Bronxville, New York lies about 15 miles north of Manhattan, a small, prosperous community largely made up of professionals, finance-workers, lawyers. Growing up here, Chris Baio’s life followed the trajectory familiar to many suburban teenagers — a progression of piano lessons, bad pop-punk bands, getting drunk in the park, one eye forever trained on the city beyond.
It was years – not until 2009, in fact, by which time Baio was 24, that he learned that the iconic American author Don DeLillo was also a resident of Bronxville. Struck by the proximity to a writer he greatly admired, by the simple knowledge that “there had been a great artist in my midst”, over the course of three months Baio set about reading all of DeLillo’s books — among them Libra, Underworld, and The Names, his 1982 novel about an American living in Greece, to which Baio felt a particular connection. “And I just realized,” he says, “that if I were ever going to make a solo album I would want to call it The Names.”
Since 2006, Baio has been best known as the bass-player in Vampire Weekend, the New York-based rock band who last year won a Grammy for their third album, Modern Vampires of the City. In his downtime between tours, however, Baio recognized in himself an increasing restlessness, a desire to explore his own individual voice away from the band.
He describes The Names as “a realization of my influences and things that I love” — a world quite distinct to that of Vampire Weekend. Those influences do of course emerge in bass-playing and surfaced on an earlier EP, Sunburn (2012), but what is striking about Baio’s first solo collection is its marked difference to his work with the band.
Across its nine tracks, Baio wanted to return, in part, to the electronic music he had enjoyed while DJing at college, but also to investigate his own lyrical and vocal style to create something quite new and not easily categorized. “What I wanted to feel with this record was that it’s not a band record, it’s not a solo record and it’s not a producer record, but a combination of all three. I wanted to create a space where almost anything could happen,” he says.
In the making of The Names, Baio explored ideas of space — of belonging, identity and finding a place in the world. Some of this was occasioned by his own geographical shift — he and his wife relocated from New York to London in 2013, and he found himself struck by his new city’s expanse of sky, green space, globalness — elements that seem to infuse this record.
He began writing these songs at the tail end of that year, and in some ways, they were a continuous point in a transient period of his life. “I would be home from the Vampire Weekend tour, I would make maybe two rough instrumentals and then I would take those instrumentals back with me on tour,” he recalls, “traveling around listening to them, trying to write melodies, trying to write lyrics.”
At that point, the album was still something of a riddle to him, a conundrum of sorts. “I find working on music there’s the initial blast of inspiration and then after that, it’s like solving a puzzle,” he explains. But what was certain, even in the album’s infancy, was that he wanted The Names to be a record that was compact and intense and vital, hovering around the 40-minute mark, as many of his favorite Roxy Music or Can albums were. He also wanted the songs to show something of a narrative progression, “So it starts in a darker place,” he says, “and ends with sweet love songs.”
He also wanted it to show the diversity of his tastes, to be a musically rich and variegated collection of songs. He uses, as an example, the way that the track I Was Born in a Marathon “suddenly goes from this banging techno into almost like an explosion, almost like I blew up the first two minutes of that track and then it drops down to acoustic guitar.” Or how he experimented with his vocal delivery, trying different ways to use his voice for different tracks, “like if you had a producer-led record you would have different vocalists.”
There are “straight-up love songs” here, as well as songs that nod to Dostoyevsky, Kurosawa, Iggy Pop, The Cars; there’s a track Baio describes as “a classic rock band arrangement, throwback pop song” and a “tribute to David Bowie and Bryan Ferry.”
There are more sober moments too: thoughts on political unease and depression, on military drones, and lyrics in which he finds himself “questioning what the relationship is between me and my government, on the things I might not agree with but that are being done in the name of my protection.” On the album opener, Brainwash yyrr Face (its title a nod to Exit Through the Gift Shop) Baio looks at “the connection between electronic music and substance abuse” because, he explains, “There are plenty of great fun party songs about getting fucked up, but what I wanted to do was make a banging electronic track about the darker side, the shame in getting too drunk.”
He talks with particular affection about the album’s penultimate song, Endless Rhythm, begun one “beautifully, unseasonably warm weekend last year in March” when Baio went to visit Tate Modern and found himself captivated by a Robert Delaunay painting. “I loved the color, loved the design, loved the curves of it,” he remembers. “And I probably spent 10 minutes staring at it before I noticed it was called Endless Rhythm. And I thought that’s very fucking cool: a musical title to a painting. It immediately connected with me.”
The resulting song, he says, is “a song about itself, a song about writing a song. It’s kind of about the relationship between people and art, about the process of making a record, where there’s a part in the middle where it’s really frustrating, the idea of waiting for this song to come.” And it did, he adds, take some time to come. “I would work on it, and maybe two months later I would go back to the Tate and stand in front of that painting, listening to the song with my headphones on, seeing if I could get further connected with it.”
And of course, there is a further nod or two to Don DeLillo — I Was Born in a Marathon, for instance, references the opening line from Underworld: “He speaks in your voice, American, and there’s a shine in his eye that’s halfway hopeful.”
But Baio has felt DeLillo’s voice winding around his own in more subtle ways, too. “There are some things about language that I find very influenced by him,” he says. “The way that he puts certain words together, repeats phonetic sounds. The music of language has always interested me; that’s why I love two-syllable titles because a one-syllable word is a monotone, but the quickest way to get to a melody in language is two syllables. That’s why I called it The Names, because it was strong and evocative, and it had music.”
Born in 2014, Whit is a spiraling force that will punch you in the face with love. Their music is often described as Sparkle-Shred and sounds like a “Disney Princess on acid”. Songs are filled with movement, jangly but shiny guitar tones, syncopations, and polyrhythms iced with soaring vocal melodies. Whit is inspired by bands like The Dirty Projectors, Yes, The Beatles, Grizzly Bear, Ava Luna and Deerhoof.
Citizen’s As You Please reports from ground zero of an epidemic. Two years removed from their previous Run For Cover LP, Everybody Is Going To Heaven, Citizen’s perspective is far less sublime. As You Please is a confrontational record, incapable of turning a blind eye toward the inescapable strife. And so, songwriter Mat Kerekes pursues the source of discontent that is ravaging his Rust Belt city of Toledo, Ohio with the band’s most dynamic record to date.
On As You Please the epidemic is bigger than addiction and overdoses. There is no longer a Dream to be pursued for the friends and family surrounding Citizen. The band explores that absence and the misguided ways in which it gets filled. On opener “Jet” the kids move slow and there’s a stranger living in the narrator’s home. “In The Middle Of It All” might be Citizen at their most hopeful, but it also reads as agonizing expression of the ruin in the Heartland.
As You Please also showcases the growing versatility of a band seven years deep and still restless. Citizen has churned and ground out their own unique foothold within the greater context of alternative rock. Written over the course of a year, the record is devoid of the brutish and sinister elements found on Everybody Is Going To Heaven. Here, Citizen go beyond their early grunge contrasts and strive for something benevolent.
There’s a spiritual core to the record that manifests in subtle ways like the ethereal vocals echoing in the breakdown of “Control,” the droning organs on “You Are A Star” or the almost operatic refrain on “In The Middle Of It All.” The finespun ways in which Citizen has written this record mark a cataclysmic breakthrough for the band. There is damage and disarray in the band member’s lives, but within this record, all the pieces have been restored in an ornate arrangement befitting a stained glass mosaic.
In the end, As You Please tries to give strength to those in need. There are illicit factors that control, but Citizen has written a guiding light of an album out of the debris. It concludes with “You Are A Star” and “Flowerchild;” one an unstable request of confidence set to soaring progressions, the other a blistering finale that subverts expectation. As You Please might read as meek, but it represents Citizen in its most confident and expansive state.
You’ll be able to pick up the Flower Graves’ new 7″ single here during the in-store. 7″ Artwork By Valeria Pinchuk Valeria is 🔥!!
18-year-old Singer-songwriter Sawyer Fredericks, hailing from his family’s farm in central New York State, is fast establishing himself as an authentic, original, Americana artist with an old soul. His deep, beyond-his-years lyrics and melodies, raw, soulful vocals, and powerful live performances have attracted an ever-growing number of devoted fans of all ages, selling out shows throughout the US. As a folk/blues singer-songwriter, who cut his teeth at local farmers markets, open mics, and iconic New York venues like Caffe Lena, the Towne Crier Cafe, and The Bitter End, Sawyer seemed an unlikely match for reality tv, but quickly won over broad audiences with his genuine delivery and unique arrangements of classic songs, going on to win season 8 of NBC’s The Voice. Fresh from that whirlwind, Sawyer went forward with the release of his major label debut, A Good Storm, with Republic Records, an impressive blend of soulful Folk, blues, and rock, entirely written or co-written by Sawyer. His 2016 A Good Storm Tour included 62 shows across the US. For 2017, Sawyer has once again gone independent, is busy crafting his sophomore offering, with full artistic freedom, and continuing to tour. Follow him at www.sawyerfredericks.com, and on FB, IG, and Twitter, to stay updated on new music releases and upcoming shows.
Dinner is Danish producer and singer Anders Rhedin. Following the release of his EP collection and last year’s debut LP Psychic Lovers, the now LA-based artist presents New Work on Captured Tracks.
With New Work, Dinner had a wish to do things differently.
“I just needed to get back to the approach I used when I was still self-releasing cassettes, back in Copenhagen. I spent way too much time on the previous record. I was sitting in front of a computer-screen alone for seven months working on it, obsessing over it. This time I wanted to work very fast in order to think less. I wanted to collaborate more. I hoped that other people’s presence would keep my perfectionism in check.”
Dinner enlisted Josh da Costa (Regal Degal, Ducktails) to produce the album with him. He and Josh worked in the nighttime at off-hours at a studio in an industrial part of downtown LA. The album’s songs were recorded on the spot with no preparation time.
In between studio sessions, Dinner recorded and overdubbed material in his apartment on an early 80’s 4-track recorder.
“We did very little editing, we just tried to record what was there. You’ll hear a lot of first-takes on the record. The best part of the process was driving home early in the morning through the empty streets of LA, listening to the night’s recordings. Because it was such an immediate experience.”
The two previous Dinner releases were recorded in Berlin and Copenhagen with mostly European musicians. This isn’t the case on New Work, which features performances by Andy White (Tonstartssbandht), Charlie Hilton (Blouse), Rori McCarthy (Infinite Bisous, Connan Moccasin), Staz Lindes (Paranoyds), and a duet with Sean Nicholas Savage.
“A lot of my favorite music is American. I thought it would be fun to go a little bit less Euro on this one. I’m plenty Euro by myself, some might say. I wanted to add a different color.”
Asked to describe the sound of New Work after the first listen, Captured Tracks owner Mike Sniper texted: “Julian Cope, 60’s Baroque Pop, early 70’s Canterbury Sound, Japan, Ryuichi Sakamato, ‘Raspberry Beret’-era Prince… Need to listen a few more times before anything concrete comes!”
New Work is out on Captured Tracks on September 8th. Dinner plans to tour the US and Europe in the fall.
“Hello, my name is Robert Cline Jr. Thank you for taking a moment to listen to American Mojo and to hear the story of my pursuit of the American dream and my journey as a troubadour. When I started this project, I could never have imagined where I would be today. With this album, I hope to share my insight and passion so that you too find your Mojo.
When you move to a new area, you wanna know where to get the best coffee, the freshest meats, and a good watering hole. Robert Cline, Jr has found his waters of inspiration – deep in the sounds of American Mojo. After traveling thousands of miles, Cline has found his new hometown. The community here at The Shoal that I have woven myself into has been one of the greatest rewards that keep on giving.
Like everyone else, I had sung along with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic name-dropping song, “Sweet Home Alabama,” but I didn’t know who they were or their legacy. Now I know. So out came the song, “The Boys From Muscle Shoals,” that was co-written with Gary Nichols of The Steel Drivers. Not only does this song capture the sound of The Swampers; I tried to tell how they shaped rock-n-roll history!
Within a few months of meeting the boys from Muscle Shoals, I found myself in the coveted town starting to lay down some blueprints of what would be American Mojo with Nutt and his cohorts of players. Little did I know that moment would be a pivotal shift in my life.
It was like a dream, yet, I felt at home. I found myself surrounded by people who still believe in those dreams. For me, it was a once in a lifetime experience, and it felt like I was getting an education from the masters themselves. More importantly, I would find my voice and have an opportunity to produce an album that was crafted by some of the most influential musicians in American history. – Robert Cline, Jr.”
“I was having nightmares every night, thinking, ‘Wow, they’re going to hate this,” says JD McPherson. When he talks about his new album, Undivided Heart & Soul, there’s no glimmer of self-adulation, or even the confidence one might expect of a veteran artist. Instead, there’s a snapshot of McPherson’s creative process bringing the record to life, a journey filled with fear and change, then boldness, and, eventually, catharsis.
The best rock music has a story to tell. This record chronicles a series of upheavals, frustrations, roadblocks, and kismet—a cross-country move, failed creative relationships, a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity, and learning to love making music again by letting go.
McPherson calls moving his family from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, to East Nashville a decision based “on opportunity” and one he was reluctant to make but notes the profound influence the city has had on his new crop of songs.
“Up to this point, I thought I knew what I was doing with songwriting, that I don’t do this or that,” McPherson says. “Writing with people who co-write for a living…maybe I saw myself as John Henry, and them as the steel-driving machine.”
Along with collaborations with fellow Oklahoman Parker Millsap, Butch Walker, and Aaron Lee Tasjan, McPherson’s selections for Undivided Heart & Soul includes many deeply personal themes: “Let’s Get Out of Here While We’re Young” shares writing credits with longtime bandmate Ray Jacildo and McPherson’s wife Mandy. He also delved into character profiles, both fictional and based on real-life experiences, stories McPherson has held onto but never
thought of as fodder for songwriting, such as the Las Vegas bus station interlude detailed in “Style (Is a Losing Game).”
“That seems like a pretty normal thing for a singer-songwriter to do, to write about personal experience, but I really have never done that,” McPherson says. “It felt great but it also was tough at the same time. The thing is, John Henry is trying to beat the machine because he’s in awe of it. It was a lot of me saying, ‘You’re really good at this, and I have a hard time doing it.’”
With a group of soul-baring tracks taking shape, McPherson, and crew scheduled studio time to help force the issue. It quickly became apparent that these sessions were not going to work,
bringing McPherson’s momentum to a halt.
To clear his head, he flew to Los Angeles at the invitation of friend and longtime supporter Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, who was also recording at the time. McPherson, Homme, and his Queens bandmate Dean Fertita played around with some songs, with Homme pushing McPherson outside of his comfort zone in a no-stakes environment.
“His thing was, ‘I’m going to throw all kinds of crap onto your songs that you’re not going to want to hear, and you’re going to play ridiculous stuff you wouldn’t normally do,’ and Dean was
kind of the calming presence,” McPherson says.
McPherson calls the getaway “the most fun I’ve had since I was 15 years old” and returned to Nashville with a clear head, internal filters successfully stifled, ready to move forward.
That fresh perspective in tow, McPherson learned that the long-shot “backup” studio, the legendary RCA Studio B in Nashville was willing to host his band for the making of the record.
RCA Studio B was fundamental to the creation of the “Nashville Sound,” and the ghosts of some of the greatest songs in history live within its walls: Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” and Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” among them.
Artists who choose to record at Studio B are met with a rigorous list of requirements, including using a recording method appropriate during the studio’s heyday. Since the studio is a working museum by day, the entirety of McPherson’s workspace had to be reset at night:
Load in all equipment in the late afternoon, work until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m., and leave no trace nightly. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
“Those rules would probably turn a lot of bands off, but they turned us on, 100 percent,” McPherson says. “I really love walking into a classic studio as much as I love getting my hands on a really old guitar. I like knowing that something was used for a long time and has good things in it.”
But this isn’t an old Nashville record, by any measurement, nor is it the record McPherson set out to make, with credit due to co-producer Dan Molad (also the drummer for Lucius).
“There’s a pretty broad gap in our tastes, what we do and what we’re into,” McPherson says. Where he’s as likely to lean on The Cramps as he is Irma Thomas for inspiration, Molad’s left-field production suggestions included a Casio synthesizer and running a Fender Rhodes through a tape delay. (McPherson nixed the former; the latter became the signature sound of one of the record’s tracks.) “We ended up learning a lot from each other, and he did a lot of
stuff I’d have never thought to do.”
During the song “Let’s Get Out of Here While We’re Young,” JD sputters the line “We’ve worn out all the songs we’ve sung.” This is not a statement McPherson takes lightly.
“This record was difficult for me to make, difficult to write, difficult to record. It took a lot for me to say that I can’t force these songs to be the way people are expecting,” McPherson says.
Undivided Heart & Soul is a statement record, one that asserts McPherson as he is now, battle-weary but stronger than ever.
Making good on lessons learned from years playing drums with the likes of Bob Mould, Verbow, The Damnwells and his early stints as a founding member of Mineral, The Gloria Record, and The Rebecca West, indie rock veteran Matt Hammon is finally set to release his own music into the world.
“All those years I was working as a journeyman musician I was amassing volumes of my own material, much of it directly influenced by whom I was working with at the time”, recalls Hammon, who, at 43 years of age, has settled on his 10 favorite from his catalog of songs and recorded them anew for his debut effort entitled “Silver Suitcase”. “Some of them are ancient to me, as if I was covering them. Others are so new they have never been performed live. It’s a sort of anthology, I guess, in a very legitimate sense of the word.”
Fusing a wide range of influences from late 80’s / early 90’s post-punk, European arena rock, and music from the American heartland, Silver Suitcase is truly a solo album; written, arranged, performed and mixed entirely by Matt Hammon himself, in a converted one-car garage behind his Houston home. Drums and lead vocals were recorded in a few friend’s home studios in Houston.
From the lyrical perspective, the 10-song autobiographical set tells the story of a wanderer and dreamer, whose restless and adventurous nature caused the unraveling of his own sense of identity, home, family and personal well-being. His only constant seemed to be a banged-up silver suitcase purchased for a few bucks in a street bazaar in northern Thailand somewhere along the way. Imagery of his numerous adopted American home-towns provides the backdrop to the intimate, reflective lyrics throughout the album.
“The crazy thing to me is how I tried to make this record three times before I finally just accepted who I was as an artist and what the music of my heart truly sounded like.” The results are in – Silver Suitcase is an album of dense, ferocious, intensely melodic rock and roll songs, with layers of thick electric guitars, angelic guitar and synth counterpoints, busy bass work, and Matt’s signature pounding the drums into submission. “By the third round of recording I was so deep into the process and had become so attached to my own “scratch” tracks that I finally just committed to it all, which negated the need to bring anyone else into the process.” The live presentation is equally impactful in the full rock band setting or as a powerfully engaging solo acoustic act.