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Exclusive Watch: “We Had to Stay Home” by The Directory

By August Edwards

Jangle pop band The Directory are set to release their album The Centre for Useless Splendour on April 23rd. Today, ABQGR has the honor of presenting an early look at their lyric video for their single “We Had to Stay Home,” as well as an early look at their album.

Through buttery riffage, Clifford Grindstaff (guitar), Billy Belmont (bass), Ryan Sciarrotta (drums) and Keith Morris (vocals, guitar) have created an album that rings true to feelings—recent and longstanding—echoing throughout the world.

From the first listen I could sink into this album; there’s a lot of familiarity at the surface that happily captivated me. Most of the tracks groove at a swift pace, a quality that serves as a gentle psychedelic undercurrent. Each track is fresh, yet I can’t help but be blissfully reminded of some of my personal favorite artists, like R.E.M., The Smiths, and Neutral Milk Hotel. I think The Directory fit well within their home scene, too, as I can see them on a kickass bill with Albuquerque indie trio The Ordinary Things, for instance.

The nine tracks were recorded in Sciarrotta’s living room. “We gave ourselves liberty to follow whatever mood presented itself—dark, goofy, etc.—and to take as long as we'd like. I'm pleased with how it turned out, and mightily impressed by the mastering job that Andrew Godfrey did,” said Morris.

The seventh track on the album is “We Had to Stay Home.” From the title alone it can be gleaned that this is a Covid chorale. “It was the end of everything we'd known / we'll learn to harvest what the garden's grown / the plague was coming and we had to stay home.” In the burgeoning catalogue of Covid songs, it’s a good one. It begins sweetly, quite inviting, and keeps that honey tone for a sort of cocooning effect.

I have mixed feelings when it comes to thinking about the days of lockdown, maybe because I’m trying to learn from it still. I think about how I, like many people, still had to go to work in person. I think about how I struggled and failed with my personal relationships because I felt alone, even though I wasn’t alone. However, I also look back on those days and miss the disorder of it. Yes, I had to go to work, but it was different. I didn’t have any obligations (or I had the excuse to ignore any obligations I might have had). What I’m trying to say is that that time was complicated, and I’m really, really picky when it comes to listening to music about Covid.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because even besides “We Had to Stay Home,” The Centre for Useless Splendour is quite political. From addressing partisanship to confronting barricades—metaphorical and physical—there’s a lot challenging the listener here. But The Directory guide me through these hard feelings and offer sunny resilience. Viewing the lyric video for “We Had to Stay Home,” I’m met with cottonwoods and the Rio Grande, and there I am—home.

Check out the music video for “We Had to Stay Home”:

Catch The Directory perform "We Had to Stay Home" live airing on KUNM on April 20th at 3pm!

There are several other standouts on The Centre for Useless Splendour. The first song on the album, “Life Spent Facing Walls,” is an even keeled earworm. One of my favorites on the album, “New Paradigm,” is melancholy yet driving. It plays into the surrealism of jangle pop and even features different woodwind instruments with a heavenly flute solo. Daydreamy like Donovan or The Monkees, the phantastic illusion is complete with a recording of a dog barking at the end.

“Azure or Vermillion” explores the governmental party system in the US and what it means to be on the wrong side of history. This melts into “The World is Sinking,” a slowed-down freefall with smashing instrumentation isolation. Though it’s a longer song at five minutes, it allows for the spotlight to shine on different voices, and handoffs from one to the other like waves meeting shorelines.

Summer will be here before we know it, and I think listening to The Centre for Useless Splendour fits the vibe for a change of season. Open some windows and pop on this album while you plan a trip outside of the walls that enclose your home.

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