Night Falls Fast
I’ve been living sort of a la carte in New York. Two years in the back rooms of purple neon bars in the rusty parts of the South Slope. A year or two in the restaurants and sidewalks of the furthest extremity of Brooklyn’s R-train. Once a month in the cramped confines of a West Village jazz club by candlelight below the MacDougal Street sidewalk. Once a week for four months in a basement on the west side that reeked of dead rats. In a duplex on Halsey Street with a tree painted on the front of the building. I’ve been in a handful of odd spots.
I don’t know Evan Nachimson as well as I might like, but I’ve happened upon him in a coffee shop on Carmine Street, a third-floor apartment in Broadway Junction, and a wedding reception in Albuquerque. I’ve found myself seated across from him in a cavernous bar on McCarren Park talking about clinical depression, eating fries, and drinking whiskey. I’ve sat at a circle table on an awkwardly arranged chair above Pianos listening to him sing, in a sort of put-on country accent, a song about how to spell his last name – N. A. C. H. I. M. S-O-N. I’ve sat nervous passing jars of gin and cinnamon sticks around in a Bushwick fire-trap full of candles as he stomped his foot against the down comforters that covered the basement up to the staircase and bellowed the ceiling down. I wish I had stone heart, stone heart, I’d never let it break in two.
I don’t know Evan as well as I might like, but I know that he’s a songwriter of the old school. His neatly fitted sweaters, sharp collars, unshaven face, and unkempt orange hair fit the Christopher Street of 1962 a bit better than the Wyckoff Ave of 2018. In his music, the guitar is secondary to the words but not incidental. He cares for it, directs it, grips the pick and strikes the strings with the confidence of a musician. He writes music. Not poetry with guitar accompaniment, but songs.
Even still, Evan is a poet. His words draw on literature, run through with rhyme, and weave together vernacular and cliches and present them as metaphor. Never fluffy or without a purpose, he deals in hard things. California’s drying up. New York don’t feel like home. He sleeps with the TV on. His falsetto echoes through subway tunnels.
One night in February, cinnamon on my nose, by the light of several dozen candles, I sat cross-legged with two friends and watched as Evan sang a classic of his college years (I wish I had a STONE HEART), whispered dramatically the title track of his first EP Questions, and finished one of his first public performances of a song called “California.”
“Stone Heart” is love, heartbreak, alcohol, Hammond organ, and blues licks. Evan belts lyrics that might have been ghost-written by Amos Lee or Jason Isbell. “Questions” is the climax of his first studio recording, awash in reverb and strings and background vocals. “California” is different.
The second track from his most recent session, Night Falls Fast, “California” is quintessential Evan Nachimson. His folk sensibility and grounded songwriting are complemented perfectly by his meticulous arrangement and attention to both the capabilities and limitations of the studio. The other songs on the EP find these in different measure, alternately more straightforward and spare (“Won’t Stop Loving You”), more elaborately produced (“Take Me As I Am”), or balanced delicately in between (“Life Ain’t What I Thought It’d Be”).
To listen to Evan’s two short EPs is to listen to a songwriter enthusiastically but thoughtfully exploring all at his disposal. He takes inventory of inspirations and influences and writes intimately and simply or dramatically and ambitiously. Alternately conservative and ambitious, his songs are a musician discovering himself in real time.
It was weird to be in New York, twenty-two and bouncing from neon-splattered bars to converted body-shops; surrounded by musicians even when I was unsure of whether to count myself among them. When I was in college practice rooms, I thought it was during those years of studying that musicians came into their own, but now I’m twenty-seven and spend my time in coffee shops and on bridges. I realize it’s the years after that they change. In my few years in the city, I’ve been surrounded by musicians changing. To listen as it happens is a privilege and Night Falls Fast is the work of a musician changed. Evan is confident and creative with the imaginative flair of a musician finding new sounds, but he employs them with measure and restraint. In four short tracks, Evan preserves a discovery made.