Review: Staffers – In the Pigeon Hole (ever/never, Oct 16)

Entire years are dense, complex, nonsensical things, and usually ascribing to them generalizations such as the following is something that should be reserved for some much more enlightened point in the distant future. But with 2020, I say we just grab and wrestle down whichever tentacle of the awful beast you can reach and put any label you want on it. Thus, the soundtrack to nearly 300 miserable days and counting: Staffers’ In the Pigeon Hole, overstuffed and delirious and self-referential and emotionally turbulent and kind of exhausting (sound familiar?). The newest full-length from D.C. renaissance man Ryan McKeever’s solo project is over in a flash brighter than its garish cover art, but its addictive hooks and essence that’s somehow simultaneously apathetic and ardent will keep pretty much anyone coming back again and again. After what appears to be someone talking about a particularly shoddy Wurlitzer knockoff, followed by a bit of lively carousel music presumably featuring the “cheap” puffs of the ersatz organ, “On Staples” bursts into existence with a raucous blast of energy, and acts as a proper introduction for the short album in more ways than one: on multiple occasions it prematurely quotes melodies and lyrics from upcoming micro-anthem “Fuck the Brixton,” one of the most memorable and infectious tracks that makes me miss the grotesque yet awe-inspiring spectacle of angry drunk people. McKeever is no siren, but as David Byrne said, “the better a singer’s voice, the harder it is to believe what they’re saying”; any sort of sugar-coating would distract from the honesty of the intimate storytelling, existential paranoia, and general anxiety. I often have to just sit back and humbly appreciate just how much great music is packed into these unforgettable 26 minutes—the stretch from the cathartic jangle romp of “Getting Thinner” to beautiful closing slide-guitar ballad “Just Another Tuesday” alone is stuffed with entire track list’s worth of dynamics. Use this amazing, earnest gift of an album for those all-too-frequent times when things are tough and an escape is needed, but you don’t want to forget misery entirely.