The opening lyrics to Glitterer’s sophomore studio album Life Is Not a Lesson sound as if they’re straight from an old philosophical text written in miniature poems: “In between a thought and being / Try to rid myself of feeling / Want to be objective, true / A body’s got nothing to prove.” But that’s just how Ned Russin — the face behind the whole project, and the ex-Title Fight member — is, especially after getting his Master’s in creative writing at Columbia University.
Even the title Life Is Not a Lesson reads like a chapter from an antiquated novel. It’s a funny phrase, especially coming from someone in his early 30s. Glitterer, in many ways, seems to follow Russin through his contemplations, and this record transparently communicates his current confusion. “I’ll never know / Just how a song should go / I don’t like what I wrote,” he confesses on the meta “How A Song Should Go.” This contradicts its predecessor, the reverb-laden “Little Backwards Glance,” on which he repeats “I know,” saying the line three times. And this same idea is encapsulated in the second track, “Are You Sure?”: “Am I ever sure?”
In this constant contradiction and uncertainty, the space between Russin and the listener thins. He goes back and forth from asking, “Are you sure?” and “Am I sure?” And whether the listener is simply listening or also singing along, there is still this eventual loss of who is “you” and who is “I” and suddenly Russin’s existential crisis has dripped outside of the music and materialized in the real world.
Also, “Are You Sure?” is just so sonically satisfying, so much so that it might be the best track on the record. The bassline is addictive, and the build-up in the chorus is rewarding every time. The sound of the entire album has become bigger and bolder than ever before while still maintaining the signature brevity, which he attributes to the influence of Guided By Voices. If Life Is Not a Lesson is Russin’s Alien Lanes, “Are You Sure?” is his “A Salty Salute,” “Indeed” is “Motor Away,” and “The End” is “Watch Me Jumpstart.”
Life Is Not a Lesson is uncomfortable and eccentric just like Alien Lanes, though it does not reach the obnoxious level of including audio of snoring on the songs. Either way, Glitterer has always had that weird aspect about itself—especially when it came to performances. A lot of the music is made using Russin’s laptop, so performing live shows meant singing into a mic while pre-recorded sounds blared from speakers. It’s confrontational and awkward—but that’s what most resonant indie music is. There’s charm in its inherently embarrassing nature.
Speaking of charm, the intimacy of this record is one of the most valuable elements of it. Aside from asking, “Are you sure?” Life Is Not a Lesson asks plenty of questions. All sorts of questions—“What’s the point?” “Is it me?” “Did I now?” Even though Glitterer is his solo project, it does not feel like just him. It feels as if it’s a hidden opportunity to start a conversation, and to invite others to inhabit his space.