Posts Tagged ‘Merge Records’

When Fruit Bats announced its new album and signing to Merge Records late last year, singer/songwriter Eric D. Johnson did so by “Getting in a Van Again.” The 15-minute mockumentary presented a surrealist view of the music industry, while teasing the very real themes explored on his previous album Gold Past Life—Released on June 21, 2019. “I know I said I’d be around this year, but here I am getting in a van again.”

Gold Past Life marked both an end and a beginning. It’s the end of an unintentional thematic trilogy of records that began with 2014’s EDJ (a solo record by name, but a Fruit Bats release in spirit) and hit an emotional peak with  Absolute Loser. They encompassed years of loss, displacement, and the persistent, low-level anxiety of the current political climate. They were written in the wake of friends who left these earthly confines and families that could have been.

“I wrote music to comfort myself,” says Eric D. Johnson of those times. “It was a soothing balm.”

But these salves, these songs on Gold Past Life, also represent new beginnings—the journeys that await after making it through troubled times.

That spiritual sense of place is particularly important to Johnson, who has always been fascinated by dreams and the subconscious stories they can tell. “Some of these songs are directed at specific people, some at amalgams of people, and lots at myself, or the subconscious version of myself—that version like how they say you’re every single character in your dreams,” he says. “Even the artwork represents the notion that we’re all the characters in our dreams. Here’s me looking at you: I’m a deer on a beach looking you dead in the eye and licking my lips.”

The new record also features more keyboard influences and a range of guests including Greta Morgan (Springtime Carnivore, Vampire Weekend), Neal Casal (Circles Around the Sun), Trevor Beld Jimenez and Tim Ramsey (Parting Lines), Meg Duffy (Hand Habits), and more. It also sees his working relationship with producer and engineer Thom Monahan (Neko Case, Peter Bjorn & John, Devendra Banhart) hit its stride.

According to Johnson, “Fruit Bats has been a cult band for a long time.” he hopes to bring more immediacy to the music and share positivity, hope, and motivation to keep on keepin’ on with a wider audience.

“Fruit Bats makes existential make-out music,” he describes with a chuckle. “But you’re also welcome to dive into it deeper if you want. Good pop music should be sublime like that.”

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released October 9th, 2019

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From his earliest days as a member of the legendary New Zealand band “The Clean” onward, singer/songwriter, David Kilgour has come to be known as one of the most respected & admired songwriters of his generation & certainly one of the greatest rock musicians to come out of New Zealand. His signature guitar twang & languid, carefree melodies are readily identifiable. Kilgour is a guitar god for guitar atheists. 

Releases September 20th, 2019

The Band:
Thomas Bell: bass, keyboards, hand chimes and percussion.
Tony de Raad: guitar.
Taane Tokona: drums and percussion.
David Kilgour: guitar, vibes, keyboards and piano.

Piano on “Swan loop” played by Matt Swanson.

From the album “Bobbie’s a girl” out September 20th, 2019 on Merge Records.

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From his earliest days as a member of the legendary The Clean onward, singer/songwriter, David Kilgour has come to be known as one of the most respected and admired songwriters of his generation and certainly one of the greatest rock musicians to come out of New Zealand. His signature guitar twang and languid, carefree melodies are readily identifiable. Kilgour is a guitar god for guitar atheists. He’s worthy of worship, but his style neither demands nor expects it, all of which only serves to increase his otherworldly cool.

“It’s moody—as in low, subdued,” says David Kilgour of his new album. The atmosphere of “Bobbie’s a girl” does feel a bit mysterious. Largely missing the jangly distortion of Kilgour’s other work, the album’s ten songs exude a hazy warmth, with a light psychedelia that recalls ’60s outfits like The Byrds and The Velvet Underground.

Four decades into his career, Kilgour remains as creatively restless as ever. Wherever that drive takes him next, you’ll want to follow.

Releases September 20th, 2019
The Band
Thomas Bell: bass, keyboards, hand chimes and percussion.
Tony de Raad: guitar.
Taane Tokona: drums and percussion.
David Kilgour: guitar, vibes, keyboards and piano.

From the album “Bobbie’s a Girl” out September 20th, 2019 on Merge Records

Fruit Bats share “Ocean” music video ahead of summer tour dates

Just ahead of full-band performances in NYC and DC, as well as appearances at MRG30 and Pickathon, Eric D. Johnson of Fruit Bats is sharing a music video for “Ocean” from his much-loved Merge Records debut, “Gold Past Life”.  director Danielle Rubi: says

When I first heard Eric’s song “Ocean,” I immediately had a series of moving photographs play out in my mind. The melancholic tone resonated with me a lot artistically, so I decided to create an authentic portrait of how it may feel to be a bit lost in this world. I think our culture could use more somber, honest, and hopeful pieces out there. To help us feel found, and to simply say, We are going to be ok.

The opaque aqua Peak Vinyl of Gold Past Life packaged with a bonus 7-inch is sold out in the Merge store, but Fruit Bats will have copies on the road while supplies last!

Praise for “Gold Past Life”:

“This sweet, smart concept album about nostalgia is one of the year’s best-written… Even as dedicated a nostalgist as Johnson paints himself to be can come to realize that the future’s still a good place to go mining for gold, too.” —Variety

“A peak of radiant retro poppiness” —Rolling Stone

“Deftly avoiding the pitfalls of nostalgia, Fruit Bats’ Gold Past Life takes stock of life from the vantage point of middle age and charts a path forward with hope and no little circumspection, without once feeling sorry for itself.” —PopMatters

“Underneath guitar melodies that seem to glide on warm California air, and Johnson’s singular falsetto harmonies, he is working through some dark, existential anxieties on Gold Past Life. But that’s what makes these songs so sublime.” —No Depression

“It hurts, thinking about what once was. So Gold Past Life wraps that sobering truth up in animated pop rock, an element of sweetness to make the darkness go down a little easier.” —Paste

The opaque aqua Peak Vinyl of Gold Past Life packaged with a bonus 7-inch is sold out in the Merge store, but Fruit Bats will have copies on the road while supplies last!

Mikal Cronin has announced his fourth solo album album. “Seeker” is due out October 25th via Merge Records. Check out the Yasi Salek-directed video for his new single “Show Me.” Cronin has also announced an upcoming tour—find those dates at the Merge website.

“Show Me’ is a song about feeling small in an overwhelming world,” said Cronin. “There’s a not-quite-subtle hint of the Heartbreakers in the instrumentation and arrangement, having asked many friends to play or sing. It’s one of my favorite songs from the album, I hope you like it too.”

Seeker is Mikal Cronin’s fourth and finest full-length to date. Recorded live with a crew of close friends and engineer Jason Quever at Palmetto Studios in Los Angeles, it finds Cronin pushing his often devastating power pop into darker territory. “Fire—specifically its cycle of purging and reseeding the landscape—is a central theme to the record. Death and rebirth,” says Mikal. “I was looking for something: answers, direction, peace. I am the seeker.”

Mikal Cronin recorded Seeker with engineer Jason Quever. He was backed by Ty Segall’s Freedom Band on the album, which is his follow-up to 2015’s MCIII.

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“Angie, are you tough enuh-uff/To let it go?” asks Mary Timony over her sugared electric guitar churn at the outset of Ex Hex’s latest, immortalizing a new rock’n’roll Angie with as much performative heartache and swagger as Jagger did, maybe more.

Ex Hex’s second album is about garage-rock thrust at its core, like prime Rolling Stones and their own debut Rips. Like that LP, it draws a through-line from the Shangri-Las to Blondie to Sleater-Kinney to, well, Ex-Hex. This time, though, pop-metal production shine adds a new meta-textual layer, conjuring visions of the CBGB Class of ‘76 upscaled to the arena rock of ’86, thanks in part to furniture maker-turned indie-rock production swami Jonah Takagi. It’s nothing but guitars, bass, and drums, but the sound is huge, bulked up with vocal reverb, choice pedals and amps.

Ex Hex have released the bizarrely glam new video for the track “Rainbow Shiner” from their latest album It’s Real, is out now via Merge Records.

The video’s animator, cult cartoonist M. Wartella, says of the project in a statement, “As artists, often our destructive tendencies come from the same place in our heads that creativity comes from, and that is what we aimed to capture in this psychedelic trip clip. Well, that and to rock your socks off! For real!!!”

From the album It’s Real, out now on Merge Records.

Hiss Golden Messenger

Critically acclaimed indie band Hiss Golden Messenger just announced their anticipated new album Terms of Surrender, with a newly released single “I Need A Teacher.” The project led by gifted songwriter and storyteller M.C. Taylor, seamlessly fuses indie, gospel, and Americana sounds, and his catalogue has grown into a deep well of thoughtful, good-time folk to pull from.

“I Need A Teacher” continues this trend, with sharp lyricism, infectious melodies and harmonies, and a driving guitar line that steers the song along. According to a press release, ‘the video was shot during the statewide North Carolina Association of Educators’ Day of Action demonstration and features a glance into the eyes and faces of real teachers, children, and families that illustrate the humanity and what is at stake for our future.’

The new album features guest appearances by Jenny Lewis, Josh Kaufman and Aaron Dessner of The National, and was recorded at Dessner’s famed Long Pond studio in upstate New York.

Terms of Surrender will be released on Merge Records, September 20th,

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Fruit Bats, aka Eric D. Johnson’s alt-folk band and songwriting project, are preparing to release their first new album since 2016’s critically acclaimed Absolute Loser. The new record tilted, “Gold Past Life”, marks Johnson’s seventh studio effort under the Fruit Bats name and his third in an “unintentional thematic trilogy” of albums beginning with 2014’s EDJ, which he released under his own initials. Following those five years of political and personal chaos that maxed out with Loser, Gold Past Life promises a shimmery new beginning.

The third single, following the previously released title track and “The Bottom of It,” is a real folk-rock charmer. It’s called “Ocean” .

“This is a song about late bloomers, late discoveries, adult baptism, coming-of-age when you’re way past the right time to do that,” Johnson says. “About growing, I guess. And how a good love can help you do all of that. In short, this is a lovey-dovey song I hope you enjoy.”

“Ocean” begins in calm waters, with just some light acoustic guitar, before maracas and staggered baroque piano accelerate the tempo, just as Johnson is “watching it all tumble into view.” As is usually the case with Johnson’s realist yet romantic songwriting, “Ocean” is nostalgic without collapsing into melodrama.

Fruit Bats signed to Merge Records earlier this year following Johnson’s longtime “mega label crush” on the North Carolina mainstay. Gold Past Life is their debut on the label, and it’s out June 21st.

From the album Gold Past Life, out June 21st, 2019 on Merge Records.

Earlier this year, Apex Manor, aka vocalist and guitarist Ross Flournoy, made his commanding return with a single titled “Asked & Answered,” the opening track from his first new album in eight years, Heartbreak City. Flournoy says of the record, “Conceptually, the record really explores variations on the theme of rejection and the different ways people react to it, especially the isolation—either by choice or by circumstance—that can sometimes follow.” Flournoy, is joined by drummer Dan Allaire of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and bassist Rob Barbato, spent less than two weeks in the studio before completing the new album through live-in-studio recordings

Happy release day to Apex ManorHeartbreak City”, the second solo album from Ross Flournoy (of The Broken West) is available on CD and red Peak Vinyl in the Merge store.

Requiring less than two weeks of studio time to complete, it’s accurate to say that Heartbreak City was captured more than it was recorded due to the “everybody in the same room” live sessions featuring songwriter Ross Flournoy on guitar and vocals, Dan Allaire (The Brian Jonestown Massacre) on drums, and Rob Barbato on bass and production duties. The raucous result is a sonic spectacle that cleverly balances aggressive Dinosaur Jr.-esque guitars with dreamy synth work that’s reminiscent of The Cure, all mixed together with spirited instrumental performances, nuanced melodicism, and lyrics that swing wildly between being cryptic and being profound. In short, it’s everything there is to love about early ’90s pre-commercialized alternative rock but with a refreshingly modern absence of pretense or nostalgia.

From the album Heartbreak City, out May 31, 2019 on Merge Records.

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“An Obelisk” is the sixth album from Titus Andronicus, which finds the noted rock band under the stewardship of producer and legendary rocker Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü, Sugar, et al.). This trans-generational meeting of the minds has yielded the most immediate, intense, and unadorned Titus Andronicus record to date. Clocking in at a brisk 38 minutes and change, it is also the shortest. Recorded over six breathless days at Steve Albini’s world-renowned Electrical Audio studio in Chicago, An Obelisk presents the sound of Titus Andronicus, rock band, at its most irreducible, as monolithic as the album’s titular monument.

The official video for “Troubleman Unlimited” by Titus Andronicus, off the new album ‘An Obelisk,’ available June 21st from Merge Records.

The official video for “Tumult Around The World” by Titus Andronicus, off the new album ‘An Obelisk,’ available June 21st from Merge Records.