the years Glossary have accomplished all those things, yet can’t help but plow forward, with heavy hearts and wonderful results.