I’m going to take a break from saying doo-doo about movies that I didn’t like and instead put that energy into something that actually brings a smile to my face.
Jim Guthrie is not likely a name you’ve heard unless you’ve been paying attention to who’s been composing independent video games for the past five to six years. He’s done the score for Sword & Sorcery, Below, Planet Coaster, Reigns, Bleak Sword, and more recently, Nobody Saves the World. With that pedigree, you might assume that this is all he’s ever done. But I have to say that those soundtracks sell him short. How short? Well, Now More Than Ever is easily in my top five albums of all time; I still have Sexy Drummer, Trust, and Invisible Gem on my playlists; and I have caught myself humming to 1901 more times than I can count. Guthrie is the rare artist that I can say I’ve been listening to for a decade without feeling ashamed of myself. My taste in music has changed a little bit since 2012, but the quality of Guthrie’s early work has not.
But it wasn’t the sweet sound of All Gone that introduced me to his distinct sound. His soundtrack for Indie Game: The Movie is where I first caught wind of his work, but if I’m going to be talking about pre-soundtrack era Guthrie, I have to speak about Takes Time.
What makes Takes Time so intriguing in a modern context is that it was an album sandwiched between what I refer to as “album-era Guthrie” and “soundtrack-era Guthrie.” The former is marked by strange, sometimes unrefined, and limited soundscapes backed by wordy lyrics that tend not to speak in complete sentences. Of particular note in this era is the album Morning Noon Night, which was composed entirely on Guthrie’s copy of the PlayStation version of MTV Music Maker. Now More Than Ever is a massive departure from this style, as the songs on it were structured in a completely different way. His style of lyricism remained intact, but with more variety in the types of tracks he was composing, it’s not nearly as noticeable. This layer of polish is something that continued with the album Moody Motorcycle created by Human Highway, a small side-project formed by Guthrie in conjunction with Nick Thorburn. Although Moody Motorcycle presents its listener with less variety than Guthrie’s previous album, it goes all-in on the strange-folk aspects of Guthrie’s previous work. All of this is to say that album-era Guthrie more than holds up. Soundtrack-era Guthrie takes some of the quirks and polish from the album-era songs, and recontextualizes that for different scenarios. A few of his soundtracks are lacking in that distinct sound, but generally speaking, it’s not hard to hear the Now More Than Ever influence in Planet Coaster. What makes this contextualization differ from his previous work, though, is that a lot of the album-era fat is trimmed off. As much as I love the gorgeous sound of The Light in Us All, it’s the only song that I can recall from that soundtrack.
Whenever I recall Takes Time, this is almost what gets brought into my memory. Takes Time does not have the lush, sweeping songs of Now More Than Ever or the rough sound of the two albums that preceeded it. But you’d be hard-pressed to find songs on it that lack the same spirit. The song that opens the album, appropriately titled Taking My Time, puts its chorus near the end of the song and only goes through it once. There’s an emotional build-up to that point makes the song’s bizarre, but all too relatable, statement on growth feel more profound than it would be if it was hammered home over and over again. On a similar note, Like a Lake moves its one and only chorus farther back into its runtime. The minimalism that builds up to it gives it a folksy air of mysterious wit. These two songs always stand out to me whenever I listen to Takes Time that one more time. But the other songs aren’t too shabby, either. There’s about one section in Don’t Be Torn that was I initially a bit miffed on, but as this album has grown with me, I’ve accepted the strange inclusion of cheerleaders shouting “BE ASSERTIVE” as part of Guthrie’s enjoyable weird style. If I were to talk about every song that I loved in this album, I’d be writing about just about all of them. There isn’t a single tune here that feels like filler made to pad out the album’s length. Everything is perfectly structured, written, and preformed.
And yet, in the nearly ten years that has passed since this album’s release, I haven’t heard anyone talk about it. I’ve gone through old blog posts, watched a live recording on NPR that feels ancient by this point, and looked through websites with users reviews. Those who know Guthrie’s music well also know Takes Time. But with a whopping two user reviews on Amazon and none to be found on a site like Discoggs, it’s weird how few people outside of those following Guthrie have said anything about Takes Time.
To celebrate almost ten years since its release in May of 2013, I urge you: listen to it if you haven’t already. If it isn’t your thing, that’s fine. But as somebody who has been listening to it for nearly as long as its been released, this is an album that has a surprising amount of longevity to be found in its pleasant tunes.
If you found this to be a fascinating read, consider checking out my piece on another overlooked album, It’s All a Bit Weird by Ben Morfitt (also known as SquidPhysics)