“Tell me now, how did the reunion go? Wasn’t she a sight to witness?” begins singer Jay Gulley on Modern Skirts’ second album. Backed by sweet pop-infused vocals, Gulley continues to flesh out a sort of dark nostalgia on “Chanel” and sets a tone for the record that will infuse each song with simplicity and carefulness.
All Of Us In Our Night is the Georgia-based band’s second full-length release. Having formed in 2004, the quartet quickly became popular fixtures on the Athens music scene. Fellow Athens band R.E.M. took note of Modern Skirts, with Mike Mills citing the guys as his favorite Athens band.
Fast-forward to the release of the band’s sophomore record and Mills finds himself working as producer on one of the tracks. With a growing influence, solid press, and friends in some very high places, things are looking good for Gulley and the boys.
All Of Us In Our Night is a terrific collection of gentle, undisruptive pop songs. While there is a deep-seeded complexity to many of the arrangements, most of the tunes are instantly hummable and elegantly comfortable. Gulley sings with sweetness, while JoJo Glidewell (guitar, piano, vocals), Phillip Brantley (bass, guitar, vocals), and John Swint (drums) unpack the songs with graceful adeptness.
“Chokehold” is a striking track, opening with a quiet church organ and Gulley’s vocals. “We make mistakes,” he suggests while guitar pokes around behind him. The track has the feeling of exploring an old building as the sun goes down, with small shards of light poking through the cracked boards.
Other songs package the same sense of nostalgia and freedom, and with good reason.
All Of Us In Our Night was recorded at the Sound of Music studio in Richmond, Virginia, and in a pair of other locations (New Orleans’ Music Shed and Georgia’s John Keane Studios). The Sound of Music studio was a three-story department store from the 1900s, giving the music a sense of timelessness while infusing it with shadowy mystery. One can almost sense the passing of ghosts over the gentle piano to introduce “Yugo.”
“Motorcade,” as produced by Mike Mills, finds Gulley packing a bit of that legendary Michael Stipe punch. He energetically stabs at the lyrics, half-speaking and half-singing with a sense of recklessness. The chorus spurts into a sing-along, as the quartet tells us that it doesn’t matter what our friends say.
With “Radio Breaks,” a smidge of Brian Wilson peaks through the shades and the melody shifts highlight the sassy lyrics. “Just in case you miss me, I’m leaving my bills for you to pay,” says Gulley in the song’s inevitable kiss-off.
Beautifully simple yet deceptively complex, the arrangements on All Of Us In Our Night find Modern Skirts working overtime in the Charm Department at Richmond’s haunted department store. These are songs about life, resentment, and getting on with it.
As the harmonies and synth pulses close the record on “Like Lunatics,” Modern Skirts try to express themselves as best they can. “Hello again, it’s me,” sings Gulley. “You know I’ve been away, but you still haven’t changed.”
Maybe not, but I'm sure as hell working on it.