Donovan Quinn & the 13th Month - "October's Bride" (Donovan Quinn & the 13th Month)
“Will you ever pause to ponder your own love?” Donovan Quinn sings near the end of his latest record, Donovan Quinn & the 13th Month, released on the Soft Abuse imprint. Questioning love seems to be a not-uncommon practice for the songwriter, who spends a majority of the album examining hearts breaking and broken.
Recorded with a crack crew of San Franciscan scenesters, including multi-instrumentalist Jason Quever of Papercuts and Axolotl’s Karl Bauer on drums, the disc is appropriately autumnal, a solid match for the oft dour lyrical content. Musically, the group swings from spry Cali-pop to humid, reflective folk, easily skipping across styles while retaining a general feel of pain and doubt.
“October’s Bride” begins the album with a Byrdsian shuffle, steel guitar pricking a melancholic melody above Bauer’s loose kit work. It’s classic country dressed up in the shine of Northern California sun. Lyrically, Quinn dictates an emotional downturn that fades like the summer season. “I hate the sound of your voice,” he sings. “It follows me everywhere / Yes, it deafens my ears / It drive me to tears / And I don’t know why I even care.”
Quinn is even more bitter on “Horror and Fear” (as you might guess from the title). “If there’s something I lack, darling / Then let the lines go slack / I’ll tell you right now I never want you back,” he sings with quavering cello and acoustic guitar accompaniment that sounds like Nick Drake trading sadness for attack.
As with his work alongside Glenn Donaldson in the Skygreen Leopards, Quinn injects his songs with enough humor to balance out the bile. “They’re Going to Pick Us Apart” may not sound excessively cheery, but the irresistible, sun-soaked guitars and carnival keyboards provide a perfect counterpoint to the spook-filled lyrics about gravediggers and flesh eaters.
Yet, the main attraction is hearing an artist cleanse his emotional palate. “If the wind does not bring back the craft / Then there’s nothing for me on the shore,” Quinn slurs like he’s hoping the washing waves of the Pacific will pull him ever seaward. It’s a grand ‘fuck you’ to whomever holds responsibility for his shattered emotions, sung with little resignation or resentment.
Listening to Donovan Quinn & the 13th Month reinforces the fact that Quinn is one of the stronger songwriters working in the psychedelic folk scene – and allows one to guess he must be a total bitch to break up with.