Gloom Balloon: Drying the Eyes of the Goddess of Gloom Underneath the Stars and the Moon (Maximum Ames) Review

Maximum Ames Records

One of the things that Patrick Tape Fleming does perhaps better than anyone is to write confessional songs that are heartfelt, but not whiny, contrived, or full-on emo. In fact, at times he’s just downright hilarious while confiding in you about heartbreak, and this ability is fully on display on the second full-length Gloom Balloon album.

The album starts with Tape Fleming singing with a piano and a baby crying in the background, before erupting into a burst of synth and drums. His other outfit, The Poison Control Center, sprang from the loins of lo-fi groups such as the Elephant 6 collective, which makes this introduction kind of a perfect nod to the past while a sort of call to arms for the present (and future?).

From here, the album sprawls, and does so gloriously, and in technicolor. The strings and vocal layering of “The Shit You Put Me Through,” the horns and choir on “Brush My Teeth,” and orchestration throughout the rest of the album, are dripping in melody, but are also very complex, lush, and just downright accomplished.

Tape Fleming and his co-host in Gloom Balloon, Chris Ford, have created an R&B album of earnest ballads and heart-wrenching songs that reference classic songwriters and old school arrangement, while also raising the bar on production, sounding at times like modern Flaming Lips albums, but with more swing.

It’s the leading contender for best local album of the year by a pretty wide margin, and is well worth your time. Rarely does an album capture the sounds of the past and the future simultaneously this well without becoming a mess, but Gloom Balloon has made it sound pretty breezy and effortless.

For Tape Fleming, that’s in part from the inspiration he drew from falling in love and having his first child — events that have him thinking about making this album his last.

Drying the Eyes of the Goddess of Gloom Underneath the Stars and the Moon is out Sept. 1 on Maximum Ames Records. Two release shows, at 6:30 and 10 p.m., are scheduled the same day at the Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines.

Full disclosure: Maximum Ames Records was co-founded by Nate Logsdon, a founding editor of the Informer.

Bryon Dudley
Bryon Dudley is a writer and musician from Ames. He has written about music and other topics for a number of local publications and blogs. When not playing music and putting out albums with groups such as Strong Like Bear, Liana, and Rockets of Desire, he is helping other Iowa artists record their music at his studio, The Spacement, and releasing it on the Iowa label he co-founded, Nova Labs. He has a tattoo of an aardvark and is adjusting to bifocals.