2018 was a milestone year for Richmond, VA’s Lucy Dacus. Her widely celebrated sophomore record, ‘Historian’, was met by a chorus of critical acclaim, with NPR, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, NBC News, Slate, The Atlantic, Billboard, Paste, Stereogum, and others calling one of the best albums of the year. Her collaborative EP as 1/3 of boygenius (with Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers) landed on many of those same lists, plus Newsweek, The New Yorker, Esquire, and the New York Times. She played revelatory sold-out shows at clubs and festivals alike, and made network TV appearances on “CBS This Morning”, “Late Night with Seth Meyers”, and “Last Call With Carson Daly”.
A cursory glance at her worldwide touring schedule in 2019 (below) shows little sign that Dacus is slowing down, and in fact, she will release a EP titled ‘2019’ to celebrate. Recorded in here-and-there studio spurts over the last two years, ‘2019 ‘will be released later this year, and will be made up of originals and cover songs tied to specific holidays, each of which will drop around their respective date: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day (and Taurus season!), Independence Day, Springsteen’s Birthday (not an official holiday, though we’re told Chris Christie often took that day off), Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s.
Dacus uses her gift as a songwriter to help understand and cope with the world around her, including making sense of national holidays, often more geared towards social media boasts and manufactured consumerism than authentic celebration. “What is going on,” she asks herself on these days, retreating from the heightened expectations of holidays to figure out what to make of them and to find her own meaning. “I’ve collected some songs from trying to answer that question,” she says, and “this EP seems like the right place to put them next to each other. These songs are self-contained, not indicative of a new direction, just a willingness to do something different and sometimes even out of character.”
“Fine Mess” continues the invigorated creative spirit of 2018’s triumphant ‘Marauder’, presenting Interpol at their most urgent and essential – with Paul Banks’ feverish vocals and haunted lyrics telling of “a sanguine and starry pair, buoyed and dashed alike by their own dreams and appetites” interlocking with Daniel Kessler’s serpentine riffs and Sam Fogarino’s thundering rhythm section, distilled around the seditious refrain: “you and me / make a fine mess.”
Ahead of a busy worldwide tour and festival season with Primavera, NOS Primavera, and Best Kept Secret already announced, “Fine Mess” is further testament to a band at their peak, and the first chapter in what promises to be yet another eventful year for Interpol.
Kurt Vile premiered a new song earlier today, “Timing Is Everything (And I’m Falling Behind)” and it’s exclusively available from Amazon Music. If you’re lucky enough to share your living space with an Alexa-enabled device, simply utter the phrase, “Alexa, play the new Kurt Vile song,” and VOILA, your life with be enriched thru the miracle of A-L-E-X-A. Kurt calls the song, “a candid snapshot of KV & the Violators ‘at home’; where we like it: sparse and jangly and as live as possible. Ok, fine, with some additional accoutrements (including a sick b bender overdub by Rob!). Jesse swells and chimes beautiful guitar as well. KV fingerpicks and sings. The lyrics are country blues. “Open the flood gates of a down pouring rain… in my brain.” Masterfully recorded in Athens, GA by our drummer Kyle somewhere inside a cluster of hazy band rehearsals on the roundabout way to a festival in Denver. Mixed by Peter Katis. This jam was one of many contenders for the last album, but we gonna start peeling em off for ya now instead.”
For once, the rumors are true (some of ’em, anyway). The “rejected” electronic album that Stephen Malkmus has been alluding to over the past year will see the light of day on March 15th. That said, ‘Groove Denied’ is not a plunge into EDM or glitch-city. In fact, there aren’t any purely instrumental tracks on the album. Every song is precisely that: a song, featuring Malkmus staples like an artfully askew melody and an oblique lyric. ‘Groove Denied’ is Stephen playing hooky from his customary way of going about things, jolting himself out of a comfy routine. As Malkmus commented recently in a recent video interview, “It’s kind of funny to mess with stuff you’re not supposed to mess with.”
The first taste of Stephen’s new groove can be sampled today, with the release of single “Viktor Borgia,” and its accompanying video. The title playfully merges the name of the comedian-pianist and the ruthless dynasty of Italo-Spanish nobles. . “Yes, I was thinking things like Pete Shelley’s ‘Homosapien’, the Human League, and DIY synth music circa 1982,” says Stephen, adding “and also about how in the New Wave Eighties, these suburban 18-and-over dance clubs were where all the freaks would meet – a sanctuary.”
Stephen will embark on a brief solo tour, sans Jicks, in May. The newly announced run of dates can be found below. A full bio, composed by Simon Reynolds can be found as well.
When Stephen Malkmus first arrived on the scene in the early Nineties, as frontman and prime creative force in Pavement, the area of music with which he was associated couldn’t really have been further from the techno-rave sounds of the day. Electronic dance music, then as now, was about posthuman precision, inorganic textures, and hyper-digital clarity. Whereas the lo-fi movement in underground rock championed a messthetic of sloppiness, rough edges, and raw warmth – a hundred exquisitely subtle shades of distortion and abrasion. “Imperfect sound forever” was the rallying cry for a micro-generation of slacker-minded dreamers and misfits.
Fast forward to the present and here comes Malkmus with a surprising new project that embraces the very digital tools and procedures he’d have once gone out of his way to avoid. Groove Denied – Stephen’s first solo album without his cohorts the Jicks since 2001 – was made using Ableton’s Live, a software sequencer and “digital audio workstation” that is the preferred tool of discerning techno producers and deejays worldwide. Instead of a human-powered rhythm section of electric bass and drums, Malkmus’s arsenal further includes drum machines, along with a host of plug-in FX and “soft synths” (digital simulations of vintage electronic hardware that inhabit your computer rather than take over your entire living room).
For the first time on record, what you hear here is just Stephen and the Machine(s).
But Groove Denied is not a full-blown plunge into EDM or hiptronica, into the soundworlds of Deadmaus, Villalobos and Skee Mask. In fact, there aren’t any purely instrumental tracks on the album. Every song is precisely that: a song, featuring Malkmus staples like an artfully askew melody and an oblique lyric. But Groove Denied is Stephen playing hooky from his customary way of going about things, jolting himself out of a comfy routine. As Malkmus commented recently in a video interview, “It’s fun to mess with things that you’re not supposed to.”
This departure from the tried-and-tested stems back to earlier in this decade, when Malkmus spent a couple of years living in Berlin and was exposed to the city’s vibrant club scene Back in the Nineties, Stephen had given rave culture a wide berth, in part because of bad personal associations with the drug MDMA (he’d had “a really really bad trip” on Ecstasy in 1987, bizarrely on a visit to New York to see Miles Davis perform). But in Berlin, thanks to a younger deejay friend, Malkmus made forays into the city’s world-famous all-night party scene and became fascinated by techno. “The music can be great… you can zone out, dance, and focus on music – or just get wasted!”
It would not be entirely off-base, or an overly cute rock-historical reference, to describe Groove Denied as Stephen Malkmus’s Low. Although largely recorded in Oregon, the bulk of the album was written while he was living in Berlin. Updating his home studio with Ableton and teaching himself rudimentary Pro Tools, Malkmus “started fucking with effects and loops”. He compares the process of track-construction to the way his kids “used to make these girls on my iPhone – choosing hair colour, dresses, etc. That intuitive swipe and grab thing. Chop and move the waves. Apple computer scroll style of thinking.” It’s a very different way of making music to the feel-oriented way of coming up with chord progressions and rhythm grooves on a guitar alone or jamming with a band. And in fact, electric guitar – while it does feature on Groove Denied – is really “just color for the most part”.
Yet while the methodology behind Groove Denied is absolutely 21st Century, the reference points for the sound-palette hark back to the pre-digital era. “The electronic music side of the album, I wanted it to be sonically pre-Internet,” explains Stephen. “So the EQ-ing is a bit 1970’s, that sloppy DIY sequencing. And the influences are kinda 1981 post punk – actually quite British.” “A Bit Wilder”, one of the stand-out cuts, specifically recalls Cabaret Voltaire, its slack-stringed dank-with-reverb bass a dead ringer for the Stephen Mallinder sound. “Yes, I was thinking the Cabs – and Section 25, whose 1981 album Always Now I think is a serious underdog stoner album. That grey industrial Martin Hannett sound. But also all these cute DIY group that imitated The Cure back then – loners with 4-tracks tape recorders and dreams of “Killing An Arab”.” Malkmus says he was trying to conjure or reinhabit the “fan perspective” on things like Joy Division and the Cure – the sort of “getting it a bit wrong” that unintentionally brings something new into the world.
Groove Denied is frontloaded with this Cold Wave redux sound – a style we’ve never heard from Stephen Malkmus before. Opener “Belziger Faceplant”, for instance, features a most peculiar processed vocal that sounds withered and grotesque, like a deflated wrinkly balloon still lingering on in your house weeks after a party. “I envisioned ‘Belziger Faceplant’ as made by someone off their head after a night out in Friedrichshain,” says Malkmus, referring to a district of the former East Berlin now rife with techno clubs like the legendary Berghain. “Coming back at 5 AM, firing up the laptop in the morning light and trying to make a song, but the instruments are tripping over each other. You can’t even speak because of all the Ketamine or whatever!” Malkmus adds that he’s never tried K but “for some reason I imagine it like that”.
Then there’s “Viktor Borgia,” a title that playfully merges the name of the comedian-pianist and the ruthless dynasty of Italo-Spanish nobles. With its stately melody and the almost-English-accented vocal, the coordinates here are early Human League or even Men Without Hats. “Yes, I was thinking things like Pete Shelley’s ‘Homosapien’, the Human League, and DIY synth music circa 1982. And also about how in the New Wave Eighties, these suburban 18-and-over dance clubs were where all the freaks would meet – a sanctuary.”
“Forget Your Place” features another eerily wobbled vocal a la “Belziger Faceplant” plus dub-style detonations of submarine sonar and nagging bleeps. Frankly, it sounds pretty darn wasted. “Like ‘Belgizer’, this is a pretty solid Ableton-based track – moving waves around, finding a trippy loop and throwing an echo on it,” explains Stephen, adding that “at times it feels almost childish, working with Ableton – like finger painting. But ‘Forget Your Place’ also makes me think about death – don’t ask me why!”
Alongside the early Eighties “minimal synth” and industrial influences, the other main palette of tone-colors audible on Groove Denied is closer both to Stephen’s comfort zone and to what his fans would expect from him: “warped psych,” as he terms it, that avant-garage tradition of dirty guitars and ramshackle grooves, except that in this case, it’s “one person pretending to be a band.” That illusion is pulled off magnificently on loose ‘n’ swinging tunes like “Come Get Me” and “Love the Door,” although the electronic element manifests still with the crisp and prim pitter of drum machine beats and a spume of Moog frothing all over “Door”. Then there’s “Rushing the Acid Frat”, whose title came from Stephen’s memories of a student fraternity at the University of Virginia that, unlike the typical beery bro frathouse, had a “Grateful Dead druggy tie-dye” vibe. Malkmus imagined “Rushing” as a “Louie Louie”-style shindig rumpus to soundtrack a “Star Wars bar scene in such a frat… It’s kinda 12-bar, but gigged with psych lyrics”.
As the album enters the homestretch, it returns to more familiar Malkmusian terrain, with a warmer, grittier sound. “I did frontload Groove Denied with the stuff that signals “80’s/cold,” he says. “That stuff excited me the most – and it sounded braver. If I had another year, it could have been all in that style.” Still, with the second half offering gorgeous tunes like the hazy-lazy ramble “Bossviscerate” and the glittering “Ocean of Revenge” – both graced with his signature style of odd-angled melodic beauty – who’s complaining? Mellow closer “Grown Nothing” feels like Malkmus easing back towards the sound of his recent album with the Jicks, Sparkle Hard. In fact, although it has been released after Sparkle, 70% of Groove Denied was completed before work on the Jicks record. Indeed, Malkmus’s explorations with sound-processing influenced that album, most notably with the unexpected appearance of Auto-Tune on a couple of tracks.
Groove Denied will shake up settled notions of what Malkmus is about and what he’s capable of, repositioning him in the scheme of things. But looking at it from a different angle, his engagement with state-of-art digital tech actually makes perfect sense. After all, Nineties lo-fi – the sound in which he and Pavement were initially vaunted as leaders and pioneers – was nothing if not insistently sonic – it was all about the grain of guitar textures, about gratuitously over-done treatments and ear-grabbing effects. Noise for noise’s sake. It’s just that it was looking to older modes and antiquated technology. From the Big Muff and the Cry Baby Wah pedal through to today’s deliberately distorted deployment of pitch-correction, there’s really an unbroken continuity: the creative misuse of technology, the aestheticization of mistakes and flaws, wrongness-as-rightness.
As Stephen tweeted recently on the subject of Auto-Tune’s omnipresence in contemporary music-making: “We long 4 transformation….and we humans fucking luv tools.”
Simon Reynolds, Jan 2019
(Tour Dates, New Shows sans Jicks In Bold, On Sale Friday Jan 25, 10am Local Time)
Steve Gunn today shares a third song off of ‘The Unseen In Between’ (out January 18), the gorgeous “Vagabond” and its accompanying official video. Named after Gunn’s favorite Agnes Varda film, “Vagabond” could almost be the soundtrack to a Denis Johnson short story or Sam Shepard play, with its rich cast of characters whose lives have gone astray — like Mona who “camped out in a graveyard” and Jean-Pierre who “came from the road, his artwork remains unsold.” Accompanied by gorgeous harmonies from Meg Baird, the song is a meditation on our restless times, an ode to the runaways, drifters, and vagabonds trying to make ends meet.
Jason Evans directed the accompanying official video, which includes graphics by Stephen Powers. It’s a stylish black & white performance film with a timeless feel, taking its visual cues from Richard Avedon and David Bailey. The intimacy lends itself well to Gunn’s impeccable guitar work, with close-ups of his fingers casting spells on the frets
Gunn has also announced a lengthy run of new headline full-band tour dates for the spring, which will commence upon his return from playing East Coast, West Coast, and European shows on April 18th in Milwaukee. The full list of tour dates can be found below.
(Made for Matador Records by The Mitcham Submarine)
Steve Gunn sings about the rhythms of life in terms of landscapes — overpasses, oceans and streets, from the perspective of characters that could step in for him but are likely based on folks he’s met along the way. It gives his songwriting a winding quality, enlivened by a dexterous-yet-mindful guitar style that has become Gunn’s own.
For the first time in years, there’s no band — just Gunn, his guitar and a meditation underscored by a video filmed on the streets of London. “Stonehurst Cowboy” muses on a father who knew how to tell a story, and who doubled as a guide through Gunn’s life. Entangled in one of his most indelible guitar melodies, he sings, “Teach us right all those steps / Before there’s nothing left, for all those cowboys in the world.”- Lars Gotrich, NPR
Earlier today, NPR Music premiered “Stonehurst Cowboy”, the second track from Steve Gunn’s incredible new album ‘The Unseen In Between’ (out January 18)
Following “Balm Of Gilead” released earlier in the month, Iceage today unveil a second new single with “Broken Hours.” A five minute epic of doom-laden swing and crashing, spidery riffs that backdrop Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s howling incantation: “Dying figures, they settle in / Broken hours / It lingers on” – it’s another heart-racing transmission from a band at the peak of their craft.
Iceage cap off their 2018 North American touring tomorrow night in Brooklyn with a show at Elsewhere; their biggest ever UK headline show follows in London on December 7th.
To coincide with their North American tour kicking off tonight, Iceage have unveiled the previously unreleased “Balm of Gilead”, a striking reminder of the band’s ability to create a confident anthem in a dark age. “Balm of Gilead” is part of a split 7” with tourmates Black Lips and will be available in physical form exclusively at the shows on this tour.
Iceage — Elias Bender Rønnenfelt (vocals, lyrics), Jakob Tvilling Pless (bass), Dan Kjær Nielsen (drums), and Johan Wieth (guitar) — will return to as a quartet on this North American run. Fans can expect a taste of new music on top of the band’s beloved catalog. Or alongside. The repertoire is up to them (as always)
Today marks the digital release date for Car Seat Headrest’s ‘Twin Fantasy (Mirror To Mirror)’, the original 2011 recordings once again available via all streaming/download providers. As mentioned earlier in this space, the 2XLP white vinyl edition, previously released for Record Store Day 2018, is coming back in print and can be found in stores next Friday, November 9.
Car Seat Headrest’s set at the Paris edition of Pitchfork Music Festival is being webcast today at 2:30pm eastern time.
boygenius – the eagerly awaited collaboration EP from Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus — is available today from all popular (and some semi-popular) digital providers. While the 12″ vinyl edition hits stores on November 9, there’s an exclusive tour edition pictured below that can be purchased at one of the upcoming dates (several of which are sold out, so make your move)
boygenius will be appearing on NBC’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers”, Monday, November 5th at 12:35 eastern time.
Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus tour dates :
Interpol returned to “Later… with Jools Holland” (BBC) this week with a striking performance in black & white of “The Rover”, from their critically acclaimed new album ‘Marauder’. Alongside, the band have released a new version of “If You Really Love Nothing” by Pêtr Aleksänder, the duo of London musicians Tom Hobden and Eliot James, which sees the anthemic song reimagined as a transcendent, string-laden opus.
Steve Gunn’s long awaited new album, ‘The Unseen In Between’, will be released on January 18. Following the guitarist/vocalist’s 3-night residency at Brooklyn’s Union Pool this month and next, Gunn will tour with a full band throughout the US and Europe in 2019 (full dates below)
For over a decade, guitarist/vocalist Steve Gunn has been one of American music’s most pivotal figures – conjuring immersive and psychedelic sonic landscapes both live and on record, releasing revered solo albums ranking high on in-the-know end of year lists, alongside exploratory collaborations with artists as diverse as Mike Cooper, Kurt Vile, and Michael Chapman (whose most recent studio album he produced). Gunn is known for telling other people’s stories, but on his breakthrough fourth album, ‘The Unseen In Between’, he explores his own emotional landscapes with his most complex, fully realized songs to date. The lyrics evoke voyages, tempests (actual and emotional), and a rich cast of characters met along the way — the work of an artist finding a place of calm in the midst of a storm. Produced by frequent collaborator James Elkington and engineered by Daniel Schlett, the immaculately recorded ‘Unseen’ forces a reassessment of Gunn’s standing in the pantheon of the era’s great songwriters.
Getting to ‘The Unseen In Between’ itself was not easy for Gunn. In the summer of 2016, Gunn released ‘Eyes On The Lines’, his winning and elliptical debut for Matador. It should have been a triumphant moment, but exactly two weeks later, Gunn’s father and namesake died following a two-year struggle with cancer. During his sickness, he and his son had connected as never before, listening to one another’s experiences and understanding one another’s perspectives; they became not father and son but real friends.
This experience yielded the emotional centerpiece of the album. “Stonehurst Cowboy” is a duet for Gunn’s raw acoustic guitar and spare basslines by Bob Dylan’s musical director Tony Garnier, whose featured throughout the album. The song distills the lessons Gunn learned from his father and it is a solemn but tender remembrance, a tribute to his father’s reputation as a tough, wise, and witty guy from far west Philadelphia.
A sense of musical renewal and emotional complexity fits the new songs perfectly; “Luciano” seems to be about the chemistry between a bodega owner and his cat, an unspoken romance of gentle obedience and quiet gestures. But Gunn peers below the relationship’s surface and wonders about the owner’s lonely future once the cat is gone, a devastating meditation wrapped in soft strings. And then there’s “Vagabond,” Gunn’s graceful attempt to humanize a rich cast of characters whose lives have gone astray, wanderers who live outside of society’s modern safety net, who pursue “a crooked dream” in spite of what the world expects. Supported by the perfect harmonies of Meg Baird, Gunn finds something lovely in the unloved.
Inspired by contemporary artist Walter De Maria’s Dia Art Foundation-affiliated installation of 400 stainless steel poles atop the high desert of New Mexico, “Lightning Field” considers what we get out of art when it doesn’t work, when lightning does not light up the night for visitors. Opener “New Moon” may begin in the mode of a deep track from Astral Weeks or Fred Neil, with its upright bass and sparse tremolo guitar. But during the song’s final minutes, strings double the melody, and then the guitar rushes headlong, pulling ahead in a wave of ecstatic deliverance. It is a brief but liberating solo, an instant release of tension from the fraught scene Gunn has built, complemented by one of his most arresting vocal performances.
In a final contrast, “Morning is Mended” is an acoustic beauty so resplendent it ranks alongside Sandy Denny or Jackson C. Frank. Buoyed by a melody that sparkles like sunlight on still water, Gunn acknowledges the hardships around him, the feeling of being a “nothing sky,” and then moves forward into the world, walking tall into the fresh morning. The song is an apt encapsulation of ‘The Unseen In Between’, a gorgeously empathetic record that attempts to recognize the worries of the world and offer some timely assurance. It is a revelatory and redemptive set, offering the balm of understanding at a time when that seems in very short supply.
Snail Mail’s cover of Courtney Love’s “2nd Most Beautiful Girl In The World” is available today via Amazon Music. You can hear Lindsey Jordan’s version the Lois Maffeo-penned b-side from the 1990 “Uncrushworthy” EP (K Records) by announcing, “Alexa, play the new song from Snail Mail,” but if you don’t actually own an Alexa-powered device, not only will you look pretty foolish if anyone else is in the room, but you’ll have to simply click on this link (so think about it beforehand).
“We were thinking about remixers like Frankie Knuckles when we approached this one. A guy like that could take a song from any genre and make these incredible grooved out dub versions of his own. We looked at our remix of “The Rover” like that… just trying to build something that could be played in a club late at night.”+- DJDS
Interpol have shared a new remix of “The Rover” by electronic production duo DJDS aka DJ Dodger Stadium (Jerome LOL and Samo Sound Boy, known for their work with Kanye West, Khalid, Vic Mensa and others), the first in a series of remixes from their critically acclaimed new album ‘Marauder’. The infectious rework sees Balearic synth stabs and undulating rhythm serve as the backdrop to Paul Banks’ haunting vocals and lyrics of an elusive cult leader.
Car Seat Headrest is excited to announce a newly confirmed run of headline tour dates for 2019. Kicking off on Valentine’s Day in Boston, the tour makes its way down the East Coast, making multiple stops in Florida, a first for the band, and winds its way through Texas, culminating in San Antonio on March 2nd. Car Seat Headrest’s electrifying seven-piece live band, including members of Naked Giants, has been on the road for the past month in the States, playing grandiose, sold-out shows in support of the recently released ‘Twin Fantasy’, the re-recorded and re-imagined return to the band’s 2011 Bandcamp classic. Previously only available physically as a Record Store Day exclusive, the remastered 2011 version of ‘Twin Fantasy’ (dubbed ‘Twin Fantasy – Mirror To Mirror’) will be available on all digital services on November 2nd and on vinyl on November 9th.
The latest single from songwriting powerhouse Kurt Vile’s album-of-the-year contender ‘Bottle It In’ is a banjo-propelled, instant classic that belies the author’s claim, “I’ve always had a soft spot for repetition.” While peers real and imagined tip-toe on the periphery of Americana, folk and classic rock, not for the first or last time, Philadelphia’s Vile renders such considerations moot — if he’s not 2018’s wittiest, most evocative storyteller, we’d like to meet whoever else holds the crown.
(Video by Marisa Gesualdi
Original Footage directed by Aurora Glassock)
Weeks of speculation come to an end today as details of the new Kurt Vile album can finally be confirmed: One of the most critically and commercially acclaimed artists of the last decade will release ‘Bottle It In’ on October 12th. Today’s announcement is accompanied by the release of a new song titled “Bassackwards”, the album’s beating heart and Vile’s most compelling evocation of how he sees the world: “I was on the ground circa Planet Earth, but out of sorts,” he sings over a gently psychedelic bed of backmasked guitars. “But I snapped back, baby, just in time to jot it down.”
Kurt Vile has also confirmed a lengthy run of worldwide tour dates for 2019 with backing band The Violators, in addition to previously announced tour dates coming up this fall. The 2019 North American shows traverse a multitude of East Coast, Midwest, Southwest, and Southern cities, with support from The Feelies. A special hometown show in Philadelphia has been added for December 29th 2018, which will take place at the newly rehabilitated historic Metropolitan Opera House (aka The Met Philadelphia) as part of their opening week celebration. The full list of tour dates can be found below.
Travel can inspire in surprising ways: Kurt Vile discovered as much making his first record in three years, the eclectic and electrifying Bottle It In, which he recorded at various studios around the country over two very busy years, during sessions that usually punctuated the ends of long tours or family road trips. Every song, whether it’s a concise and catchy pop composition or a sprawling guitar epic, becomes a journey unto itself, taking unexpected detours, circuitous melodic avenues, or open-highway solos. If Vile has become something of a rock guitar god—a mantle he would dismiss out of humility but also out of a desire to keep getting better, to continue absorbing new music, new sounds, new ideas—it’s due to his precise, witty playing style, which turns every riff and rhythm into points on a map and takes the scenic route from one to the next.
Using past albums as points of departure, Bottle It In heads off in new directions, pushing at the edges of the map into unexplored territory: Here be monster jams. These songs show an artist who is still evolving and growing: a songwriter who, like his hero John Prine, can make you laugh and break your heart, often in the same line, as well as a vocalist who essentially rewrites those songs whenever he sings them in his wise, laconic jive-talkin’ drawl. He revels in the minutiae of the music—not simply incorporating new instruments but emphasizing how they interact with his guitar and voice, how the glockenspiel evokes cirrocumulus clouds on “Hysteria,” how Kim Gordon’s “acoustic guitar distortion” (her term) engulfs everything at the end of “Mutinies,” how the banjo curls around his guitar lines and backing vocals from Lucius to lend a high-lonesome aura to “Come Again.”
These journeys took Vile more than two years to navigate, during which time he toured behind his breakout 2015 album b’lieve I’m goin’ down, recorded a duets album with Australian singer-songwriter-guitarist Courtney Barnett, opened for Neil Young in front of 90,000 people in Quebec, famously became a clue on Jeopardy, hung out with friends, took vacations with his wife and daughters.
In April 2017, he trekked out to Indio, California, to catch the Stagecoach Festival and sit in with his friends the Sadies (“my favorite modern band”). Inspired by Willie Nelson’s epic set, Vile spent a few days in Los Angeles working with producer Rob Schnapf at his Mant Sounds studio. The two had previously worked together on “Pretty Pimpin,” the leadoff track on b’lieve that became a number-one AAA radio hit. Their second collaboration was similarly inspired: Featuring backing vocals from Cass McCombs, the eleven-minute title track is full of ominous bass rumbles, hazy-steady drumbeats from Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa, delicate harp stabs from Mary Lattimore, and what sounds like chewy distortion leaking out of a David Lynch flick.
Months later, when a lengthy Violators tour ended in Salt Lake City, Vile let the momentum carry him further west, where he recorded several more songs with engineer/producer Shawn Everett (Alabama Shakes, the War on Drugs) at The Beer Hole in Los Angeles. Other songs were put to tape during sojourns to Portland, Oregon, and to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where fellow Violator Rob Laakso co-produced. The bulk of Bottle It In was bottled up at Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, Connecticut, with Peter Katis (Interpol, the National) engineering and producing. Bottle It In captures the spontaneity of these impromptu sessions, revealing Vile as a diligent and singularly determined musician.
These recordings are the destinations, but the journeys were just as important, whether they gave him time with his wife and kids or an opportunity to get some writing done. “For a while I was terrified of flying, so I would be listening to whatever country songs I was obsessed with. I’d have George Jones blasting in my ears. Or, I would be reading something about country music. Or, I would start writing songs in that flash of being afraid, being swallowed by life. I’m up there on a plane drinking wine because like everybody else I’m afraid to die. And I wrote ‘Hysteria’ up there.” That new song, with its woozy guitar fanfare, captures mid-flight queasiness well, as Vile daydreams about escaping the flight: “Stop this plane ‘cause I wanna get off,” he sings. “Pull over somewhere on the side of a cloud.”
Bottle It In is about place only insofar as it is about the people in those places: friends and family, bandmates and music heroes, colleagues and collaborators. There’s a lot of love in these big-hearted songs, a lot of warmth toward everyone in Vile’s orbit and even toward those whose paths he’s yet to cross. “Loved you all a long, long while,” he sings on “One-Trick Ponies.” “Looked down into a deep dark well, called all of your names.” The jangly country-rock tune serves as a valentine to… he won’t say, but he and Mozgawa and Farmer Dave Scher deliver a beautifully sympathetic sing-along chorus that invites every one of us one-trick ponies to join in.
As Vile prepares for another round of lengthy tours and countless shows, these songs should prove good company, reminders of the love and responsibility he has toward those he leaves at home and those he meets along the way. That makes the sentiments resonate more strongly and lends Bottle It In an emotional weight. “It’s like that moment on the airplane,” Vile says, “when you’re on your way somewhere and you have that burst of panic. When you’re terrified of dying, that’s when you want people to know you love them.” – Stephen Duesner
01 Loading Zones
03 Yeah Bones
05 One Trick Ponies
06 Rollin With The Flow
07 Check Baby
08 Bottle It In
10 Come Again
11 Cold Was The Wind
12 Skinny Mini
13 (bottle back)
The rumors are true: boygenius, the band of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus will release their self-titled EP debut on November 9th on Matador. The illustrious trio is comprised of the most exciting and visionary young songwriters in independent rock, whose critically acclaimed albums were all released in the past year (‘Turn Out The Lights’, ‘Stranger In The Alps’, and ‘Historian’, respectively). To celebrate today’s announcement, boygenius has released a captivating triumvirate of new songs titled “Stay Down,”“Me & My Dog,” and “Bite The Hand,” which can be heard HERE.
Baker and Bridgers will hit the road in North America this fall for a co-headline tour, with Dacus opening. Each artist will play her own individual set of tunes, but fans just might be able to hear some boygenius songs along the way – though that’s another rumor we can’t yet confirm. The tour kicks off at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on November 4th, and hits major markets in the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast, culminating at The Wiltern in LA on November 30. The full list of tour dates, as well as each individual artist’s itinerary, can be found below.
This morning, we’re pleased to present the Kurt Vile video, “Loading Zones,” the first new music to surface from him since 2015. Directed by Drew Saracco, the video is a paean to Kurt’s City of Brotherly Love, and a farcical tribute to the song’s lyrics, a loose account of his peculiar parking strategy. Law enforcement is played by Kevin Corrigan and Matt Korvette.
Kurt and The Violators (Rob Laakso, Kyle Spence, and Jesse Trbovich) hit the road this fall on an extensive global tour. Tickets are on-sale now for the full world tour, which commences in Hamburg, Germany on October 12th. The North American leg, where fans can expect a further taste of new music in addition to the band’s iconic catalogue, kicks off on November 24th in Boston. The band has partnered with PLUS1 so that $1 per ticket sold will go to support the ACLU’s work defending and protecting our individual rights and liberties. The full list of tour dates can be found below.