Essential New Music: Donovan Quinn’s “Absalom”

In the Old Testament, Absalom is a guy so good looking, popular and sure of himself that he gets away with just about everything—until he doesn’t. Donovan Quinn’s first solo album in seven years begins with a declaration that he’s not going down that road, then spends the rest of its playing time sifting through memories of the recklessness that has made such a declaration necessary. Quinn views bad relationships, bad band experiences and the substances that go along with such circumstances through a haze of self-justification. It’s no small thing to portray fuzzy thinking as clearly as Quinn does here, but that’s not his only accomplishment.

Backed by a small band that includes members of the Papercuts and Six Organs Of Admittance, Quinn has made an album that’s easy to listen to from start to finish. The San Francisco-based multi-instrumentalist has a catalog of great guitar sounds at his disposal, and he’s a master at arranging his tunes so that they echo a lineage—Dylan, Lennon, Big Star, T.Rex, etc.—accurately enough that you know exactly where he’s coming from. But then Quinn takes you somewhere new.

—Bill Meyer