Revisiting “Now, More Than Ever” As a Concept Album in 2022

In my last post about the wonderful works of album-era Jim Guthrie, I made a glaring omission in describing the sound of that period: Guthrie likes his songs to be lyrically dense. I briefly touched on that, but not to the point where I could extrapolate on it. Case in point, the song that got me into Guthrie’s body of work was Trust, and I still struggle to comprehend sections of it nearly a decade later. A lot of Guthrie’s early work is like that. Sometimes, you’ll have a song like Sexy Drummer, where the prose is easy to read into and understand. But occasionally, you’ll run into something like Virtue which is about… the concept of virtue, I guess? But you may have noticed that, in all of my articulation about the style of Guthrie’s lyricism, I have yet to bring up a single track from his 2003 album “Now, More Than Ever.” Had I not come to a startling realization today, I would have. I have been listening to “Now, More Than Ever” as a series of disconnected vignettes ever since I heard it for the first time. But if you concentrate on the lyrics enough and try to piece the puzzle together, a much clearer picture forms. “Now, More Than Ever” is a concept album. Maybe not by intention, but everything fits together so that it just makes sense. That’s my reading of it, at least.

If I had to summarize what the album’s about, it goes like this: “Now, More Than Ever” follows a man who settles for a relationship that he has been chasing after, only to realize that they aren’t compatible. The relationship has a long and messy ending, resulting in a string of nameless one-night stands that only progressively get more tiring as the singer feels his time on Earth shortening at an increasingly high rate. He attempts to adopt a more positive outlook on life, which brings him closer to another person. Knowing how his last relationship turned out, his inner-voice wonders if there’s anybody out there who is genuinely compatible with him or if that’s a pipe dream whose chance of being a reality is null.

If you want the full version, here it is. The album opens with Problem With Solutions. The singer finds himself in a bar, drinking his time away. His outlook follows this rough pattern: “if hay can be used to make alcohol and is healthy for a horse, why can’t I have the best of both worlds and just eat the horse instead?” His reliance on getting drunk causes him to spin out of control and be distant from those around him, including those he feels deeply connected to. He recognizes that his current outlook is problematic and can alienate others from him but continues on this path to deal with his own feelings of alienation. All Gone finds the singer sober as he lies down at home, thinking of someone he cherishes. Thoughts of marriage cross his mind as he begins to long for their presence. He wonders to himself internally if he could “make something out of nothing,” perhaps implying that there’s not much of a connection to be had. The next day, this longing turns more severe when he sits alone on his porch in Montreal, feeling small and distant from the world around him. The world around him freezes as his mind begins to slip. Finally, in Save It, the sourness catches up to him. The world around him melts as he sees his future as a bleak and empty place where nothing is thought through, resulting in a series of meaningless conversations that ultimately lead to even more meaningless conflicts. He seeks out help to calm him of his increasingly hostile view of the world but finds no solace in any of the assistance he’s been given. In his second attempt to alleviate himself, he tries to find sexual satisfaction in the world but quickly shoots the idea down as it makes him uncomfortable at the time. He finds a new lease on life through the messy self-destruction of himself or someone close to him. In Broken Chair, this new perspective gives him the confidence to finally seek after the person he cherishes. However, his attempts are met with skepticism and ambivalence. The reality of that is portrayed in Lover’s Do, where the relationship starts out strong but becomes one-sided as it painfully deteriorates in silence. Time is a Force jumps in time to a point where the singer’s idea to find peace in sexuality has gotten to his head. One-night stands are almost daily, and, despite fulfilling his need to be seen in the world, he feels even more empty and alone. He feels his time on Earth slipping as the tedium gets to him. But just as soon as he feels himself falling into the same pit he struggled to get out of in Save It, he finds the energy to pull himself up in fear of ever falling down that hole again. Now, More Than Ever is the only song on the album with no lyrics, but it doesn’t need any. The way Time is a Force leads into it, and the positive energy it radiates from the rest of the album says all that’s needed to be said. The singer finally confronts everything that he finds to be woeful about his life and tries to put his best foot forward in addressing all of it. This positivity leads to him finding someone he shares a deeper connection with in The Evangelist. The title of the track is the second reference to religion found within the album. It hints at two possible scenarios: the person he seeks intimacy from is religious, or the connection he feels with them is so deep that it mirrors that of a husband and wife during their honeymoon period. Given that the first reference was about marriage, the latter is more likely. The last track on the album, You Are Far (Do You Exist?), is perhaps the most introspective—and short—of the bunch. Instead of giving his listeners a happy ending, Guthrie gives them a more realistic one. Right now, the singer and his partner are comfortable in each other’s presence, but what if that doesn’t last? Finding someone who makes you happy and never puts you down seems ideal but is rarely an occurrence in a world filled to the brim with billions of people. And yet we are told to seek after these partners and that they lie in wait for us. The singer is happy where he is but worried that things might happen in the same order as he repeats his series of mistakes, and perhaps this fear is something that he finds to be too debilitating to be open about. The success of this relationship demands that he can successfully open himself up to that conversation, but that may never happen. Until it does, he’s left to wonder: where is the perfect person for me, and do they exist?

Now, More Than Ever” has been on my computers and phones ever since I first heard it. At one point, Guthrie’s music calmed me to a point where listening to it helped me get a good night’s sleep. While that anecdote might make his body of work seem uninteresting, it is quite the contrary. Through engaging with his music past the surface level, I have a newfound appreciation for what he, and the musicians he’s worked with, have been able to accomplish. After reading “Now, More Than Ever” in the way that I’ve outlined in this article, I can only say that my love of it has gotten stronger. Although I do not keep definitive lists of what my favorites are of anything, if you were to ask me what my favorite album of all time was right now, I’d say “Now, More Than Ever” by Jim Guthrie.

This article is based purely on personal interpretation. If you have an interpretation of your own or feel that mine doesn’t work, feel free to share it!


Revisiting “Takes Time”: Jim Guthrie’s Latest Original Album Deserves to be Listened to, Almost a Decade Later

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)