“You have your brush, you have your colors, you paint paradise, then in you go.” – Nikos Kazantakis
With its recently-released fourth studio album, Girlyman (Doris Muramatsu, Ty Greenstein, and Nate Borofsky, who all rotate writing duties and play a variety of instruments) seems to subscribe to Kazantzakis’s humanistic view of colorful possibilities, for this richly textured and often profound effort celebrates life ever in the making. The vivid paint-by-numbers cover art hints at the evocative work inside, songs which, sometimes playfully, always reflectively, deal with the effects of myriad choices one faces in life, choices that could prove wrong but must be made regardless.
Filled with Girlyman’s soothing vocals and trademark intricate harmonies, Everything’s Easy, the band’s most sophisticated effort to date, explores the group’s more frequent themes—the passing of seasons, changing weather, volatile land- and seascapes, and journeys down roads or through life’s often complicated stages. Most of the songs highlight life’s transitions—adolescence to adulthood, innocence to experience, love to loss, and, eventually, mortality itself. The group suggests in “Could Have Guessed” that “Maybe everyone’s the same/With a heavy weight and a whispered face” as it weaves together thoughts on life’s little confusions, both mundane and profound, singular and universal, offering “a reason for every stupid season.”
In “Easy Bake Ovens,” an idealistic childhood of suburban neighborhoods and toys and dares is set against the unfolding Watergate scandal. In “Could Have Guessed,” life is viewed through the dim haze of regret. Accompanied by a melancholy cello, the deeply reflective “Nothing Called Home” examines one’s search for personal meaning, the need for belonging, and the redemption of second chances (“You think you’re leaving everything behind/But, no matter where you are/You are there, you’re the star”). The canonical title tune about choices inherent in life suggests “Everything’s easy/But you never know, wherever I go/Is a way.”
It’s that lyric, that space between “a” and “way”, that sums up the philosophy of this amazing and gifted trio. Girlyman, in its melodious songs, does not run “away” from life’s challenges and heartaches; the group optimistically acknowledges that the “way,” which leads to realizing one’s potential, requires hard work and the love and support of others, that truth, goodness, and beauty more often lie in the struggle itself. “Nothing can prepare you for the gravity of ground” they sing—a plant dies, a car wrecks, a relationship ends, and crayons can melt in the sun—but life goes on, another blank page beckons, and sometimes you can ignore the numbers and choose your own colors when contemplating paradise.