Posts Tagged ‘Dan Keegan’

Wild Pink’s last album, 2018’s “Yolk In The Fur”, concluded with a song about the strange sense of relief that comes with “letting go of youth.” Frontman John Ross, then in his early thirties, was singing from a place of newfound comfort and wisdom, but it ended with a repetition of the line, “I don’t know what happens next.” The song, titled “All Some Frenchman’s Joke”, is a beautifully concise rendering of a universal milestone: levelling up from the wide-eyed naivety and self-destructive routines of our youth, only to realize that we’re as unprepared for the future as we were for the past.

On Wild Pink’s third album and first for Royal Mountain Records, “A Billion Little Lights”, Ross explores that dichotomy of finally achieving emotional security—of accepting the love and peace he deprived himself of in his twenties—while also feeling existentially smaller and more directionless than ever before. The record is a two-pronged triumph: an extraordinary reflection on the human condition presented through the sharpest, grandest, and most captivating songs Wild Pink have ever composed.

The band, which is rounded out by bassist T.C. Brownell and drummer Dan Keegan, formed in New York City in 2015 and put out a handful of EP’s before releasing their critically acclaimed self-titled debut in 2017. It was a sophisticated showing for a band’s first album, but it was the striking maturation of Yolk In The Fur that established Wild Pink’s unique sound: a glistening variety of pastoral indie-rock akin to The War On Drugs, Death Cab For Cutie, and Kurt Vile, but informed by classic American rock poets like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. The album received glowing praise from Pitchfork (a score of 8.1), Billboard, NPR, Stereogum, and Uproxx, the latter deeming them “one of indie’s best emerging bands.”

Even though Wild Pink were operating within the relatively modest world of contemporary indie-rock, critics likened them to the types of revered rock auteurs who rack up Grammy nominations. So for A Billion Little Lights, they actually made that leap. The record was produced, mixed, and co-engineered by producer David Greenbaum, who’s worked with the likes of Beck, U2, Cage The Elephant, and Jenny Lewis. Like all Wild Pink records, the songs were entirely written and arranged by Ross, who shaped them into high-quality demos over the course of a year in his new home in New York’s Hudson Valley. But unlike previous Wild Pink albums, Ross enlisted a deep bench of session musicians and friends to perform a litany of additional instruments, finally granting Ross’s musical visions the space and sonic resources they needed to achieve their finest forms.

The ten songs on A Billion Little Lights are adorned with fiddles, violins, wurlitzers, saxophones, accordions, pedal steel guitars, and a variety of richly textured synths and keyboards. In addition to the instrumentation, Julia Steiner of the Chicago band Ratboys provides beautiful harmonies throughout the record, her soft voice recalling the friendly glow of a porch light when it switches on behind Ross’s dusky coo. On past records, Ross’s breathy delivery rarely raised above a hushed murmur, but here he sings with a melodic confidence that makes songs like “Pacific City”, “Die Outside”, and “The Shining But Tropical” some of the catchiest, most anthemic cuts in the Wild Pink catalogue. The band have never sounded dated or nostalgic, but the lingering twinge of Americana in their sound has always given their songs a familiar, classicist resonance. On A Billion Little Lights, there are little details like speckles of auto-tune, flashing synths, and even trip-hop-esque drum loops that subtly yet effectively rebuff the notion that Wild Pink’s music yearns for a bygone era: the album sounds at once timeless and unmistakably modern.

That sonic quality is a fitting complement to the album’s lyrics, which see Ross caught in the bramble between his past and his present; feeling suffocated by the repetition of life while simultaneously gazing at the stars above and marvelling at the unquantifiable vastness of it all. “Time spreads like Jasmine on a fence / Always behind, I can let go but I’m still always behind” he sings on the shimmering “Bigger Than Christmas”. On the sprightly folk-rocker “You Can Have It Back”, he cheekily sizes up his flaws (“Everybody laughs easily / There’s something wrong with me”) and outwardly admits, “Never figured out how to live / Just dreaming all the time.” “Family Friends” and “Track Mud” are musings on day-to-day stasis: “Every day is Groundhog’s Day now” he sings in the former, while lamenting about being “lost in anxious thoughts again” in the latter.

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However, it’s the final two songs, the record’s musical standouts, that offer a tepidly hopeful counter to those periods of despair. In “Pacific City”, Ross sings about barely being able to recognize the person he once was, a self left behind once he shedded self-hatred (“For every little thing about myself I couldn’t change”) and learned to “make hay while the sun shined.” “And you deserve the good things that’ll come to you / You just need a little room”, goes its hook. It’s unclear whether that “room” is a reference to his literal relocation to rural upstate New York, or a metaphor for emotional space, but either way “Die Outside” is all about making it. With a stadium-sized hook and the rhythmic swing of a two-ton pendulum, Ross calls to “let every wall come down” with a windswept sing-song of a delivery, a barn raiser of a hook.

Whereas Yolk In The Fur ended with an admission of utter uncertainty, this album ends with a more conclusive observation: “Your blood is like ocean water.” It’s an almost soothing acceptance of our primordial nature, that like the ancient water of the sea or the billions of little stars above, we’re as much a part of something greater and everlasting as we are a mere flicker in the night sky. Wild Pink’s music has always rooted around in those sort of immortal complexities, but A Billion Little Lights is the first time the surrounding music truly captures those alternatingly micro and macro quandaries. It, too, is something to marvel at.

Releases February 19th, 2021

On record, John Ross recounts intimate moments from his personal life in journalistic detail, singing in a lilting tenor that elevate anecdotes to the level of heartfelt art. Just listen to “Love Is Better,” which is a standout track from the “Yolk In The Fur”, the beguiling new album out July 20th from Ross’ indie-heartland rock band, Wild Pink.

In the song, Ross sets a scene that takes place between two friends, one of whom has unrequited feelings for the other, in a local tavern. “Pick and eat Blue Crabs in a neighborhood the mob reputedly still haunts / And there’s a sweet old man at the bar with his eyes closed
 / Mouthing the words to Kim Carnes song on the radio.” 
Ross describes this dive over a pulsing synth-rock groove, which amps the evocative blend of romance and melancholy in the lyrics. While Ross’ delicate vocal doesn’t betray the quiet heartbreak that subsequently occurs, the stirring music conveys the protagonist’s bruised yet committed resolve. “Love is better than anything else,” Ross sings.

If the details of “Love Is Better” the crustacean delicacy prevalent on the Atlantic coast, the reference to a semi-obscure ’80s pop artist seem too specific to be made up, it’s because they’re not.

“It’s all real. The first verse about a man in a bar, that all really happened,” Ross said earlier this month. “I don’t know how much I want to say about it, but there was a lot going on. Or maybe there wasn’t, and I was just projecting on it, but it seemed like this small scene in a bar had just exploded in my mind.”

Wild Pink’s self-titled debut, was one of the great sleeper records of that year, the 31-year-old singer-songwriter radiates unease whenever pressed about the meanings of his lyrics. Maybe it’s because he already reveals so much of himself in his songs — whereas Wild Pink unfolded as a series of dreamy short stories about millennial ennui in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, Yolk In The Fur is a musical novel that appears to document an intense romantic (or perhaps wannabe romantic) relationship. The first five songs, including the War On Drugs-like single “Lake Erie” and the panoramic jangler “Jewels Drossed In The Runoff,” tick off without any pause between the tracks, underlining the unified, song-cycle feel of the album.

Yolk In The Fur is littered with conversational asides that appear to be lifted from actual conversations. (Ross admits that he’s constantly typing potential lyrics into his phone. “It’s the only way I know how to do it, just jotting things down and massaging them into a song,” he said. “A lot of times, nothing even rhymes.”) Many of these lines are rendered with a dry wit, like that part in the simmering rocker “The Seance on St. Augustine St.” where Ross slips in a sly generational dig: “You said boomers with hepatitis / might be spitting in your drink.” Elsewhere, Ross writes about the small, forgotten moments that accumulate into life’s defining disappointments. “But you don’t have to say you love me back
,” he sings in the slashing “John Mosby Hollow Drive.” “It’s enough when you hear me out
 / because you’ll exhaust yourself somehow
.”

On Wild Pink’s two albums, Ross is a chronic over-sharer, a habit he over-corrects in conversation whenever he’s subsequently asked to explain himself.

“Yeah, it’s ironic, isn’t it?” Ross said, a trace of a chuckle lurking behind his words. “I’m pretty timid in my personal life, and also I like to keep more of the mystery about a song. It can resonate with more people, even if it is incredibly specific.

Ross’ shy demeanor, hyper-personal lyrics, and insistently pretty and surging melodies have prompted critics to liken Wild Pink to Death Cab For Cutie and “the golden age of TV soundtracks,” typified by the ’00s teen soap The OC. But Ross considers himself a student of classic-rock singer-songwriters like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Paul Simon, and Jackson Browne, who is referenced directly on Yolk In The Fur‘s title track. (“I don’t know exactly what it means, but I know that it’s evocative of something,” Ross said cryptically of the album title. “To me, it’s about protecting something vulnerable.”)

All of those songwriters, like Ross, are storytellers who spin autobiographical tales into tunes that speak to the overall human condition. Unlike Ross, those guys also managed to be massively successful pop stars. But in his own modest way Wild Pink has a small but growing following that deserves to expand dramatically once Yolk In The Fur is released  Ross aspires to a kind of grandiosity.

Musically, Yolk In The Fur is a sizable leap from the first Wild Pink record, which is composed of contemplative, mid-tempo songs that evoke ’90s slowcore far more than ’70s arena-rock. For the new record, Ross carried over his experiments with synthesizers in the side project Eerie Gaits to his work in Wild Pink, teasing out the band’s threadbare soundscapes with layers of swelling, atmospheric guitar and keyboard sounds, finally putting the band’s music on equal footing with Ross’ lyrics. Several tracks, including highlights like “Love Is Better” and the poppy New Romantics throwback “There Is A Ledger,” started as home recordings that Ross brought to the band during the making of Yolk In The Fur last December.

“I just really wanted to make something bigger in scope,” he said. “I think that obviously, ’70s rock is the heyday of rock and those records are enormous, and every now and then there’s a record like The Monitor. I don’t think the lyrics are becoming less of a focus for me, but making more interesting textures and sound palettes or whatever, that’s becoming way more important to me.”

Band Members :
John Ross – Guitar and Vocals
TC Brownell – Bass
Dan Keegan – Drums

Ross’ next project might sound even bigger than Yolk In The Fur — he’s talked in interviews about working on a double-album about the American West, a kind of 21st century Desperado, though naturally, he’s reticent to divulge too much about it. For the time being, he’s focused on making music that has “a shot at being timeless as opposed to timely,” a quality that reverberates throughout the excellent, yearning Yolk In The Fura personal statement about real-life minutia that signifies profound, larger-than-life truths.

Yolk In The Fur is out 7/20 on Tiny Engines

thanks uproxx.com

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There’s something special about the band Wild Pink and their new album. The Brooklyn indie rock trio’s 2017 debut paired insightful, wide-eyed lyrics with heavy chords and twinkly emo tunings, spilling out about frustrations familiar to any twenty-something urbanite struggling to find a place in this mixed-up world. Buried beneath lines about smartphones and the Redskins/Cowboys NFL rivalry, the album offered a glimmer of sprawling Americana, and considering what we heard with “Lake Erie,” the band appears to continue that pursuit on the upcoming Tiny Engines album.

The track “Jewels Drossed In The Runoff” evokes the rushing swell of the crusty industrial oceanside. With anthemic guitars and chilling, crystalline synth pads, the track channels some of the biggest moments of mid-’80s heartland rock, with chords and lyrics that feel like a dead match for Tom Petty. Frontman John Ross sings about a committed lover with an earnest falsetto that can’t seem to get past doubting himself. “I grew up removed / And you have a heart like a star, you give away your best,” he sings in the track’s final moments. It’s a planetarium of spirit delivered in the most honest form imaginable.

Band Members
John Ross,
TC Brownell,
Dan Keegan,

Wild Pink “Yolk In The Fur” out 7/20/2018 on Tiny Engines Records