Vin Blanc/White Wine | In Every Way but One | PDX-002 (August 6th, 2013)

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Those who witness the twisted magic that takes place when Joe Haege walks out onto a stage—be it with his semi-legendary rock outfit 31Knots, the mesmerizing (now-defunct) Tu Fawning or the solo high-wire act Vin Blanc/ White Wine—recognize almost immediately that he has it. Not the it that marketing teams conjure for ad campaigns or the it that looks good on cereal boxes, but the elusive it that separates polished punk bands from the terrifyingly urgent real thing; that intangible it that investigates every crevice of a song’s surface to find a truth (and especially an ugly truth). Haege—genteel and self-effacing in person—is a maniac preacher onstage. He will coo and he will bark; he will dance as if having a seizure; he will fuck with your personal space; he will sweat on you.

Haege brings the same fearless spirit to his second album as Vin Blanc/White Wine, In Every Way But One. Though the album was recorded in desperation mode after two break-ups—one with a band and one with a longtime girlfriend—forced him to reconsider his reasons for making music, Haege’s aim and velocity remain fully intact. Yes, the songwriter’s disrupted personal life leaves dirty fingerprints smudged across the album: there’s a debased bachelor bender happening on opening track “Make Do”; there’s dispassionate, lonely physicality draped across the Wu-Tang-esque piano lines of “Temple Of Lines.” Still, In Every Way But One is the most thematically and musically focused record of Haege’s career. It is also, as the title suggests, completely out of control and wholly disinterested in questions of genre.

When In Every Way But One was complete, Haege uploaded it unceremoniously to the Internet, attaching a few paragraphs of liner notes that sounded suspiciously like disclaimers: “I simply don't have the capacity to endure another PR campaign or marketing brainstorm about something that’s simply not intended to be marketed,” he wrote. Thing is, that’s precisely what makes In Every Way But One such a stunning collection of songs. This is what it sounds like when a great musician stops thinking about how his or her songs will be received and focuses exclusively on how the songs sound and what they say. This is the sonic equivalent to seeing Haege onstage: Here he will try everything, because trying everything is the only way to find a little ugly truth.