The message of Midwestern band A Picture Made’s album on Gooodspeeed Records is explicitly clear: With song titles of “Heal Me,” “Heal You” and “Healed,” and the summarizing album title of Heal, there can be no doubt about this full-length’s purpose — emotional treatment. The literal publicity photo for A Picture Made is that of four adults. Although the band made its debut it the 80s, this is now a rock band comprised of full-grown adults. Thus, this healing balm music is filled with messages from a quartet of mature adults.
Sonically, A Picture Made takes a fairly minimalist approach to creating rock & roll. One song titled “Locomo Mexico,” for example, is recorded in such a way that all the instruments can be heard distinctly within the mix. It’s built upon a repeating guitar riff, a shuffling drum pattern and empathetic organ. Best of all, the vocal on it — about traveling south of the border by train — is upfront in the mix and explicitly clear.
Many of these songs are meditatively quiet. “Heal You,” one of the album’s trio of healing songs, though, is driven by and electric guitar groove that recalls the criminally ignored band Big Star. It’s followed by “Baby Boom Boom,” which – just as its title makes clear – is also a rocker that booms. The song’s chorus includes sonic elements akin to The Steve Miller band’s hit 70s recordings.
“Behind Your Eyes,” with it’s loving lyrics, helps break the tension from the songs that precede it. “I’m right behind your eyes/Those pretty eyes,” the band assures, over a lightly rocking guitar pattern. It’s a song about sticking around until “the coast is clear.” Until healing comes, it’s always good to know one has company. “When You Get Down” sends out a similar message. Over a joyful acoustic guitar song, A Picture Made songs about promising to be around, even when things are bad.
“Music Is Love” speaks of how music is love, and also a drug. With its singer-songwriter-ly acoustic piano framework, and psychedelic guitar fills, this track is an earful. For those especially attuned to music, music can seem like everything. Man does not live by bread alone, as the scriptures say, but I’m pretty sure many of us can exist on music alone. “Quitting Now Would Be Treason” is another piano song, with some really lovely piano work.
The album’s final song, “Healed,” includes the repeated line, “I know you’ll be alright. It ends with some unaccompanied ‘la la las,” and concludes the album on a good feeling, positive note. The album begins with “Heal Me,” a quiet, thoughtful intro, and then ends with an equally soft whisper of hopefulness.
A Picture Made paints an emotional, musical portrait where words and sounds are applied to righting an emotional course. Heal can be a shaky ride at times, but the overwhelming impression one gets is that the party will reach its destination, battered but better. The healing of hurts is a complicated proposition. How does one know when he or she is completely healed? It’s easier with a physical condition, where the word from a doctor can provide final confirmation. It’s not so easy, though, when it comes to matters of the heart. A Picture Made sails these complex emotional waters well with Heal.