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Chris Staples — American Soft 

Chris Staples — American Soft (2012, Reissue Aug. 12, 2014)

USA Flag        Chris Staples — American Soft 
ζ   Chris našel protínající čáru mezi drzostí a vážností, která určuje charakter alba American Soft lépe, než kdyby použil nadměrnou shovívavost; a tak název samotný by mohl trochu sarkasticky nastínit, o co jde.
ζ   Minulost je divná věc: divná, éterická: z poloviny chaos, z té druhé reálné životní situace, zředěna z živé představy těch příběhů. Říkáme si v duchu sami o tom, co to vlastně bylo tenkrát a co to všechno znamená dnes.
Location: Pensacola, Florida
Album release: August 12, 2014
Record Label: Barsuk
Duration:     31:10
Tracks:
01 Walking With a Stranger     2:48
02 Hold Onto Something     3:09
03 Black Tornado     3:11
04 Dark Side of the Moon     3:27
05 Where We Used to Be     2:27
06 Wurlitzer     2:18
07 Grand Coulee Band     2:26
08 Overpaid     3:40
09 Needle Park     3:36
10 Early Bird Tavern     4:09
℗ 2014 Barsuk Records
REVIEW
By kssu, DJames | August 4, 2014 | Score: ****½
ζ   The past is a strange thing; a weird ethereal mess half made of real life events, and half fabricated by the vivid imaginings of the stories we tell ourselves about what went down and what it all meant. Chris Staples’ new album American Soft, delves heavily into seeming events of his own past using his tempered slightly raspy vocals, and adept acoustic guitar skills to become the sonic embodiment of how we all can feel about the past sometimes: somber yet hopeful.
ζ   The first semblances of Staples’ attraction to the past are his references to the music of his youth. This is shown by the title of track four “Dark Side of The Moon” and his borrowing of lyrics from both Tom Petty’s “Refugee” and Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” for his song “Early Bird Tavern”. However, despite his reverence of the past Staples’ sound is modern, and uniquely all his own without the disingenuous feeling of trying to ‘be’ one particular thing.  For instance, “Hold onto Something” begins with a lazery synth melody while it defines the sound of the song it does not detract from Staples’ soft subdued vocals or feel like a gimmicky way to bring his acoustic sensibilities to a modern audience; it just feels right.
ζ   While the dominating feeling on this album is a melancholy that rivals Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow you Into the Dark,” there are some tracks on American Soft that are downright fun. For example, take the popiest sounding track of the album “Black Tornado” which combines an intoxicating ukulele with rhythmic claps, staccato guitar solos, and bass synth accompaniment for a light song that is impossible not to dance to. Add the the cheeky lyrics “Would I ever lie to you?/of course I would, of course I would” found on the upbeat 50s inspired rock track “Needle Park” both of which prevent this album from having too narrow of a focus on the glum and regretful aspect of reminiscing about the past.
ζ   Last, worth noting is just how damn well made this album is; the production is subtle in its mastery. Each choice of instrumentation is vital and complex in its own right, but it never feels like too much. Each song is accompanied by the perfect mellow synth, technical yet understated drum beat, or crisply distorted guitar, giving this album much more depth than your typical solo acoustic folk experience. All the elements of the sound are so seamlessly integrated that they are easy to overlook until you come across the instrumental track “Wurlitzer” whose intricate drum work, and ambient melodies seem to be Staples’ way of pulling back the curtain to reveal the delicate cogs and gears that allow for his music to have the lasting impact it does.
American Soft feels instantly nostalgic, but it’s so rich even after seven or eight listens (I’ve lost count honestly) it still sounds refreshing and new. Look forward to being taken on a revealing and intimate walk through the ambiguities of the past when Barsuk Records releases Chris Staples’ American Soft on August 12th, 2014. :: http://kssunews.wordpress.com/
By Carey Hodges | August 12, 2014 | 2:10pm | Score: 8.0
ζ   Chris Staples’ songs are full of rich narratives and hushed hooks that confirm the old adage that less is more — especially when that less includes poetic lyrics about tornadoes and Pink Floyd.
ζ   As the former vocalist for Twothirtyeight and a veteran backing musician (Telekinesis and Father John Misty), Staples has had plenty of time to develop his soft style of Americana. The Pensacola, Florida, native has spent the past several years on the road, filling time between tours with various carpentry jobs. Odes to this rambling lifestyle are sprinkled throughout American Soft, the third full–length from Staples. Nods to smiling strangers and unfamiliar landscapes pepper tracks that are fleshed out by delicate strums and just the right amount of reverb.
ζ   American Soft’s best tracks exude an earnest quality that triggers all of the warm and fuzzies. The story behind the record’s creation is equally as heartfelt: Staples penned bits and pieces of the album while squatting in his abandoned childhood home, crafting tracks via a Coleman cot. This sincerity shines on the album opener, “Walking With a Stranger,” where Staples transforms even the darkest subject matter into something beautiful: “Death crept in so quiet it didn’t even make a sound/As far as I could see were dead leaves layin’ on the ground/Pretty soon I’d grow a cold and hollow feelin’ in my heart/Pretty soon me and my sunny day would have to part.”
ζ   Other songs, like the catchy “Hold Onto Something,” borrow from Andy Cabic of Vetiver’s ability to mine a subtle groove from a relatively repetitive track. The song’s swirling blend of acoustic strums and dusty percussion is accented with just the right amount of electronic accompaniment. The combination is unexpected, and takes the track from sleepy to striking. Later, the curiously titled “Dark Side of the Moon” is, thankfully, not a cover of Pink Floyd, but instead a dreamy interpretation of those who obsess about the classic album’s meaning.
ζ   It will be interesting to see if Staples continues to opt for the subdued in favor of the overproduced. But for now, his delicate approach is just right.
ζ   When John Rosenfeld, co–founder of Seattle’s Barsuk Records, heard Chris Staples’ forthcoming album American Soft, he knew his label needed to release it.
ζ   “The hooks are great — subtle and elegant — and his voice has a soft raspy ease to it that I could listen to all day,” Rosenfeld said about American Soft, Staples’ Barsuk debut. Staples honed his skills backing the likes of J. Tillman, (now better known as Father John Misty) and in the band Telekinesis. For American Soft, Staples traveled around the country, writing portions of the record in Washington and Florida. He even squatted in his childhood home in Pensacola, a space containing nothing but an old piano.
ζ   Staples pulls listeners in with ukulele–driven pop number “Black Tornado,” and comes right for you with the forceful “Needle Park.” Either way, you’re going to want to hear what he has to say. Fortaken: http://www.pastemagazine.com/                                                       ÷ © Staples, credit J Jimenez 2014
REVIEW
Written by Hal Horowitz | August 12th, 2014 at 10:25 am | Score: 3/5
ζ   It shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that singer/songwriter Chris Staples is a professional carpenter in addition to his musical career. The songs on his third solo release (he’s also a veteran of the bands Telekinesis and twothirtyeight) are constructed of simple parts that together build minor indie/pop gems. Like his more physical handiwork, these pieces are made to last and withstand changes in the artistic weather.
ζ   Staples’ airy, nonchalant everyman voice submerges into his music, perhaps a little too well. His presence is often so subtle, it takes repeated listenings to fully appreciate his impressionistic lyrics, especially as riffs like the one in “Where We Used to Be” hook into your brain. The tracks are built on supple, unfussy melodies, and acoustic guitar played with grace, simplicity and sure sense of pop that revels in his basic, homemade production. That occasionally makes these airy selections float away, calling out for a more determined recording approach. “Wurlitzer” dispenses with lyrics altogether for a sweet, relaxed instrumental that pads out the disc’s already abbreviated 32 minute playing time.
ζ   But when Staples hits on a laid back REM/ “Losing My Religion” groove as on “Black Tornado” with its handclaps and mandolin, he finds the perfect balance between pop and more introspective musings. Even though little jumps out on first spin, repeated playings reveal detailed, descriptive lyrics and Staples’ sometimes playful, always hummable folk/pop/rock.
ζ   There’s a professional carpenter’s sensibility and determination at work here; one of building things from basic elements by a craftsman who understands the importance of a secure structure and uses that to enhance his artistic discipline. :: http://www.americansongwriter.com/
Also:
AUGUST 6, 2014 BY FIRE NOTE STAFF; A charming and understated indie–pop/singer–songwriter album. Score: ***
:: http://thefirenote.com/2014/08/06/chris-staples-american-soft-album-review/
August 14, 2014 by Brian Shultz; Score: ***½
:: http://www.altpress.com/reviews/entry/chris_staples_american_soft                                                           © Chris Staples, Audiotree Live
Notes:
ζ   Twothirtyeight was an indie rock band from Pensacola, Florida. They disbanded in April 2003.
ζ   Formed in 1995, Twothirtyeight released three independently produced EP albums before signing with the now–defunct Takehold Records. In 1999, Twothirtyeight released their first full length album Missing You Dearly on Takehold Records. The band line–up featured Chris Staples, Kevin Woerner, Owen Grabo, and DJ Stone. The album was dedicated to Kevin Glass, the band's former bass guitarist, who died in a tragic car accident in 1997. Weeks before Glass was killed, he taught Owen Grabo the bass parts for most of the songs in the Twothirtyeight catalogue.
ζ   In 2000, with Owen Grabo having left the band, Twothirtyeight recorded their next EP, Matter Has a Breaking Point, as a 3–piece outfit with Chris Staples on bass guitar and lead vocals. With the addition of Jake Brown, former frontman of the band Driven, on bass guitar, Twothirtyeight wrote and recorded their second full–length album Regulate the Chemicals. Chris Carrabba, notable as the former lead vocalist of Further Seems Forever and principal artist of Dashboard Confessional, contributed backing vocals to two of the songs from Regulate the Chemicals, "This Town Will Eat You" and "Coin Laundry Loser." Following the album's release DJ Stone, who had played drums for the group since the beginning, left the group to focus on his family. Regulate the Chemicals was released on Takehold Records and followed by a summer of extensive touring. In January 2001, Jake Brown left the band.
ζ   In 2002, Takehold was acquired by Tooth & Nail Records, and the record label would re–release the band's second album, remastered with additional tracks added. You Should Be Living, the group's final and least "Christian"–sounding album, with songs like "Modern Day Prayer" telling of drunken nights, fighting, and losing their way.
ζ   In April 2003, Twothirtyeight disbanded on good terms; members choosing to pursue their individual dreams. Lead vocalist Chris Staples went on to front the indie rock band Discover America.
ζ   On April 17, 2012, Chris Staples announced via his official Facebook page that twothirtyeight would be reuniting to play the Deluna Festival in Pensacola, Florida, which will take place over September 21–23. The band fully reuinted on September 21 to play a show in Atlanta, Georgia, followed by an appearance at Deluna Fest on the 23rd, and a special late night show for Pensacola the same night as well.
BIO
ζ   There are no casual Chris Staples fans. The man inspires devotion. The turnaround from casual listener to evangelist is nearly instantaneous. Play his music during a road trip with friends and inevitably someone will ask, “Who is this?” And a lifelong fan is born. Such is the unaffected power of these songs, of this voice. Chris Staples fandom is rewarding and lasting (despite his understated approach to promoting his own work, which — as it should be with all artists — seems secondary to the effort he puts into the making of it). We follow where he leads, and our numbers are growing.
ζ   A phenomenally dexterous guitarist, Staples has spent much of his career so far as a backing musician for other artists. Over the years he’s played with J. Tillman, later known as Father John Misty, and toured the world as a member of Telekinesis. Never content for long, Staples also travels on his own, never settling, never staid. A seasoned carpenter, he sustains his journeyman lifestyle by working construction jobs wherever he finds himself living. In the spring of 2014, having recently decamped to the Northwest, Chris Staples happened to do some work on the home of Josh Rosenfeld, co–founder and head of Seattle’s renowned Barsuk Records.
ζ   One night, Rosenfeld sat down to dinner with Matthew Caws and Michael Benjamin Lerner, members of Nada Surf and Telekinesis respectively. Rosenfeld recalls, “I knew Chris from his days in Telekinesis and told Michael that he was installing a screen door at my house. He and Matthew both told me that I had to hear Chris’s new record, which, thankfully, I did.” The two songwriters raved about the album, and insisted that Barsuk had to release it. Rosenfeld — and the entire staff of the label — agreed heartily, and American Soft became Staples’ debut Barsuk release.  Continues Rosenfeld, “The hooks are great — subtle and elegant — and his voice has a soft raspy ease to it that I could listen to all day.”
ζ   American Soft is a bicoastal record, written partly in Washington State, the hardworking timberland home to grizzled locals and Midwestern expatriates, and also in Florida, the wild and weird American outland known as much for strange crime and cutting–edge nightclubs as for family theme parks and extravagant retirement communities. Staples wrote portions of American Soft while squatting in his abandoned childhood home, a Pensacola bungalow empty save for an old piano. “I slept on a Coleman cot for two months. The yard was overgrown up to my waist,” Staples remembers. “The neighbor lady across the street used to babysit me. I ran into her one day and she didn’t even recognize me. I hadn’t seen her in 15 years.”
ζ   American Soft’s musical ideas are at once diverse and cohesive, the lyrics both direct and lushly impressionistic. The sunny “Black Tornado,” built around a spritely ukulele strummed to a looped handclap–and–kickdrum beat, stands as the record’s poppiest track even as the foreboding cyclone shows up in the chorus. Upon first listen, the soft and sublime “Dark Side of the Moon” plays as a simple and strong declaration of a desire to love. On that level it works beautifully and completely satisfies. However, the title suggests something more, some deeper connection to the classic album with which it’s shared. Indeed, Staples’ gorgeous “Dark Side of the Moon” is more than the sweet, gentle love song it seems on first listen; it is a dream of a dream of a dream.
ζ   “The Pink Floyd album of the same name is pretty vague in its meaning,” Staples explains. “It's the second–best selling album of all time. There are message boards dedicated to interpretations of Dark Side of the Moon. I've read hundreds of interpretations of what this album means exactly. My song is based on someone’s idea of what that album is about. It's really a song about people who obsess about hidden messages or meanings. Maybe the album meant nothing and that's why it resonated with so many people. It was vague enough for people to construct these visions within the album Pink Floyd made.”
ζ   Staples’ songs are, in the tradition of the best songwriters, fantastically economical.  No moment is wasted, no idea indulged beyond necessity. Instrumental breaks occur but don’t linger, serving their purpose and slipping quickly back into verses. American Soft features only a single traditional bridge, on the straight–ahead almost–rocker “Needle Park,” which finishes with a short dual–guitar explosion, an explosion which ends suddenly, as suddenly as it began, a fleeting moment that leaves us wanting more, always more, in the best way.  Chris Staples has devoted the whole of his life to fostering that illusive magic, to passing it on, to giving and giving ‘til it’s all gone. Fortunately for us, he’s only just begun.
ζ   Barsuk Records will release Chris Staples' American Soft on August 12th, 2014.
ζ   Written by Andrew Karr
Website: http://www.chrisstaplesmusic.com/
MySpace: https://myspace.com/chrisstaplesmusic
Twitter: https://twitter.com/chrisrstaples
Tumblr: http://chrisstaplesmusic.tumblr.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chrisstaplesmusic
Press: Nathan@Riotactmedia.com
Agent: danrozenblum@theagencygroup.com
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Chris Staples — American Soft 

 

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