Saturday, December 19, 2009

End of decade madness

The Best Album of the '00s

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Our new record

To our constituents,

This is just to say that on March 9th of 2010, Extra Large Recordings will be releasing our second full-length album, which we have been referring to as The Monitor.

Here is the album cover, just one element of the gorgeous artwork associated with this record by leading typographist, author, and Double Dagger vocalist Nolen Strals.


[Yr probably going to want to click on it, since I don't know how to make it small enough to fit on the screen. Oops!]

The image which is our record cover is a photograph taken in 1862 of the crew of the USS Monitor, which was an ironclad battleship employed by the Union Navy during the American Civil War. Learn more about this amazing ship and its Confederate counterpart, the CSS Virginia (nee Merrimac), here.

Believe it or not, the lettering of the album's title on that there cover is actually taken from a letter written by none other than out 16th president, Abraham Lincoln! Wow! Cool, right?

The reason we have opted to release this record on March 9th is simply this - March 9th, 1862, was the day on which the Monitor and the Virginia did battle off the coast of Hampton Roads, Virginia, and laid waste to how we thought about naval warfare (though not to each other). Releasing this record is our way of celebrating the 148th anniversary of this historic event.

The various component sounds which make up this album were recorded during the month of August at Marcata Recording in scenic New Paltz, NY. We also took some fields trips to Boston and Baltimore, and some "field recordings" of sorts were done around Jersey and NYC, but it was primarily a New Paltz affair. Here is a picture of the barn that we lived in for that month.


All these summertime shenanigans occurred under the watchful eye of producer and engineer Kevin McMahon (who oversaw our first album, as well as Pussy Cats by the Walkmen, Son of the Tiger by the Big Sleep, and Promises Promises by Die! Die! Die! among others). The usual suspects from the world of Titus Andronicus were all in attendance, as well as an all-star cast of luminous friends (members of Ponytail, Wye Oak, Hallelujah the Hills, Spider Bags, Vivian Girls, Hold Steady, etc.) and a generous assortment of colorful New Paltz locals. The aforementioned Kevin McMahon also did the mixing during September and October, and Greg Calbi did the mastering (so chosen because he is the only person alive who can claim involvement in both The Chemistry of Common Life by Fucked Up and Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell by Meat Loaf) in early November.

So what does all this sound like? It has long passages of ambient drones, blazing saxophone, pianos homages to "A Charlie Brown Christmas," complete marching drumlines,Thunder Tube solos, fourteen-minute Billy Bragg knock-offs, backwards liturgical pieces, bombastic country duets, garbage cans hit with tambourines, choirs of angels with bromantic faces, probably too many spoken word interludes lifted from cassette tapes, and, of course, the hissy-fit punk songs, miserable, self-obsessed naval-gazing and off-key warbling we have come to expect from Titus Andronicus. With any luck, people won't talk about this record in the context of the media-concocted "lo-fi" movement, since we went crazy (and broke) trying to perfect the sound of "hi-fi punk."

The tracklisting is as follows, even though my roommate pointed out to me earlier that the perfunctory inclusion of track listings in announcements like these is kind of silly - "Here are the names of the songs you can listen to in a few months!" Either way, that seems to be the custom.

1. A More Perfect Union
2. Titus Andronicus Forever
3. No Future Part Three: Escape from No Future
4. Richard II or Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
5. A Pot In Which To Piss
6. Four Score and Seven
7. Theme from "Cheers"
8. To Old Friends and New
9. ...And Ever
10. The Battle of Hampton Roads

That sixth song, "Four Score and Seven," is streaming even as we speak on our MySpace. Elsewhere on the internet you may find two mp3s bearing this same name, one containing the first half of the song and the other containing the second. That is so because we have a seven inch coming out on February 9th, 2010 (that being Abraham Lincoln's 201st birthday, and 201 being the area code of Glen Rock, NJ, where we are from), which will divide the song in this fashion, sort of in the tradition of "Little Johnny Jewel" by Television or "What'd I Say" by Ray Charles. The good people at Extra Large Recordings felt this was also a good way to present our current vision to you kids. Fair enough! You might find those mp3s on some other website, maybe one that reports on indie rock or something, but the version which will appear on our album can be heard on our MySpace. Hopefully, it will give you a pretty good idea of what we're going for.

So, as you may have guessed,The Monitor is more or less a "concept album" – that is to say, it uses the American Civil War of 1861-1865 as an extended metaphor for the concerns addressed in a somewhat linear narrative. In said narrative, our hero leaves his humble birthplace of New Jersey - the oppressive and stifling qualities of which were discussed ad nauseam about one album ago – for the greener pastures of Boston, Massachusetts. His thesis – "the enemy is everywhere" – is put to the ultimate test as he pontificates on the topics of regional identity, emotional anesthetization, and the heavy yoke of trying to live decently in indecent times. All the while, he is forced to wonder whether said American Civil War was truly won or lost, or even completed. Will he find the supportive environment and like-minded compatriots he dreams of? Or will he be forced to leave his newly adopted home in ideological disgrace? What does it mean to be an American in 2009 anyway? Who are our so-called "friends" and how actually friendly are they? Is it necessary, or even a good idea, for an indie rock album to ask these sorts of questions? The Dark Knight, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and The Taming of the Shrew also fit in there somewhere.

Well, all this is still quite a few months away, so perhaps I am saying too much. We will talk more soon about the tour to support this album, the user's guide, the making-of documentary, and all the other wild, potentially ill-advised mischief we are looking to get into. For now, please enjoy our new song. Tally ho!

Yr friend,