IN A NIFTY BIT of unintentional wordplay, Sean Flinn describes The Lost Weekend, his second full-length record, as a figurative "shelter" that helped him through a time of emotional turmoil and personal upheaval—including a stretch without literal shelter. A long-term relationship ended, and "being so entrenched in Portland, my whole social fabric" was torn, he says.
"There was a portion where I was just floating. I had my tour van and that was it," Flinn says. "And I was like, 'I got this. It's cool.' I didn't really want to land."
Flinn has landed gracefully, though, with The Lost Weekend, a more sonically aggressive, quicker paced effort than its predecessor, 2010's Write Me a Novel. At 11 tracks, Weekend is wall-to-wall with Flinn's elegant blend of folk-rock and classic pop, in addition to his poetic take on love, loss, and the challenges of life in the unsettled 21st century.
"Maps" is a meditation on displacement framed by the crash of the housing market, with some R.E.M. jangle. And "Silver String" moves more deliberately, exploring similar themes without the glint of optimism so often found in these kinds of songs—a direct result of Flinn's own experience.
"My dad had a hard time finding work in Oregon," he says. "Reflecting on that... I don't want to be the downer, but I'm seeing this [story]. Do I want to call it how it is or do I want to have hope?"
Elsewhere, "Modern Man" bounces along a serpentine guitar line that sounds inspired by African music before opening up into a clearing of glorious pop harmonies. And the title track—a roundabout musing on the titular concept—is a breezy tune with a vaguely new- wave pulse. Throughout, Flinn proves himself a master at marrying melody and song structure in unconventional ways.
Recorded mostly at Portland's Type Foundry studio with Tony Lash as co-producer, The Lost Weekend is more than just a nifty pop record. It's one where the toe-tapping nature of the music belies the dark stories being spun. For Flinn, it's largely about those stories.
"The centerpiece of all of my writing is the story. I really believe in the story. I really believe in the narrative," he says. "I believe that melodies are augmented by the energy of the words that you're saying. There's something about the power of the word and I have a lot of reverence for that."
There is power in words, not only for the listener, but for the artist as well.
"Coming out of the record and hitting the road with it has been really kind of like a metamorphosis for me," Flinn says. "I put a lot of love into it and I kind of slaved away at making it right. The whole thing was definitely an all-in kind of experience, and I'm so happy to have it out in the world."