Life Is Not A Lesson is an album that examines itself with a lot of tension swelling from within. The latest album from Glitterer (the solo project of Ned Rubin) explores the existence of its creator as well as the creation itself, in an interesting series of explorations and a brilliant display of sure-fire indie rock.
This twelve-track runs at a relatively short runtime, a style that originated from Guided By Voices that completely fits the type of exploration Rubin undergoes in this offering. With a sound profile that’s overall harsh – closer to levels of post-hardcore and shoegaze, the energy keeps building up with each song before dipping down again for the next one. Rubin’s vocal is constantly being strained into reaching his high register with fully belted bursts, driving the point of his lyrics to bare. And with this lyricism filled with metaphysical and philosophical questions, it feels like he’s reaching out to ask the gods, or perhaps himself, and in turn his audience.
“Bodies” opens up with a conviction: “You can put me in the ground / But I’ll still be hanging around”. Hazy guitars and a sharp baseline drives the rhythm home – with melodies that are as catchy as the rest of the album. In “Are You Sure?”, Rubin goes through an episode of doubt that refutes his previous proclamations: “Try so hard but am I ever sure?”. This push and pull dynamic is a theme that emerges constantly in this LP.
Elsewhere, in “How A Song Should Go”, Rubin dives into meta. Headlined by a rudimentary synth riff that more or less serves as the basic building block of the song, he asks: “I’ll never know / Just how a song should go / I don’t like what I wrote”. It’s very easy to pass by these ideas during the first listen, as they are often presented very bare and in plain sight. But as subsequent listens go they slowly reveal themselves, adding a rewarding amount of depth to every repeat.
While the first half of the album consists of songs with heavy alt-rock, the later ones dive into more experimental sounds. “I Made The Call” is dispersed in a thick layer of textural shoegaze. With everything feeling sharp and ominous as Rubin sings a little more laid-back than usual. Inversely, the closing title track is more minimalist, with every synth, bass and vocal part converging into a greater sum of their parts.
Evocative, poignant and catchy to boot. Life is Not A Lesson is not just an enjoyable listen. It’s an album that asks the listener in its pursuit to learn.