Its easy to forget that your favorite Elliott Smith songs start with a smile. You look back at him, or any other host of tragic singer-songwriters with even more tragic stories, and a wider shot paints everything a little bluer than it actually was. Smiths story is a depressing one, no doubt, and the songs he left behind tread a parallel path, but if you look beyond the sheer tragedy that can overshadow that art, each overbearingly grey sky that he painted was tinged with the barest bit of blue. If youre surrounded by the void, the least you can do is laugh. Smith wasnt the first to figure it out, and Posthumous Release, the fourth record that South Carolinas Mat Cothran has put out under the name Coma Cinema, is proof that he certainly isnt the last.
Cothrans work, like Smiths, has long dealt in economically constructed singer-songwriter tunes, short bursts of poignant lyricism often cloaked in dark imagery that paint the stereotypical picture of The Tragic Artist. Cothrans often troubling Twitter missives, alongside an avowed love for Manic Street Preachers and the doleful tale of their long presumed dead lyricist Richey Edwards, echo that surface level approximatingcasting him in that unfortunate light of living martyr, where each release is automatically measured in shades of black and labeled, dismissively, with awkward monikers like bummer rock.
Posthumous Release, even more so than Cothrans previous exercises in songwriting economy, works so well because it refuses to succumb to any songwriting mode so base or one-note. His lyrics are small and obscurea lot is left to the imagination, and yes, things do sound pretty dark at times, but Posthumous Release finds Cothran in a pose of hope and humor amidst all the destruction around him. Even as he shouts out Satan or laments cut[ting] [him]self at work, theres admonitions not to let in a buried past (on Partners In Crime) and the title tracks insistence on holding on to what you found. Theres glimmers of hope in this carefully constructed darkness. Just look up.
Essential Tracks: “Survivor’s Guilt”, “White Trash VHS”, “Burn A Church”