ANE BRUN - When I'm Free (Balloon Ranger)
The vibrant front cover of Ane Brun’s sixth studio album shows her gazing wistfully into the middle distance, an indefinable expression of what could be expectation, nerves or loneliness on her face. In her hands, she holds a bunch of blood red roses. Whether she’s about to leave, or has just arrived, is unclear from Swedish artist Aida Chehrehgosha’s portrait, as is whether the flowers are a gift for Brun or someone else. Even the title is open to interpretation: does this freedom exist already, or is it something longed for but still unattained? Such ambiguity lies at the heart of When I’m Free, arguably the Norwegian born, Swedish-based singer and songwriter’s most ambitious album to date. It’s a lyrically and musically bold record that addresses change in many forms, a snapshot of a life in flux that even the typically humble Brun concedes is “probably more extrovert and dynamic than any of my previous work.”
“My musical development,” Brun insists, “has been natural. I’m self-taught, and it started with me and the guitar, and sometimes a piano. I created a sound around those two elements that I could handle. I was first very inspired by music in the singer-songwriter genre – Nick Drake, Elliot Smith, Joni Mitchell, Ani Difranco – and the simplicity and presence of many of their recordings attracted and moved me, so I was sensitive to bringing in other instruments. As years went by, I felt like expanding, adding more energy and fun, mostly through challenging myself in my stage performances. They’ve been like my years at a music academy - playing live for people, working out new live sets and constellations, rearranging my own songs and other’s. My voice, too, has evolved in both strength and depth, and I’m perhaps braver and more ambitious about my expression.”
When I’m Free comes at a busy time for Brun. As well as constant touring – in a variety of formations, from full band to solo – she released a Best Of, Songs 2003-2013, and a Rarities album, in 2013, as well as a live album in late 2014. She also co-wrote and scored a UK Top 5 hit (and Dance Chart No. 1) in 2015 with Dr. Kucho! & Gregor Salto featuring Ane Brun’s ‘Can’t Stop Playing (Makes Me High)’. “Sometimes,” she concludes, “when I´m heading down to my studio to make new music, or record something, I have butterflies in my stomach, kind of like when I´m meeting someone I´m in love with or have a crush on. It´s like we’re in a relationship, my music and I!” It’s one of which we should all be jealous, and we’re spoilt by Brun’s desire to share its benefits. This is the sound of freedom.
Add Date: 1/26
Focus Track: 3
Format: Top 200, Triple A
Soul singer Charles Bradley has been on the rise since the release of his widely praised 2011 debut album No Time For Dreaming, and his ascent has continued long after the release of his triumphant second album, 2013’s Victim of Love. Dubbed “The Screaming Eagle of Soul,” the singer just announced his anticipated third album Changes, out April 1, 2016 on Daptone Records imprint Dunham Records.
The album is named for his popular, “smoldering” (SPIN) cover of the Black Sabbath track. Previously only available as a Record Store Day 45, “Changes” will appear on the album and will be available for purchase digitally for the first time. “I think about the lyrics very closely when I sing ‘Changes’ and get emotional,” notes Bradley. “It makes me think of my mother and the changes in my life since she passed away.”
Those emotions are what lead to the final cut of the intimate and spare video for the song, which premiered on December 8th. Charles was originally set to sing along to the track and film in Times Square but, in the editing room, director Eric Feigenbaum (Remedial Media) says he “kept coming back to the take of Charles looking straight at the camera, telling the story with his eyes and reacting in the moment to the song. We only did that once. By the end of the take, everybody in the room was holding back tears.”
Add Date: 1/4
Focus Track: 1
Format: CMJ Top 200, Modern Rock Specialty, AAA
Occupying the fertile ground between organic band land and an all-electronic production project, Bob Moses draw on the two poles to vividly resonate across both. A duo with an individual name, Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance’s musical endeavor plays with this kind of duality all over their debut album Days Gone By.
“We were never happy just making music on guitars,” says Tom Howie of the organic-electronic sound of Bob Moses, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Canada duo he formed with partner Jimmy Vallance. “Our live show combines what a DJ does with a rock band,” Vallance adds. “Everything flows together in a continuous mix for the dancefloor, but it’s all our own original music, with live vocals and guitar. Then again, we came out of a scene that was trying to change what dance music is – that pushed beyond the expected sonic spectrum.”
Initially connecting in high school back in Vancouver, the two went their separate ways – Howie to Boston’s Berklee College Of Music, Vallance to the commercial dance charts producing big room floor fillers. After moving to New York City separately only to serendipitously bump into each other in a carpark and discover that they each had studios across the street from each other in Red Hook, the call was made to get together to try and jam something out. “We booked a couple days to write at my studio for fun, and by the end of the week, I told Tom, ‘Come live at my place and let’s do this every day’”, Vallance recalls. It made sense that the name of their project paid tribute to the city in which it was birthed, and so in homage to Robert Moses, the urban planner behind iconic New York landmarks like Shea Stadium and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Bob Moses was anointed.
The opening track “Like It Or Not” perfectly exemplifies the Bob Moses approach. A stark introduction of piano and voice departs into a propulsive, off-kilter house rhythm, before breaking right back down and riding out on a heady conclusion of vocal harmony, before the first single, “Talk”, spins a deceptively catchy vocal melody over jacking bass and foreboding ambience. Slinky, sinewy and imperceptibly catchy, “Too Much” is a grower in the shape of a guitar-led deep house Trojan horse. “Tearing Me Up” resurrects the oft-overlooked schaffel rhythm to deadly effect, a slow-burning, gyrating epic of tortured love that simmers without ever boiling over, while the title track unfolds in waves of repetition over almost seven hypnotic minutes, a melancholy slice of cathartic release and a worthy album centerpiece. Gentle rhodes chords and a loping heartbeat drum pattern marks “Writing On The Wall” as one of the record’s more vulnerable intermissions, and "Here We Are" closes out proceedings with a lush, melancholy acoustic guitar-led lament, a touching glance in the rearview.
The balance of man and machine is a delicate dance that Bob Moses have realised with their debut, and Days Gone By is a dazzling exploration of discreet, personal moods that engages and eventually engulfs, tastefully coalescing dance music’s giddy rush with more timeless, introspective song craft. Borrowing from both but slaves to neither, as a result the record is equally effective headphone listening as it is deft club euphoria. Days Gone By reveals Bob Moses as masters of their art.
Add Date: 9/22
Focus Tracks: 2, 4, 5
Format: Top 200
Andra Day has been gifted with a brassy yet alluring voice that is as powerful as it is expressive. The San Diego native attended a performing arts high school while working with various producers to develop her musical style. When a tape of a live performance found its way to Stevie Wonder, he was blown away and soon introduced her to producer/writer/musician Adrian Gurvitz of Buskin Records. Day and Gurvitz spent the next year working on her debut album with what she calls a “retro-pop-soul” sound (“a blend of jazz, soul, doo-wop, plus a little bit of rock, and hip-hop on the underbelly,” she says). In 2012, Andra posted a series of covers on YouTube, which went viral and landed her a record deal with Warner Bros. Records.
Add Date: 9/8
Focus Tracks: 1, 2, 3, 12
Radio Formats: CMJ Top 200, AAA
Dawn & Piers
Six Degrees' very own Piers Faccini teams up with singer/songwriter Dawn Landes for this digital-only release.
Backstory: The two songwriters, Dawn Landes (US) and Piers Faccini (UK) met in 2013 when they recorded a Lead Belly song for Faccini's cover project, Songs I Love. Later that year, Piers invited Dawn to France to perform together in a Romanesque Chapel in the remote Cevennes region of the south of France, near Piers' home and studio. They took pleasure in singing and playing together that night and it inspired an intimate suite of songs that would become the EP, Desert Songs.
The bare autumnal skies and rugged mountains on the horizon provided the perfect backdrop for their collaboration. In between sessions, they swopped tales of mystics and seekers. Where Dawn would quote the Desert Fathers or Thomas Merton, Piers would cite Sufi poets Rumi and Hafez or the poems of St John of the Cross. Dawn and Piers wove the arrangements together using the rich collection of instruments in Piers's studio, a Malian Kora, a 1930's National resonator guitar, West African shakers and an Indian dulcimer and tampura. Back in her Brooklyn studio a month later, Dawn recorded drum parts with Ray Rizzo. Desert Songs was then mixed in NYC by Pat Dillet.
Add Date: 1/11
Focus Track: 4
Format: CMJ Top 200, AAA, AMA
Floating Points- a.k.a. Sam Shepherd - announced his debut album Elaenia, out November 6th via Luaka Bop (US)/ Pluto (UK). With the announcement he shared a new video “Silhouettes,” which features music from the eleven-minute album track “Silhouettes (I, II & III).”
Shot on location in Rio Tinto – a corner of the Spanish and Portuguese border deemed the closest thing to Mars on Earth – as well as in the studio in Barcelona over a period of six months, the 'Silhouettes' clip was directed by Junior Martínez and Pablo Barquín.
Elaenia will be released on LP, CD and digital download. All pre-orders of Elaenia via the Floating Points store will receive ‘Silhouettes (I, II & III)’ instantly, and the first 200 orders will receive a print of the album artwork created by the harmonograph built by Sam himself. The album can also be pre-ordered at Rough Trade and iTunes.
Add Date: 10/20
Focus Tracks: 1, 2, 7
Format: Top 200, RPM
Great American Canyon Band
Great American Canyon Band is a Baltimore based group formed by husband & wife, Paul & Krystal Jean Masson. Their sound is a beautiful mix of harmony rich rock, mixed with elements of dreamy, psychedelic "shoe gaze" and a big, "wall of sound" production approach which harkens back to the days of Phil Spector. Their self-released Tumbleweed // Burn 7-inch & Lost At Sea EP have already been featured at tastemaker blog Stereogum, radio station WXPN, syndicated program World Cafe (whose host, David Dye made them a World Cafe "Next" Artist) as well as on their hometown non-comm AAA station, WTMD. Upon its independent release, Lost at Sea garnered enough airplay to appeared in WTMD's year end Top 20. The band appeared at the stations signature First Thursday Event as well as the TV broadcast Concert for the Chesapeake which is a collaboration between WTMD and PBS. The band has also opened for The Lone Bellow, Strand of Oaks, Divine Fits, Tennis, Pure Bathing Culture and many more.
The Crash EP's title track is a haunting taste of the new music to come from their forthcoming, full length, Six Degrees Records debut, Only You Remain- coming in early 2016. The EP is rounded out with four beautiful tracks that have previously only been self-released by the band themselves with limited availability.
The Great American Conyon Band will perfrom at the Distiller Promo CMJ Showcase, 7:30 PM at Union Pool on Thurs, 10/15
Add Date: 10/20
Focus Tracks: 3, 1, 4
Format: Top 200, AAA
HEY MARSEILLES - Hey Marseilles (Shanachie)
It is hard to resist Hey Marseilles' lush, honest, cinematic, emotive and rockin' soundscapes.
With their third album, Hey Marseilles shake off the past and take a big, bold step. In all its panoramic, pop-perfect grandeur, Hey Marseilles - its eponymous title an announcement of self-definition to the world-leans into a new, bright future.
In every conceivable way, it's a risk for this humble quintet. And it couldn't come at a better time. Set for release on Shanachie Entertainment in February 2016, "The music is a reflection of our desire to take our musical strengths and focus them in a way that makes our songs feel more cohesive," confides Matt Bishop. The band's new album is their first collaboration with outside producers or songwriters including Anthony Kilhoffer (an A-list Grammy winning producer for Kanye West and John Legend).
Bishop adds, "Anthony forced us to recognize each song's strengths. He taught us how to make the album sound cohesive. We explored new keyboard tones and programmed beats. The result is an album that lyrically communicates many of the same themes as our previous two, but packages them in a sound that's more impactful and direct. We worked really hard on the last two records to gain a loyal fan base, and we feel like they'll enjoy these new songs."
Add Date: 1/26
Focus Track: 1
Format: Modern Rock Specialty, Top 200, Triple A
THE JAMES HUNTER SIX - HOLD ON! (Daptone)
This may be James Hunter's fourth album, but it is his first on Daptone records. Produced by Daptone's own Bosco Mann (Gabriel Roth) at Penrose Recorders (Daptone West) near his home in Riverside, California, Hold On! is a perfect portrait of an artist at the top of his game. James Hunter has been on the scene for enough years to acquire plenty of feathers in his cap. Billboard charts, Grammy nominations, and Van Morrison collaborations aside, he has earned an international reputation as a Rhythm and Blues troubadour for his command of the microphone both on stage and in studio. This album, however, is something far deeper than just another notch in his belt. It is truly an artist’s vision come to fruition.
Though tunes like "(Baby) Hold On," "If That Don't Tell You," and "Stranded" carry the buoyant energy, crackerjack arrangements, and tough soulful pulse for which the band has become renowned, the true treasures of this LP may lie in the deeper grooves. Rumbas, boleros, bossanovas, and easy rockers, each one swinging more than the last: "This Is Where We Came In", "Something's Calling", "A Truer Heart", “Light of My Life”, “In The Dark” — no clichéd throwback nods to a-time-gone-by here. These are forever songs crafted with immaculate care and ingenuity, sung with an effortless balance of tenderness and grit. Many will be tempted to describe it as “authentic,” but the word really has no place here. Hunter's words are truly his own and though at moments his voice may "evoke" Ray Charles or Sam Cooke, there lies an inherent naturalness in these songs that bucks any comparison past or present.
Add Date: 1/26
Focus Tracks: 3, 4
Formats: Top 200, Triple A, Americana
"’Faces’ delves into deeper, more emotional waters. Although we still are able to recognize Hollebon's signature falsetto vocals and haunting guitar plucks, his sound has made its first step towards the world Arcade Fire, Local Natives and Reuben and the Dark find themselves in.” – EARMILK
British, alternative musician, Reuben Hollebon, has unveiled the new video for his dark, emotional track “Faces,” off his debut album, Terminal Nostalgia, that will be released on April 1st, 2016 on Bright Antenna Records. The accompanying haunting video was directed by Emma Rozanski and KCRW has labeled the song their "Today's Top Tune".
The largely self-produced 12-track LP is colored by Reuben’s discovery of music as a therapeutic outlet for him. Terminal Nostalgia’s soundscape takes influence from Reuben’s time as a recording engineer for several well-known acts, including Basement Jaxx, Courtney Barnett and The London Symphony Orchestra. Musically, the LP captures Reuben’s acoustic approach and subtle use of electronic elements; coming across all at once as experimental and accessible, yet intense and intimate.
Add Date: 11/24
Focus Track: 1
For more than two decades, Lettuce have brought a new vitality to classic funk, matching their smooth and soulful grooves with a hip-hop-inspired urgency and mastery of beat. Now, on their fourth studio album Crush, drummer Adam Deitch, guitarists Adam Smirnoff and Eric Krasno, bassist Erick “Jesus” Coomes, keyboardist Neal Evans, saxophonist Ryan Zoidis, and trumpet players Eric Bloom and Rashawn Ross deepen that sound by channeling the sonic freedom and infectious energy of their incendiary live show.
As they pushed into new sonic territory throughout the making of Crush, Lettuce drew on a natural musicality that each member has sharpened through an impressive string of outside projects: Deitch also drums and produces for artists like Pretty Lights and Talib Kweli, Krasno’s played with the Allman Brothers Band and on Grammy Award-winning albums from the Tedeschi Trucks Band and Derek Trucks Band, Ross is a full-time member of the Dave Matthews Band, and the most recent of Coomes’s bass credits include Dr. Dre’s Compton. “We’re all doing such eclectic things, and we all absorb those new experiences and feed them back into our own music,” notes Krasno. “Our palette just keeps growing and growing.”
So while Crush offers everything from all-out party jams to headphone-ready journeys into space funk, each track was born from an unabashed joy and love of live performance. “That energy we get when it’s prime time and we’re about to go onstage and we’re just excited beyond belief—that all came out on this new album,” says Deitch. “There’s a feeling that the band is rising, and it’s a really beautiful thing.”
Add Date: 10/27
Focus Tracks: 13, 18, 6
Radio Formats: CMJ Top 200, AAA
LOW CUT HIGH TOPS - Eh, Whatever (Self-Released)
Add Date: 1/26
Focus Tracks: 2, 1, 3
Formats: Top 200
This January, Seattle-based neue-shoegazers Red Martian return with a highly anticipated new album, Slow Motion Samurai.
Slow Motion Samurai is Red Martian’s seventh full-length record, set to release in early 2016. Following Ghost Into The Fog by only a few months, frontman Stephen Jones explains that the two albums were written contemporaneously. During Ghost Into The Fog’s production, critically acclaimed producer Gordon Raphael encouraged the band to focus on the collection of songs saved for the album, and Slow Motion Samurai was put on hold.
Despite Ghost’s ultimate success, Jones admits that its production process felt rushed. Following the 2015 release, he produced Slow Motion Samurai himself, took his time, and sculpted the album into the picture that developed in his mind. Samurai was primarily recorded at Electricity Studios and the Art Institute of Seattle, while the vocals were recorded at Jone’s home studio, which he calls the Instant Instrument Factory.
“[Slow Motion Samurai] was self-produced, but I think it develops better as an album than Ghost did […] In listening to Slow Motion Samurai after focusing so closely on Ghost, I realize that the songs are bit more thought out and together… it just feels like a deeper album.”
Following an overwhelmingly positive response from the band’s most recent effort, Red Martian is back–this time with a much heavier, cohesive shoegazer sound. Drawing influences from My Bloody Valentine, Velvet Underground, and Iggy Pop, the band continues to produce hard-hitting, whirring guitar sounds that breathe new air into the genre. The album’s title track, which opens the record, attacks the listener with frenzied guitar riffs and a series of tempo changes, indicating immediately that the band is moving in a new sonic direction. “I don’t necessarily think that it is about freedom or control, but sometimes there are just sounds in one’s head that only that person can hear,” explains Jones.
Slow Motion Samurai will be released in 2016 on the Japanese Maxi-CD (MCD) format, with each disc individually hand-numbered with an OBI strip.
Musically, Slow Motion Samurai is a definite step forward for Red Martian. But they won’t stop here. “We already have a collection of songs steeping,” Says Jones. “I feel like I’m going deaf honestly!”
Add Date: 1/11
Focus Tracks: 2, 7, 10, 12
Radio Formats: CMJ Top 200
Where Have You Been All My Life?, released on 8th January 2016, is a collection of songs that distills five years and three albums of Villagers’ songwriting into one flowing narrative.
Recorded in one day at London’s RAK Studio with Richard Woodcraft (Radiohead, The Last Shadow Puppets) and Villagers live engineer Ber Quinn, the album is a re-imagining of older material seamlessly woven with present glories from Villagers’ most recent studio album,Darling Arithmetic.
Released in April 2015, Conor O’Brien’s third album under the guise of Villagers was a more pared-back, intimate journey compared to the multi-faceted arrangements of Becoming A Jackal (2010) and Awayland (2013). This fresh approach was extended on subsequent Villagers tours, where old songs were reinvented to match the new. Then for one day in July 2015, 18 songs were quickly captured and 12 songs chosen for the final album, making it Villagers’ most intense, but satisfying, session to date. These recordings are all first or second takes, and the immediacy of the occasion was part of the magic that day, live and unadorned by overdubs or studio trickery.
Add Date: 11/1
Focus Track: 7
Format: CMJ Top 200, AAA
War & Pierce
Chris Pierce & Sunny War had a friend in common, musician and producer Jared Faber. Faber thought the 2 should meet and that they might hit it off….maybe there was some music to be made amongst them.
The three first got together at Faber’s Silver Lake studio for a little hang and out of that was born “Any Day Now”, the first song written and recorded by the 3. They all felt so inspired by the outcome of their first encounter that they tried to repeat it…to see if lightning could indeed strike twice. Each time they got together they wrote and recorded what would ultimately become their debut EP, the self titled War & Pierce.
All of the basic tracks for this album (vocals, acoustic guitars, bass and blues harp) were recorded live. Some additional electric guitars, piano and drums were later added. The collection was mixed by multi-Grammy award winner Dave Way.
Add Date: 1/11
Focus Tracks: 3, 2, 1, 4
Format: CMJ Top 200, AMA, AAA
TUXEDOMOON & CULT WITH NO NAME
"...elegant instrumentals of enigma and disquiet, in parts it’s equally suggestive of Twin Peaks" - Q Magazine UK
"a brand-new soundtrack that excites me just as much as this footage does." - Filmmaker magazine US
"contemporary work that doesn't actually need to accompany Braatz's visual counterpart to succeed." - Record Collector UK
"It's evocative, dreamy, dark and dynamic, and adds another chapter to the mysteriously connected cultural and musical elements surrounding the cult of Blue Velvet." - The Wire UK
Made to Measure for the film Blue Velvet Revisited, shot in 1985 on the set of Blue Velvet at the invitation of David Lynch.
In 1985, a young German filmmaker Peter Braatz was invited by David Lynch to Wilmington, North Carolina, to document the making of his new film.
Over the following three months Braatz was given unrestricted access to set, cast, crew and director, collating hours of behind-the-scenes footage, in-depth interviews and over a thousand photographs. Featuring exclusive, never before seen footage, the new feature-length Blue Velvet Revisited finally offers the most intimate and revealing insight into one of the greatest films of the 1980s, and one of the world’s greatest directors ever.
The soundtrack for this new take on an old masterpiece is equally as significant. Uniting the talents of acclaimed UK electronic balladeers Cult With No Name with legendary post-punk chamber music pioneers Tuxedomoon, the music for Blue Velvet Revisited is every bit as noirishly evocative as the billing would suggest. Fusing elements of contemporary classical ("Lumberton") to jazz ("So Fucking Suave") to ambient electronica ("Do It For Van Gogh") to krautrock ("Jeffrey Nothing"), but never fully surrendering to any, Tuxedomoon and Cult With No Name have produced a suite that is as unique as it is representative of both artists. In addition, the album sees a contribution from electronic music Godfather John Foxx, the eerie ambience of "Lincoln Street" providing a perfect axis around which Tuxedomoon and Cult With No Name can weave their magic.
With glorious artwork featuring previously unseen photographs of David Lynch, Dennis Hopper, Isabella Rossellini, Kyle Maclachlan and Laura Dern, Blue Velvet Revisited is a truly special release.
Add Date: 1/19
Focus Tracks: 8, 3, 10, 13
Format: CMJ Top 200
THE BY GODS
"The anarchic sound that informed the 1990s dream is alive and well with The By Gods who tap into channels and power-chord schemes of deity-like omnipotence." - IMPOSE
Garnering comparisons to Bob Mould, and wielding all the muddy guitar stabs that make Superchunk fans melt, “Miss It” features a chorus big enough to fill an arena, or make a small club sweat from the walls - the single is both timeless and fresh, and is everything you want out of a rock song. On the new album, The By Gods stay focused on the difficult art of keeping it simple, and making the music they love.
The band hit their stride from the opening track on Get On Feelings, assembled perfectly with intelligent and intoxicating melodies.Downstrokes-be-damned, the band continues delivering their fuzz-guitar-laden youthful energy in crystal-clear high fidelity all the way through. The album was recorded by Carl Amburn (Riddle Of Steel, Traindodge, Self-Evident, Town Portal) at his Oklahoma barn studio, The Mousetrap.
Add Date: 1/19
Focus Tracks: 1, 3, 4
Format: Top 200, Modern Rock Specialty
ILHAN ERSAHIN'S ISTANBUL SESSIONS
"If Radiohead was playing jazz, they would sound like this"
- Blue Note artist, Erik Truffaz
Confusion is good sometimes. It’s a way to start thinking about whatever you are confused about. This is what Ilhan Ersahin’s Istanbul Sessions do since 2008. They managed to fire the stages all across the world: from New York to Istanbul, from Paris to Sao Paolo, from London to Skopje... Questions they spread all these years where like: are they really turkish? Is this really jazz? Doesn’t it sound like a rock band? How come a jazz ensemble can really be like a band? How can they be so able to jam with any musician they meet on stage? And so on...
It’s a simple fact Ilhan Ersahin, being one of the rare moguls of New York City underground scene via his club and record label (Nublu), is traveling all around the world. It’s possible to see him jamming with Red Hot Chili Peppers in Sao Paolo, featuring Bugge Wesseltoft in Blue Note Tokyo and/or playing a beautiful oriental set with turkish gypsies in an elegant concert hall somewhere in Europe. His New Yorker energy is with him all the time.
How about Istanbul Sessions then? It’s a summary of all you read above. Master level musicianship meets a high eclecticism where the cliché of “east-to-west crossover” finds its true sense and power.
A session is a meeting of a deliberative body to conduct its business. In this case, the business is music, and the music is another heavyweight long player from Ilhan Ersahin & crew. Upon listening to the record for the first time, one word overrides every other emotion and devours the mind: Cinema.
More specifically, “cinematic.” Ersahin’s sax sounds like it was recorded in the fucking Alps. Or in the sweeping sand dunes and Oasis’s of the Middle East. It’s just that W I D E. On “Falling,” Ersahin’s sax is practically 3-dimensional. Double tracked and bathed in a healthy dose of reverb, the saxophone and rhythm of the band evoke a story-like narrative. From the mad-man trills strewn throughout the track, to the soaring, almost stadium anthem chorus. Clearly, it’s all about the (s)axe, and Ilhan Ersahin is YOUR axeman.
History has a tendency to repeat itself, and for the third time ‘round, East meets West once again. And the results are more satisfying than that mammoth inter-racial orgy you’re always fantasizing of. Through Ersahin’s playing, you can hear the ghostly echoes of dead, pre-war jazz greats behind his frenzy-inducing saxophone playing. You can also hear the Siren’s call, the brooding beauty of the shrouded mystery that is the Desert. Devilishly hot and bothered, the dry night air caresses your face, stirring a primal urge that excites as you step out into the glow of the Turkish metropolis.
An Istanbul session, awaits.
Add Date: 1/19
Focus Tracks: 2, 7, 10, 11
Format: Top 200, World, Jazz
The word prolific barely begins to describe Karsh Kale’s storied career. The British-born, New York City-raised producer and multi-instrumentalist of Indian heritage has spent the last two decades zigzagging the world, headlining major festivals and spinning records at the White House for Barack Obama. The culmination of his planetary library can be heard on his fifth studio album for Six Degrees Records, UP.
While the title implies ascension, the heart of this tale is transformation. Since the release of 2011’s Cinema, Kale has traveled between Brooklyn and India some fifty times. “When you’re always traveling you’re never really ready to go,” he says, back in his Sunset Park home. “I’d be a father in Brooklyn one moment then fly to India and go straight to a TV show or a festival.”
The emotional struggle between being a father and an artistic juggernaut can be heard on two songs, "Up" and "Shiva." On the title track Kale sings in English, one of the few times in his career. The lyrics were written during a pendulum swing where he was feeling out of control. Like much of the album, Kale searched backwards to his musical influences—on this track, Shakti and Led Zeppelin— and the retro feel of the rock guitars mixed with his signature tablas gave him comfort.
Guitarist Warren Mendonsa, nephew of famed Bollywood composer Loy Mendonsa, creates an exceptional ambience on many of UP’s songs. Over the past half-decade Kale watched the music scene in India explode, with so many genres and styles emerging at once. Gazing back at the music of his youth, Mendonsa knew exactly what to provide.
“When we were young, having such a diverse taste in music was rare,” Kale says. “Whereas nowadays kids have access to all types of music. For them this is normal. That’s why you’ll see AR Rahman headline a festival alongside Megadeth in India.”
On "Shiva," Mendonsa’s epic guitar lies behind vocalist Benny Dayal’s version of a traditional Carnatik melody honoring India’s lord of destruction. “I sat at a piano and began playing a progression,” Kale says. Dayal immediately began singing. “The next day I stepped into the studio with Warren and a few other musicians. By day’s end we had arranged the track on the album and performed it the very next day.”
"Thin Line of Blue" reminds one of the wonderful Karsh Kale Collective he put together for the Coke Studios sessions. Songwriting at its highest, Kale’s quick fingers on tablas, vocals and flutes flying in and fading out, Mendonsa and Kale trading watery guitar riffs. You can hear why Cannes Film Award-winning show The Dewarists included Kale in its docu-travelogue debut season.
While UP predominantly features Indian musicians, its reach is universal in scope. Kale cut his teeth as a drummer and tabla player, but quickly became a player on the world stage. Years ago he was featured alongside legends Zakir Hussain and Ustad Sultan Khan in Bill Laswell’s Tabla Beat Science. A decade later he’s playing a tribute concert for Khan in Mumbai with Hussain and composer Salim Merchant. In 2011 he opened at the Hollywood Bowl for Bollywood’s biggest composer, AR Rahman.
That same year he joined Alicia Keys, the Black Keys, Norah Jones, and Gary Clark, Jr. at a tribute concert for George Harrison in New York City. Kale’s remix of John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s "Give Peace a Chance" climbed into Billboard’s Top 10 Dance charts. Collaborations with Imogen Heap and Anoushka Shankar have made him a go-to producer and player.
And then there’s Chinese sensation Sa Dingding. China’s answer to Bjork—she sometimes sings in her own invented language—has become a household name across her country. Kale produced her most recent album, Butterfly Dream. He then remixed her song "Play" for UP. It’s the most electronic, experimental cut on his record, undoubtedly one of the most unique tracks in his deep catalog.
"Be Like Water" recalls an earlier era in Kale’s history as well. Many years ago he was commissioned by Celebrate Brooklyn! to present a live score to Bruce Lee’s unforgettable "Enter the Dragon." “This song was from that session. I never used it that night, however.” It’s the dark knight side of Kale, hard, driving percussion atop a harder electronic beat—relentless, unforgiving, fluid, just like Lee’s masterful martial arts.
The closing track, "Shyam," is reminiscent of some of Kale’s most thought provoking emotional soundscapes, "Milan" and "Light Up the Love" first to mind. Vocalist Monali Thakur is angelic over the ambient guitars and Kale’s glitchy minimalist beat. “All four musicians were never in the same room together,” Kale admits, “so I had to piece it together.”
Halfway through "Shyam" another vista opens up, Bansuri flute and synthesizers carry the melody forward. Classic Kale move, which makes all his music cinematic and visual. It’s the perfect closure to a perfect album: epic, reflective, beautiful, and, the word that sums up UP, transformational.
Add Date: 1/19
RPM Focus Tracks: 3, 5, 6
World Focus Tracks: 2, 4, 9
Format: RPM, World
Crammed Discs are delighted to re-issue the catalogue of Soapkills, Yasmine Hamdan’s former band, whose cult status has kept growing in the Arab world ever since the group’s demise in 2005.
One of the very first indie bands to emerge in the Middle East, Soapkills was founded at the end of the '90s by Yasmine Hamdan and Zeid Hamdan, both born in Beirut, Lebanon, but not related. They drew their inspiration from Arab music (both classical and folk) and from electronic music, dub and trip hop. The group's sound, influenced by the production style of Massive Attack and Portishead, featuring Yasmine’s contemporary, personal interpretations of classic Arab songs, was initially dominated by a Roland MC-303 Groovebox, which Zeid Hamdan had acquired to replace musicians after the dissolution of Lombrix, a rock band that he had founded in the mid-1990s. Later on the band included trumpet, flute, saxophone, bass and drums. The result was a bold new approach that took more from the classical Arabic repertoire of their parents’ generation than the nominally popular Lebanese rock acts of the 1990s and early 2000s did.
The band's name was initially that of a song written by Zeid Hamdan, and according to him referred to the reconstruction of Beirut after the Lebanese Civil War: "We thought that at the time, in the context of Beirut being ... you know, reborn, and all the war being wiped clean, we thought, wow, it's shiny and it's awful and it's soap kills. We thought it would be a nice name for a band."
Soapkills recorded three albums, respectively entitled Bater (2001), Cheftak (2002) and Enta Fen (2005), which were all self-released. Their music quickly became the soundtrack to the vibrant, young arts scene which developed in postwar Lebanon, and the band gradually acquired an emblematic status. The band's music appeared on several compilations and was featured in many movies, theatre and dance productions as well as in modern art installations. Elia Suleiman's cult movie Divine Intervention (Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, 2002) featured two of the band's tracks. In 2007, the band was mentioned in Time Magazine as part of "small but artistically-significant rock scene" in Beirut.
After live performances all around the word (Paris, Berlin, Syria, Algeria, Congo, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Australia), Soapkills stopped operating when Yasmine moved to Paris, where she first teamed up with Mirwais to create the Y.A.S. project, and then worked on her debut solo album, Ya Nass (which came out in 2013 on Crammed Discs/Kwaidan). Zeid remained in Lebanon, where he created the "Lebanese Underground" collective, and currently produces several artists from around the Middle East under his own banner including his latest solo project Zeid And The Wings.
Yasmine and Zeid have now joined forces to curate a definitive Soapkills compilation album, which will come out on CD, vinyl and digital in May, together with the digital re-issue of the three original Soapkills albums.
Add Date: 1/19
Focus Tracks: 1, 4, 5, 12
Formats: RPM, World
TESLA BOY - "Nothing" (Self-Released)
With more finesse and retro-futurism than an arthouse action-noir, Russian dance-pop foursome Tesla Boy (Anton Sevidov - vocals, keyboards; Mikhail Studnitsyn - drums; Leonid Zatagin - bass; Stan Astakhov - guitar) just announced their latest single,“Nothing". With this single, the band incorporates a driving beat, upbeat blasts of guitar, and strangely somber lyrics - “Days that we spent in the past / They are fading so fast.../ Oppressiveness in the air and my lack of desire / And Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing else”.
Tesla Boy's "Nothing" will be self-released on January 29, 2016. Stay tuned for more music news from the band, coming soon.
Add Date: 1/26
Focus Track: 1
Formats: Modern Rock Specialty, Top 200, Triple A
Austin native and indie-folk trailblazer Reed Turner isn’t one to be tied down, in his life or his music. While his poignant, pensive 2013 debut LP Ghosts In The Attic earned him substantial airplay and spots on multiple year-end “Best Of” lists, Turner shifted gears for his latest EP Native Tongue, bringing to life a darker, more aggressive brand of reverb laden Americana. Recorded live to tape at Orb Studios, Turner’s Native Tongue EP will be available January 22nd, 2016.
In a year marked by health issues and subsequent solitude, Turner transformed his backyard shed into a makeshift workplace, compelled to create rather than wallow. He emerged with his most targeted effort yet, determined to make his mark on the musical landscape. Together with his band, Turner combined heavy, crooked rhythms with a haunting vocal timbre akin to Sun Studios in it’s prime. Opting to hold onto that same organic energy, Native Tongue was recorded on an old Studer A827, fostering the atmosphere of those lively days in the studio.
The life that the EP holds as a result is evident. From the opening kick-drum rattle of “I Got Love” to the song’s infectious guitar hook, the Western energy is palpable and intoxicating. Further on, the shuffling upright bass line of “Swim or Drown (Let The Lord Decide)” is just as transfixing as Turner’s pristine vocals, while the riotous stomp of “Quiet Evening” explores some of our country’s most central issues.
An award-winning songwriter, Reed Turner has taken top honors in national songwriting competitions including the crown at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival’s Troubadour Competition. His LP Ghosts In The Attic received critical acclaim and allowed him the opportunities to share stages with Gary Clark Jr., Mark Broussard, Will Hoge and Jessica Lea Mayfield, among many others.
Add Date: 1/19
Focus Track: 1
Formats: Top 200, Triple A
Jenny Gillespie has recorded several albums acting as both producer and artist. She blends folk, electronica, jazz, and pop into a constantly regenerating style but one anchored by her smoky, far-ranging voice, and searching, imaginative lyrics.
Her last album Chamma which she recorded entirely in her house in Chicago was named one of the top 25 albums of 2014 by Billboard Magazine. It featured Emmett Kelly (Bonnie Prince Billy) on guitar and Joe Adamik (Califone, Iron and Wine) on drums. Her newest album Cure for Dreaming was recorded in fall 2015 in Los Angeles, CA, engineered by Paul Bryan and arranged by Jenny and Paul. Featuring musicians such as Paul Bryan (Aimee Mann), drummer Jay Bellerose (Robert Plant and Allison Krauss’ Raising Sand), guitarist Chris Bruce (Meshell Ndgeocello), guitarist Gerry Leonard (David Bowie), and pedal steel player Greg Leisz (Lucinda Williams, Bon Iver), the album blends an earnest folk sensibility with experimental flavorings of progressive jazz and sunny sixties and seventies R&B flavored pop.
The songs span a variety of landscapes, from the Venice boardwalk with its “chakra hucksters” in "Pain Travels," to a woman’s solitary spiritual rebirth on the banks of an East Coast river in “Dhyana by the River.” Themes of motherhood, marriage, spirituality and dying enter into the music but through the medium of playful, imagistic and conversational language. Characters weave in and out of the songs, such as the brooding loner drawn to the masculine expressions of his ancestry of “Part Potawatomi,” or the cheerful artist facing death in “Last Mystery Train.” The music is loose, warm, and memorable, yet pulls off an undercurrent of occasional instrumental and melodic wildness not often found in modern day pop. Jenny now divides her time between San Francisco and Big Sur, CA with her husband and son.
Add Date: 2/2
Focus Tracks: 3, 6, 2
Formats: Top 200, Americana
“Airy, harmony-laden indie pop” – Pitchfork
“Patient, pillowy pop” – FADER
"An immediately endearing slice of indie-pop: It lends itself to fuzzy late-'90s nostalgia while recalling Elliott Smith in its cooed high-register verses and rhythmic acoustic backbone.” – NPR
Cascades, the title of the second record from the Brooklyn group High Highs, could be read in a number of ways. It could be taken as a nod to the group’s hometown -- the coastal Australian city of Sydney, which rests against the beautiful, blue Pacific Ocean. Or it could be a nod to the record’s sound, which retains the broad scope of the group’s debut, Open Season, but feels bigger, and grander – sheets of sound, raining down softly. In reality, though, the title is a memory – a moment Jack Milas and Oli Chang remember while driving through the Cascade Mountains on tour. The song it comes from, also called, “Cascades,” is bright and expansive, silver threads of guitar laced through soft layers of synths. It builds softly and steadily, Milas’ voice swooping up to an aching falsetto on the chorus, synths pooling gently beneath him. More than anything else, the song is an indication of how far the group has come in a short period of time – from working together in a recording studio in Australia to opening for Sky Ferreira and Vampire Weekend. Cascades is a portrait of a band in ascent, making music grand enough to carry them along the way.
It’s also a record that’s representative of their backgrounds. “We wanted to make an ‘Australian’ record,” Milas says. “We’ve been living in New York, but Australia is always home.” Chang agrees. “If you go to Australia, it’s a beach country,” he says. “You have year-round summer, basically. That really influences the music.” But the way it influenced them was almost counterintuitive. The group wrote and recorded much of Cascades in upstate New York, even if their mind was elsewhere. “When you’re in New York, you write a record about somewhere else,” Milas says. “We were in upstate New York, writing a record about Australia. It’s like when Steely Dan wrote Aja in LA, but they were writing about New York.” They also drew inspiration from the music of their youth – like the Australian synth-pop band Icehouse and John Farnham’s booming arena-pop anthem “You’re the Voice.” “We were connecting with a lot of ‘80s Australian bands while we were making the record,” Chang explains. “Some of the songs come from that connection.”
They refracted those influences to create something uniquely their own. Working with a drummer for the first time, Sean Hutchinson, the songs became sweeping and cinematic. “We would work with Sean to get the basic rhythmic idea,” says Milas, “then Oli would take it and make it weird.” That’s evident in the slowly rolling “Boxing,” where the drums are a blip on the radar, and in “Catch the Wind,” where they trickle and pop. Beneath the song’s soft musical sheen are lyrics that are abstract and striking – fragments of memories, glimpses of far-off places, unfinished conversations. All of them read like poetry on the page, as open and nuanced as the music itself. “We were just trying to distill a specific emotional feeling,” Chang says. “If you look at the page of lyrics, a lot of the syllables draw out and become part of the landscape. We treated the voice as if it was another instrument.”
All of these elements combine to make music that is soothing and soaring, reflecting the group’s love of club culture, but better suited to unwinding after the party than getting lost in the thick of it. “We just tried to make the record beautiful,” Chang says. “We weren’t trying to be edgy or difficult – we were striving to make it as epically beautiful as we possibly could. Hopefully when people hear it, it will make them think of something that’s important to them.” Drawn equally from High Highs’ past and present, Cascades is the record that points the way to their future.
Add Date: 2/2
Focus Track: 3
Formats: Top 200, Triple A
All I Need, the second album of Pablo Nouvelle, will hit the world on January 29th. The long-awaited follow-up to his self-titled debut album in 2013 will be released by Amsterdam-based record company Armada Music, with whom the musician and filmmaker recently signed. The first single of the album, “I Will” (feat. Sam Wills,) is available as of today.
Instead of tracks built up from samples of old records as featured on Nouvelle’s debut album, All I Need has the sound of the organic human voice at the center of its music. To Pablo Nouvelle, the diversity of the voices has been a crucial element in creating an album that never repeats itself, upheld by the fifteen songs of the new album, which were handpicked from around forty recordings.
Pablo Nouvelle: “It was important to me that I had a broad palette of differently colored voices available to me. Almost every song has a different voice. Here and there, they are used almost like samples, with only a short dash to hint at a certain mood. It was important to me to create a strong feeling of space and mood.”
Pablo Nouvelle also announced today that he’ll be doing an extensive European tour this year. Starting March 2016, he is to perform live in sought-after venues in various countries, including France, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, and the UK.
Add Date: 2/2
Focus Track: 1
Formats: Modern Rock Specialty, RPM, Top 200, Triple A
WYNONNA & THE BIG NOISE
Wynonna and her band The Big Noise, led by her husband, producer/drummer Cactus Moser, recorded the majority of the album in the sanctity of their home studio located on the family farm in Tennessee. WYNONNA has described the new album as “vintage yet modern” and a “return to the well.” It’s a rootsy work encompassing country, Americana, blues, soul and rock.
The process of recording Wynonna & The Big Noise with her band set her free artistically. “Like a garage band we all get in a room, basically knee to knee in a circle, and we jam until it feels so amazing,” Wynonna shares. “We push record and we are jacked up by the time we record it. We have practiced and practiced until we know we are rocking and we just jam and we enjoy it and the end result is even better than when we started out because we’re free to just play and enjoy ourselves.” She adds: “I have stripped myself of all the expectations of worrying about fitting into any format and just picked songs I love. This album is my favorite thing I’ve done so far.”
Cactus elaborates about the recording of the album. “It creates more energy, more excitement and definitely a more unique sound to have an actual band play. When you have session players you just play differently. There’s less emotional input, less freedom! These guys are with us 365 days a year and that was my goal…to have an actual living breathing band make a record, not just people who come in for the week and then are gone. Much better feel, much better vibe. AMEN.”
Five-time Grammy winner and New York Times bestselling author, Wynonna has always revolved her career around telling stories. Whether performing alongside her mother as one half of the legendary duo The Judds, or pushing the boundaries on her own mega-successful solo path, Wynonna’s ability to reach the heart of the human spirit through her bold and unflinching honesty, is the entertainer’s true gift. Respected by the millions of fans who are drawn to her music and her undeniable talent, Wynonna’s rich and commanding voice has sold over 30 million albums worldwide spanning her epic career. Charting countless singles including 20 #1 hits and over 60 industry awards, the iconic performer was once dubbed by Rolling Stone as “the greatest female country singer since Patsy Cline.”
Add Date: 2/2
Focus Track: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Format: Top 200
DAN STUART WITH TWIN TONES - Marlowe's Revenge (Fluff & Gravy)
Back in 2010 Dan Stuart‘s brain broke and he fled to Mexico as so many others (Bierce, Lawrence, Lowry, Burroughs, Kerouac, Bolaño etc.) had before him. He settled in Oaxaca and wrote an album and false memoir that shared the same title: The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings (Cadiz Music). Both were explorations of the events that had led to his unraveling, his early days leading the erratically magnificent Green on Red and his later years as a kept man and occasional screenwriter who wandered the streets of NYC and Barcelona looking for opium dens that no longer existed and whores that always will. The world took notice and he was back in the game but somehow all the rules had changed.
Shunning the ghetto of Americana, Stuart wanted retribution, songs that still had a taste of danger and intrigue, what used to be called rock ‘n’ roll. Recording alone in a concrete bunker in Oaxaca, with only the help of an engineer keeping time with a 30 peso little black egg shaker, Marlowe’s Revenge was born. Later, in a mezcal and weed haze and looking for co-conspirators, he came across a Twin Tones’ video online and sent them a kite. They were half Stuart’s age but oddly they had some mutual friends and knew more than a little about his previous work. Stuart was invited to their gritty home studio in northern Mexico City and the first night they cut Soy Un Hombre and soon had a half dozen more. Curious what would happen, Stuart sent Twin Tone’s leader Gabriel Lopez some of the Oaxaca solo stuff with instructions to overdub to their heart’s content. The result is an olla podrida (foul stew) of tracks both live and collage where most of the rules of recording were broken and only someone like JD Foster could mix.
Digging the scene and his new friends, Stuart packed up and moved to Mexico City where he is currently holed up finishing his 2nd novel while awaiting the early 2016 release of Marlowe’s Revenge on Cadiz Music in UK/Europe and Fluff & Gravy Records in the Americas. Live shows, both solo and with Twin Tones, are also in the works for 2016.
Add Date: 2/9
Focus Tracks: 2, 4, 6
Formats: Americana, Top 200, Triple A
Figure Eight is a Long Island native band that burst onto the scene in early 2015. Combining influences of emo, alternative rock, and punk, Figure Eight breeds playful power jams yet retains mindful writing skills that translate into instantly relatable sing-a-longs.
The band released their debut EP August on July 27th, 2015, putting them on the map in the alternative/emo scene while turning heads and gaining a small following. In their first year of existence they managed to share the stage with the likes of Such Gold, Head North, Light Years, Broadside, Koji, Soda Bomb, and many more. In late 2016, the band plans to put out a debut LP.
Add Date: 2/9
Focus Tracks: 2, 3, 7, 4
Format: Top 200
After his first single being featured on Spotify’s “New Music Friday” playlist in 4 different countries and reaching 55k streams in a day as an independent release, Gibbz releases the 2nd single from his first LP Above Water. The single, “Stay for a While,” will be followed up with a live performance video in the upcoming week.
In addition, Gibbz will spend the month of February leading up to his first LP release as direct support for Cherub on the “Still DTF?…” tour.
Gibbz graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston in 2009 and spent his first few years out of college as a studio engineer, live sound engineer, and tour manager for acts like Gramatik, Soulive, Lettuce, and Break Science. He left his job to pursue his own writing and production. First being part of Gramatik’s Lowtempo record label, and now on his own.
Cherub Tour Support
Feb 5 – Terminal 5 – New York, NY
Feb 6 – Trocadero Theatre – Philadelphia, PA
Feb 9 – Music Farm – Charleston, SC
Feb 10 – Ziggy’s By The Sea – Wilmington, NC
Feb 11 – The Ritz – Raleigh, NC
Feb 12 – The NorVa – Norfolk, VA
Feb 13 – Baltimore Soundstage – Baltimore, MD
Feb 14 – House of Blues – Boston, MA
Feb 17 – The Jefferson Theater – Charlottesville, VA
Feb 18 – The Jefferson Theater – Charlottesville, VA
Feb 23 – Mercury Ballroom – Louisville, KY
Feb 25 – Wooly’s – Des Moines, IA
Add Date: 2/9
Focus Track: 1
Formats: Modern Rock Specialty, RPM, Top 200
PAUL MARK & THE VAN DORENS - Stowaways (Radiation Records)
Paul Mark's latest collection, Stowaways on New York City-based Radiation Records was recorded in 2015. It's the tenth studio release by the multi-instrumentalist/songwriter/producer.
Mark's recorded output spans several decades, embracing the Americana/Roots spectrum with a relentlessly original take on blues, rock, soul, country, surf, cabaret, R'nB, and old-timey sounds.
Add Date: 2/9
Focus Tracks: 5, 1, 2
Formats: Americana, Triple A
Most listeners link Mark's name to his unique songwriting and to the raucous barroom sounds of his urban blues/roots rock ensemble, the Van Dorens. Mark originals such as When God Finds the Time, Fritos, BBQ and Scotch, I'm Going Blind, One More Coat of Paint and The Drinks are On Me take on traditional genres and weave them into contemporary, vital music.
Mark's commercial releases include two CDs of instrumental roots guitar Roadside Americana and Mirage Cartography, where he pays quiet homage to country blues greats such as Blind Blake, Mississippi John Hurt and Rev. Gary Davis, as well as next generation influences including John Fahey and Leo Kottke.
Mark's musical family, the Van Dorens, is a revolving-door collective of dedicated musicians and production collaborators. Mark has said that the band name was sourced from the schlock exploitation flick High School Confidential. Over several decades Mark has performed more than a thousand sets of live music at clubs and festivals with his band.
Mark has written and recorded hundreds of songs. Before setting up his own studio in New York City he cut tracks at numerous world-class facilities including Ardent Studios/Memphis, Compass Point Studios/The Bahamas, The Music Shed/New Orleans and Dockside Studios/Maurice, Louisiana. Most frequent among his session collaborators is the Grammy-winning Memphis producer/engineer Jeff Powell, who has contributed know-how to seven Mark albums. Mark has also worked with Grammy-winning producers Jim Gaines, Terry Manning and the late John Hampton.
Paul Mark is principal owner of Radiation Records Inc and its publishing affiliate Last Warning Music. Both were founded in 1995.
Mark grew up in Connecticut then went to University of CT and got bachelor’s degrees in Electrical Engineering, Computer Science and English. Mark then attended grad school at New York University where he earned an MA in English. He was on the Ph.D track when a recording contract halted his studies. After traveling in Europe and living in Paris for an extended period he returned to Manhattan where he's lived for the past 25 years.
Having touring extensively for years with his band - often performing three sets a night - Mark says his worldview was permanently twisted by long van rides, crappy stage acoustics and fleabag motels.
“This record was written for all the guys we know who have hit the wall, are about to hit the wall, or are in the middle of slamming into it,” says Richmond Fontaine’s songwriter, Willy Vlautin. “It’s a record about paying the price for the way one’s lived. All of us in RF are at the age where the bill starts coming due for the decisions we’ve made along the way.”
Recorded and produced in Portland, Oregon by long time collaborator and producer John Morgan Askew, You Can’t Go Back… is Richmond Fontaine’s tenth full-length record and their first to be recorded at heralded Flora Recording and Playback. The record features the stalwart line-up of Sean Oldham on drums, Dan Eccles on guitar, and Paul Brainard on pedal steel. Freddy Trujillo joins on bass for his first recording with RF, and long time friend Jenny Conlee (The Decemberists, Black Prairie) plays keyboards.
“The idea for the record started with the song 'Whitey and Me.' It’s the story of two cowboy brothers who get their horses sold out from under them by a wayward uncle. They run into the uncle years later, only to find a wrecked man. Even though the brothers hold a lot of animosity towards the uncle they realize there’s no point in kicking someone who’s spent his whole life kicking himself. I’d just written the tune and not much later I was driving around central Nevada, and in the middle of nowhere I came across an old, blind Mustang. As I watched and worried about the horse, I studied his scars and thought about the battles he had fought and the hard times he must have had. And now he was left alone to die a horrible and painful death. After that trip the songs just sorta spilled out. The characters in 'Wake up Ray, ' 'I Got off the Bus,' 'Don’t Skip Out on Me,' and 'Tapped Out in Tulsa,' are all like that horse: beat up, with hard miles behind them, and near the end of their run.
After wood-shedding for months to prepare for the session, the band returned to their barren desert sound for the recording, hearkening back to Winnemucca and Thirteen Cities. The atmospheric "The Blind Horse," fueled by Paul Brainard’s haunting pedal steel, paints a picture of desert desolation while "I Can’t Black it Out if I Wake Up and Remember" is the gut wrenching tale of driving down hometown streets and reminiscing about what had happened on them years before. Vlautin’s raw, emotive voice is the perfect vehicle for this series of hard luck vignettes, and the band, always the soundtrack for the stories, shines brightly under producer John Askew.
“We lost a founding member to Denmark but had already made a pact that The High Country would not be our last record,” says drummer Sean Oldham. “It made no sense to call it a day with Willy writing some of the best songs of his life, so we grabbed Freddy and Jenny from The Delines and hit the studio. I’m proud of our previous efforts but this record is my favorite.
You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To is the band at its best. From the epic "A Night in the City" to the pared-down acoustic "Three Brothers Roll into Town," to Dan Eccles’ inspired guitar work on "Don’t Skip Out on Me," RF again has produced a treasure trove of beautifully executed story songs, the likes of which are rarely matched in today’s musical landscape.
Add Date: 2/9
Focus Track: 10
Formats: Americana, Top 200, Triple A