Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia’

Philadelphia-based band Another Michael are recent signees to the label Run For Cover Records. This month, they also released their new single “New Music” and b-side “Boring For The Times.” ” Combined with their eclectic, dreamy sound and formed chemistry together as a band, their debut LP has a promising outlook.

One of the most charming things about music is the shared experience of listening, whether it be from a song that resonates with you and someone else, connecting to the artists’ work or any other way in between. Another Michael’s “New Music,” unpacks this sensation as the band sings about the simple yet exhilarating act of listening to new music, particularly when recommended by someone else. “We were up late online talking about new music / and you sent me a link to a song that I’d never heard before / I need to get my headphones on.” 

The Philly-based group, made up of multi-instrumentalists Michael Doherty, Alenni Davis, and Nick Sebastiano, draws on numerous genres in their new track, from indie-rock to dreamy lo-fi elements. The song’s raw, guitar plucking-led instrumentals leading up to a lively outro of Michael Doherty’s layered vocals create an intimate world with the dark solaces of the night time further enhanced by an escape into headphones. “New Music” is a relatively quiet song, highlighting the calming, subtle yet emotive vocals of Michael Doherty.

The “New Music” single was released on Bandcamp last week with B-side “Boring For The Times” — a more upbeat track with a heavier guitar riff accompanying Doherty’s high-pitched vocals. It sounds like a combination of Philly’s (Sandy) Alex G’s ragged indie rock-meets-lo-fi pop, the eccentric sounds of Zack Villere, and all pulled together with their unique flair. The different styled approaches to each track are together a preview of the three-piece’s upcoming debut LP that “listeners won’t have to wait long to hear more from,” according to the group’s Bandcamp.

“New Music” by Another Michael from the 7″ / 2 song digital single ‘New Music’ out now via Run For Cover Records

The brain-child of Jake Ewald of Modern Baseball, Slaughter Beach Dog’s “Safe And Also No Fear” marks Ewald’s first venture into full-fledged collaboration. Unlike 2017’s Birdie, where Ewald played every instrument, he spent a full year collaborating with bassist Ian Farmer (Modern Baseball), Nick Harris (All Dogs) and Zach Robbins (Superheaven) to construct the project’s unique sound, a blend of pop music, indie rock and folk unlike anything he’d ever produced before. Safe And Also No Fear is rooted in vague sketches of anxieties and confusion, and Ewald stands at its center questioning everything he knows about himself. “Well, since when can an honest man get high after a day of honest work?” he asks on “Good Ones,” crying out as the good ones “aren’t quite as good as you had recalled.

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Produced and Engineered by J. Ewald, I. Farmer, N. Harris and Z. Robbins at The Metal Shop in Philadelphia, PA, February 2019

Buy Online Humble Pie - Official Bootleg Collection Vol 2 RSD 2020

Following last year’s Humble Pie’s “Official Bootleg Collection Volume 1” double LP comes the “Official Bootleg Collection Volume 2”, collating rare and previously (officially) unreleased live shows that were illicitly recorded between 1971 and 1981.

Originally emerging from the remnants The Small Faces, Humble Pie formed in 1969 when guitarist and vocalist Steve Marriott joined forces with Peter Frampton, drummer Jerry Shirley and bassist Greg Ridley, and began their assent to conquering the theatres and then arenas of North America, culminating in 1972’s double live “Performance: Rockin’ The Filmore”. Frampton left in 1971 for a highly successful solo career, replaced by Colosseum’s Clem Clempson, and it was this line-up that was captured in New York in 1971 at one of Clem’s first shows with the Pie.

The extemporisations of “Performance: Rockin’ The Filmore” became the basis for much of Humble Pie’s live repertoire for the remainder of the 1970s, but this 1971 New York show does include their unique take of Eddie Cochran’s ‘C’mon Everybody’ and ‘I Wonder’ from the soon to be released “Smokin’” LP. Side Two find The Pie backed up by the soulful backing vocals of The Blackberries; Venetta Fields, Clydie King & Billie Barnum, who appear on ‘Oh La-De-Da’, ‘I Don’t Need No Doctor’ and ‘30 Days In The Hole’ Humble Pie split in 1975 following their Street Rats LP, but not before Side Three’s Philadelphia show on March 15, 1975, featuring ‘Four Day Creep’ and ‘I Don’t Need No Doctor’.

The Pie would eventually reform for 1980’s “On To Victory” comeback record, this time with a line-up featuring Bobby Tench from the Jeff Beck Group on guitar and vocals and bassist Anthony “Sooty” Jones. Side Four from Privates Club, N.Y.C. on March 25, 1981 features the epic 23 minute take of ‘30 Days in the Hole’ / ‘I Walk on Gilded Splinters’.

Housed in a gatefold sleeve, as well as plenty of rare memorabilia, the booklet features an essay from based on new interviews with Pie drummer, Jerry Shirley.

Whilst every effort has been made to produce the best possible audio, limitations in the material drawn from various, non-standard, and un-official sources means that the quality may not be up to the standard usually expected. All tracks have been included for their historical importance, and to present an anthology of Humble Pie live on stage from 1971- 1981.

The Official Bootleg Collection Volume 2 is a raw testament to what this band did best; playing bluesy, gutsy, soulful hard rock, live on stage.

Drawn from a variety of mainly audience recordings that have previously only been available as “under the counter” pirate releases, this is an honest, often unforgiving, tribute to a classic and much missed ’70s supergroup. Housed in a gatefold sleeve, the artwork features two essays, one of which is based on new interviews with Humble Pie drummer, Jerry Shirley.

Culled from over 40 hard drives of recorded live shows spread out across years of touring behind multiple critically acclaimed records, “Live Drugs” is unlike anything previously available in The War on Drugs’ catalogue.

The first volume to capture the band’s live interpretations, Live Drugs is a document showcasing the evolution of the band’s live show over the years. Additionally, Live Drugs is a portrait of the enduring relationship between Adam Granduciel and Dominic East. A longtime friend, guitar tech and stage manager, East is Live Drugs’s co-producer and the presence Granduciel credits as holding everything together.

Sequenced to reflect how a typical 70-minute set would flow, Live Drugs thrives on live set staples immortalized on record for the first time. This includes Buenos Aires Beach from the band’s 2008 full-length debut, Wagonwheel Blues, and the long-time musical interlude flowing between Under the Pressure and In Reverse – which bookend 2014’s “Lost In The Dream“. There’s also the band’s essential cover of Warren Zevon’s Accidentally like a Martyr – a song “so true, you should ever be lucky to write a song that simple,” Granduciel says.

I keep returning to this version. It’s my favourite of the many on YT. The extended bridge in the middle… There is just something so pure and damn near hypnotic about it… The long foreplay opening…The sax just gently caressing your temporal lobe… The drummer is just in the zone… Then it all kicks back in… I can’t even with how much I love this

The War on Drugs – “Under the Pressure Live”

released on Secretly Canadian records 20/11/20

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Shamir called this his “most commercial-sounding” album since his 2015 debut, but whatever mainstream leanings it might have did not compromise how vibrant or creative he could get. The 25-year-old singer-songwriter performs synth-pop, Gun Club country punk, and shoegaze all with the same confidence and charisma, in a voice that can transform any anxious misgivings into reassurance. “I prefer to be alone, but you can join if you like/I’ll stay strong for you ’cause I don’t want to be seen when I cry,” he sings on “Running,” speaking as much to his audience as he is to himself.

Shamir embraces a balance between composure and restless dissatisfaction throughout his self-titled album. He vividly captures a Gen Z-specific angst and stewing inner conflict: “Smoke all the weed so I can cover my anxiety,” he confesses on “Paranoia.” Indeed, some of the best moments on the album explore the contradictions of the self and the paradoxical relationship between thoughts and behaviors. Stylistically, Shamir is a hodgepodge of the different approaches the artist has employed in the past, synthesized into a mostly satisfying pop-rock sound. Still, Shamir’s penchant for melody and introspection have proved adaptable to any genre that he fancies at any given moment, characterizing even his most lo-fi work with a pleading humanity. No matter how roomy or tight the mix is, or whether he’s caught in a moment of self-doubt or soaring confidence, he brings a sweet buoyancy to his music that carries Shamir, while also peeking into the torment of being inside his own head. 

There’s a lot to love leading up to next week’s eponymous effort from Shamir, but nothing quite brings it back home from the indie-pop polymath than when he winks at Nashville in the way he does whenever he puts a butterfly spin on Stetsons and pedal steel. “Other Side” is probably the most fully realized version of Shamir’s country crossover dalliances since kicking up some dust in 2018′s “Room” single. 

Here, he resolves the brooding cow-punk darkness inspired by a true unsolved mystery with an idealized Hallmark Channel movie ending in the listen’s country-pop plucked banjo tumbling throughout its chorus. Where as the love tales heard churning out from the big machine are often sanitized in predictable visions created by a white-washed Americana, Shamir taps into something a little more real in his take on a happy ending: faith in spite of the unknown.

Shamir’s “Shamir” will be self-released October 2nd.

The Goodbye Party have shared their new song “December Boys” accompanied by a reflective and touching video edited by Ali Donohue. Read a statement from Michael Cantor on the track
“When my partner and I started dating, she was writing a graphic novel that documented her first year in Philly. Naturally, she captured the beginning of our relationship in the book. The lyrics are a short collection of some of those pages. The song itself came together in about 20 minutes, but took another seven years to make it onto an album.”

“‘December Boys‘ starts out quiet, but then kicks into a jangly fuzz when the band enters.”
—Stereogum
“Sunny, reflective.”
—FLOOD Magazine

The Goodbye Party has shared “No Reason” a gentle power-pop number his upcoming album Beautiful Motors. Brooklyn Vegan, who premiered the track today, is saying it “nails a balance between warm, summery melodies and autumnal melancholy — the perfect kind of song to drop on the first official day of fall.”

Read a statement from Michael Cantor on the song below:

“This song deals with a couple of themes. One is how people you no longer keep in your life can show up in some of your favourite memories. It’s also about the experience of passing through the same place across different tours and seeing decay creep along, seeing cascading effects from hurricanes, and recognizing that slow change in yourself. My friend Emi Knight from Strawberry Runners sings on this song. She, along with a handful of local songwriters, held monthly salons where we would demo and critique each other’s songs. Having that space helped me focus, write, and rewrite songs for this record.”

Releases October 9th, 2020

All songs by Michael Cantor
Recorded Dec 2018

Double Double Whammy

Maxwell Stern has been writing music and touring in various bands since the early 2000s. He has released a slew of LPs and 7″s, and has played shows pretty much everywhere including an abandoned restaurant in Wyoming, a mall in China, several squats in Germany and a pretty nice bookstore in Australia. Lately he’s been working a lot. He is definitely not the person writing this. 

Check out Max Stern’s new song “Pull the Stars Down,” out today! This is the last single before his album “Impossible Sum” comes out next Friday, and it’s Max’s favourite song he’s ever written! (and it only took 20 minutes to write!) Stream it and order the album on beautiful turquoise vinyl.

“This song is the product of a lot of drunken reminiscing with old friends in new places. I think it’s really easy to romanticize the past which can be kind of an unhealthy thing to do, to just kind of live in nostalgia-world and think that things aren’t ever going to be as good as they were. I think it’s ultimately about developing a healthy relationship with your memories but not letting them rule you. Remembering that appreciation for the past and hope for the future aren’t mutually exclusive and in fact, sometimes they can reinforce each other.”
Maxwell Stern,

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Personnel:
Maxwell Stern – vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, Wurlitzer, Prophet
Adam Edward Beck – drums on tracks 1-10, drum composition, auxiliary percussion, additional keyboards, electronics, and production
Kyle Pulley – synth on track 1, additional electric guitar on track 6, bass on
track 8, drum programming on track 11
Jonathan Hernandez – electric guitar on tracks 3, 4, 8, vocals on tracks 3, 7, 8
Laura Stevenson – vocals on track 5
Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner – various lap steels on tracks 4, 5, 6, 7, 10

All songs written by Maxwell Andrew Stern (ASCAP)

For my family, both blood and chosen.
Releases September 25th, 2020

Produced, engineered and mixed by Kyle Pulley throughout 2019 at Headroom Studios, Philadelphia, PAhttp://www.headroom.studio

Wish You Hadn’t, was the debut EP from Philadelphia’s Corey Flood, was both unnerving and calm—hushed vocals and plaintive pop melodies softened their brooding guitars. Now, two years later, their debut full-length “Hanging Garden” is out, and it has a similar wired fuzziness, but their melodies are a bit sunnier this time. Although their distorted post-punk is still fairly grey-skied, their classic indie-pop sweetness is a small break in the clouds. Lines like “Maybe it is really nothing / but I was in love” from the driving jam “Down the Hill” underscore their melancholia perfectly. Their abstract, evocative lyrics are deeply contemplative cyclones—just like their saw-toothed guitars will rattle around your brain, thoughts swirl until they begin to fester, gnawing at one’s psyche.

Corey Flood’s first EP was self-described as “basement goth”: a dark, brooding rock record that nestled itself in the corners of the listener’s mind. Their debut full-length, out today on Fire Talks, follows along a similar path, but given the extra room to move around, the Philly-based trio (Ivy Gray-Klein on vocals and bass; Em Boltz on vocals and guitar; Juliette Rando on drums) take the time to explore a wider range of sounds and lend a depth to their lyrics.

With simple melodies repeated in each song, Hanging Garden can put the listener in a dream-like state and flow seamlessly from one song into another, but listen closer and you can hear ideas running throughout the album: an atmosphere of distrust, strained relationships, and recklessness versus caution.

From Corey Flood’s debut album ‘Hanging Garden’ Out September 4th 2020 on Fire Talk.

Timothy Showalter recently moved to Austin and explained how good the change has been for him. Additionally, Tim has stopped drinking and detailed how he’s reaping the rewards of that decision. The pandemic hit just as Showalter was about to take time to work on new music. He discussed his song writing process as well as the ambient album, Ambient For Change that Strand Of Oaks released in June.

While Tim acknowledged all the strife and struggle going on in the world, Showalter spoke about the positive attitude he’s taken towards the future. Showalter called it his “survival mode” to talk about the future and projects in a hopeful way. Another topic hit upon by Showalter was Tim’s appreciation for the jam scene and the band Phish in particular. Tim explained how much Phish’s Dinner And A Movie weekly video broadcasts mean to him. He noted that Tuesday nights are his most social time of the week. Other subjects discussed are ways both artists and fans can help the live music infrastructure,

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Released August 25th, 2020

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Joe D’Agostino talks about his new solo album and why his former band decided to call it quits, and debuts the album opener “Marian.”

How do you dissolve a beloved band you’ve devoted your life to since the age of 18?. If you are Joe D’Agostino, frontman of Cymbals Eat Guitars, you do so as quietly and tastefully as possible. In late 2017, the New Jersey-bred indie heroes performed three farewell shows, including a raucous gig at Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom, which was packed with fans who had no idea it was a farewell. They shared the stage with home-state idol Charles Bissell, of elusive Jersey favorites The Wrens fame, and dusted off early-career gems like “Indiana” and “Some Trees.”

And then, without a word, one of the decade’s most rewarding and emotionally searing rock bands simply ceased to exist. There was no announcement. (Consequently, many fans have continued hoping for a new album) “We wanted to quietly deep-six it,” D’Agostino explains two years later. “We could have told everybody that our December 2017 shows were gonna be our final shows, but — I dunno. It just seemed a little gaudy to do so. We were never people to draw attention to ourselves in that way.”

Causes of the breakup included deep exhaustion with touring, bassist Matt Whipple’s decision to return to school for interior design, and a brooding sense that — despite consistent acclaim and a committed cadre of fans — “there was nowhere else for us to go.” During that grueling final year, the band toured with alt-rock legends the Pixies, “which was just crazy — like, dream scenario stuff,” the singer says. “And then we went back to the same cities that we played with Pixies in to headline, three months later. And nobody came.”

It was bleak, the bleakness compounded by brutal summer temperatures and self-destructive patterns that had emerged across lengthy touring cycles. “It was over many years,” D’Agostino says. “And it was like, I had to drink to perform. Especially towards the end.”

Eventually, the band updated its Twitter bio to resemble a tombstone: “2007–2017.” If that suggests an untimely demise, the subsequent years, 2018–2019, signify rebirth. D’Agostino has spent them carving out some semblance of domestic bliss with his wife, Rachel Browne (singer of Philly indie band Field Mouse), in their adopted hometown of Philadelphia and figuring out what it means to make music post-Cymbals. For much of 2018, he was cooped up on the first floor of an old Victorian in West Philly — the couple’s home of two years — writing, arranging, and self-producing an ambitious set of solo songs. (Kyle Gilbride, Swearin’ member and prolific indie engineer, co-produced and engineered.)

The result is his new project, Empty Country, whose self-titled album will be released by Tiny Engines (The Hotelier, Somos) next February. The title comes from a Cymbals deep cut, “Wavelengths.” (At Browne’s suggestion, D’Agostino scoured his band’s old lyrics when stuck on a name: “For whatever reason, those two words jumped out at me.”) The album combines D’Agostino’s knack for vivid, impressionistic imagery — capable of summoning a romantic LSD trip or a nightmarish cancer scare — with arrangements more ornate than anything from his former band: “Untitled” is a bleary-eyed excursion into acoustic psychedelia, while “Swim” closes the album with a gorgeous reverie of string swells.

Though billed as a solo album, it’s very much a family affair, inhabited by loved ones both alive and dead. Anne Dole, Cymbals’ former drummer, performed drums; her twin brother, Pat, handled bass. Browne and her sister Zoë contributed backing vocals. “Chance,” with its gushing a cappella break, is an affectionate tribute to the sisters’ dad — D’Agostino’s father-in-law — the longtime cartoonist Robert “Chance” Browne. And the opening track, “Marian,” is named after D’Agostino’s grandmother, who was killed by a drunk driver in 1983. It’s an expansive epic that coaxes unexpected sunlight from one of the singer’s most generous falsetto hooks. Lyrically, it’s sung from the perspective of a clairvoyant miner who foresees his own death in 1960s West Virginia: “The mine collapses in spring of ʼ67/ I was a bastard anyway.” .

Meanwhile, the intensity that once landed Cymbals a tour with emo stalwarts Say Anything roars to life on “Ultrasound,” home to the record’s most screamable chorus. The song, with its mortified reference to “a shadow on the ultrasound,” is about a cancer scare. Browne’s sister is a survivor of metastatic breast cancer, so Browne goes in semi-regularly for routine imaging. In early 2018, doctors found “what looked like something that could be very serious,” D’Agostino says. “I was with her at the doctor, and — I mean, the doctor just scared the shit out of us.”

The song describes the nightmarish week that followed: waiting for the biopsy report, collapsing into fits of crying every hour. “I wrote the lyrics over the course of like two or three hours,” the singer says, “and I was just weeping the entire time.” (The health scare, fortunately, turned out to be a false alarm.)

Tragedy struck anew the day “Ultrasound” was issued as Empty Country’s first-ever single: August 7th, 2019. D’Agostino was full of nervous energy about debuting the project. He was also due to open for Purple Mountains — the new project of Silver Jews songwriter and veteran rock cult hero David Berman — in three days, so he went to get a haircut. D’Agostino was to join Purple Mountains for two dates, in Jersey City and Philadelphia. He had extensively rehearsed a six-piece band, which included Browne and her sister, for the occasion. He was leaving the barber when Browne called with news: Berman was dead.

“[It was] just utterly devastating,” D’Agostino says. He gets choked up recalling how much Berman meant to him. As a teenager, he blasted Silver Jews records on roadtrips. A decade later, he met Berman by chance during the LOSE tour in 2015. Cymbals had just played a sparsely attended show at a Nashville dive bar.

“I was loading up a van after that show, kind of dejected but whatever,” D’Agostino recalls. “He walked up to the back of the van. He asked if the music was over. I recognized his voice immediately. I was like, ‘You’re David Berman.’ He was like, ‘Yep.’ And we talked for a long time that night… I left town feeling like, whatever this career is or isn’t, it brought me to this exact moment in time where this person — this idol, this hero of mine — and I could just cross paths in this way.”

A year later, D’Agostino received an email from Berman, which he describes as “long and free-associative and beautiful.” The two began corresponding regularly. Berman told D’Agostino he could be a poet and attend the Iowa Writers’ Workshop on the strength of the LOSE lyrics. Before his death, Berman listened to Empty Country demos and was quick to offer encouragement. “He was just such a brilliant and kind man,” D’Agostino says. “I will forever hold memories and correspondences that I have of him. But I haven’t listened to his music since he passed.”

Ten years ago, D’Agostino was in the eye of the hurricane that was Cymbals Eat Guitars’ sudden ascent. “I was blown out of the cannon at age 19 and 20,” he says, “with all of this praise — the indie-rock bubble, the hype.”

It was 2009, the golden age of “blog rock,” when guitar music still reigned and a few impressive songs on a MySpace page could, and did, earn a band like Cymbals a glowing Pitchfork review and major festival slots seemingly overnight. The band’s debut, the impressively expansive Why There Are Mountains, drew raves despite being self-released: “Are Staten Island’s Cymbals Eat Guitars indie rock’s next big thing?” blared one headline from a local outlet. Suddenly, D’Agostino and his bandmates found themselves in London opening for The Flaming Lips, and being courted by managers and agents.

He’d been a nerd at his Central Jersey high school. Now he reveled in the sudden validation — behaving callously, abusing prescription meds. “It went to my head,” he admits. Now 30, he barely seems to recognize that kid. “I concentrated on one thing for so long. All I wanted from when I was 15 to when I was 20 — and I got it! And I don’t think I knew how to handle it, emotionally or ego-wise or physically. I was always just destroying my body, getting sick on the road.”

Alcohol became a problem. It got worse near the end, when D’Agostino found himself needing three or four drinks just to go onstage — especially in places like Oklahoma City, where only five people would show. How else could he summon the vigour to obliterate the scream in signature anthem “…And the Hazy Sea?” His health became compromised, his blood pressure unusually high. “I was just utterly consumed with anxiety and deep depression, and it was compounded by the lifestyle of touring,” he says. “There’s a bottle of fucking booze and a case of beer in your green room every night.”

Since the band’s breakup, D’Agostino has been in treatment for Bipolar II disorder and on psychiatric medication. (He no longer self-medicates with alcohol, though he does use pot and hesitates to identify as sober.) He has a day job in customer service, which lets him work from home and eases the financial precarity of a career in music. The end of Cymbals seems to have delivered some relief from the nonstop jockeying for status and success. “I didn’t make this [solo] record to be famous or to be a career musician, though that was my ambition as a younger man,” he texts me after our interview. “I made it to document and honor my human experience and that of my family.”

Ten years removed from indie fame is a weird place to be. D’Agostino sometimes jokes that Cymbals will reunite at Riot Fest in 2039 for the 30th anniversary of Mountains. When asked if he feels proud of what Cymbals accomplished, he lets out a long, heavy sigh. “I do,” he says finally. “I feel very proud of the four records we made together. And incredibly proud of a lot of the shows that we did. I have beautiful memories of each of my bandmates and all of us together.”

He is careful not to seem bitter about the fact that none of Cymbals’ other albums matched that level of commercial success. Yet some bitterness might be warranted, especially considering the band’s real masterpiece, LOSE, a sweeping and cathartic excavation of adolescent grief, did not arrive until 2014. That was the album that established D’Agostino’s astonishing eye for lyrical detail, set in a world of failed drug deals and deceased friends’ MySpace pages. Pretty Years, the 2016 follow-up, proved it wasn’t a fluke and even teased out some stadium-ready hooks. But the mercurial engine of hype no longer seemed to be on the band’s side. In retrospect, it seems obvious that the band’s ambition often brushed up against the impatient expectations of the market (or of a manager who pressured them to write “their ‘Two Weeks’”).

Much of the Empty Country album is inspired by D’Agostino’s reckoning with things he’s ashamed of from his past life. You could trace this reflective gene back to 2016’s “Have a Heart,” a song about falling in love and finding a new capacity for empathy. On “Swim,” the new album’s elegiac finale, he sings: “I was a blue-eyed sociopath / Black out, often / Not sure / Think I might have hurt someone.” Though the song describes a fictional character — the singer is neither blue-eyed nor a sociopath, he assures me — who has a 9/11 tattoo, it clearly carries personal resonance.

“Come and live it down with me,” D’Agostino sings at the song’s climax, luxuriating in a mournful string refrain that seems to echo long after the song has faded away. It’s the record’s emotional peak. As for the string players, “I didn’t even have charts for them,” D’Agostino texts me when I ask. “I just sang them the parts five minutes beforehand, and what you hear is what they delivered.” He sobbed when the violin took the lead for the final refrain. “You might actually be able to hear me,” he adds. I can’t hear it, but I trust that it’s there.

Throughout Cymbals’ career, D’Agostino’s songwriting was remarkably adept at capturing dimensions of loss — loss of a friend (“XR”), of youth (“Dancing Days”), even loss of a family dog (“Chambers”). Empty Country retains this talent. Except here, the songwriter also takes profound stock of what he’s gained.

That includes wisdom, and a new sense of purpose in music-making. “It’s not a vehicle for your ego, or so you can get somewhere in life or get tours or get whatever the fuck you want,” he says. “It’s the moment of creation — when you make something that’s true to you and to the people that you love.”