Considering that the songs on Brian Lemert’s East of Where You’ve Been are full of nostalgia, regret, relationships gone wrong, and yearning for things and people gone away, the album is a surprising amount of fun. Lemert’s way with a melody keeps things moving along buoyantly. If most of the songs aren’t exactly happy, they’re at least built on a hopeful foundation.
On some songs, Lemert’s easy-going style sets up a contrast with the weight of the lyrics. “Since You’ve Been Gone” follows the singer as he confronts memories of lost loved ones, haunted by recollections at every turn and seeing ghosts on the five o’clock train. “Five Miles” talks about how little things can make a big difference, and a small distance between people can feel like an uncrossable gulf.
On “Those Were the Good Old Days (Sippin’ Jack Like a Martini),” though, there’s no room for regret at all. It’s all reminiscing about the wilder days, when even running errands was fun, and the song’s narrator prides himself on the way he could leave his girlfriend’s place, “slippin’ out like Houdini before her daddy ever had seen me.” Musically, the song makes plenty of references to the Eagles and Steve Miller Band, just to make its vibe perfectly clear.
The album is an ideal soundtrack for summer, when sun-splashed happiness can so easily meld with an undercurrent of sadness. Before the season’s even over, we’re already missing it, and we can already imagine looking back from the perspective of winter with an illogical mix of regret and satisfaction. East of Where You’ve Been captures that feeling perfectly.