About Ted Leo
Ted Leo is one of the finest songwriters of our generation, even if it’s not entirely clear what generation that is. Starting in New York Hardcore with Citizen’s Arrest, making the ‘90s safe for power-pop and Weller-esque hair with Chisel, then singing our turbulent lives like we were smarter than we were with The Pharmacists, and most recently providing equal parts sweetness and solace with Aimee Mann as The Both, Ted never let us down. And now, seven years after The Brutalist Bricks, he has a new solo album. And it’s wonderful.
The songs on The Hanged Man, recorded at a home-studio-in-transition in Wakefield, RI, with Ted playing almost all the instruments, are some of the finest and most finely wrought of Ted Leo’s career. Ted describes the time working on the album as one of “personal desolation that felt fallow but was actually very fertile” and, indeed, lyrically, The Hanged Man is suffused with hope of sorts but crushingly heavy. The concerns addressed, whether personal trauma or the national disaster we’re all currently existing in, matched with the range and vitality of the songcraft is inspiring, even uplifting.
The Hanged Man offers the sharp bursts of skinny tie pop-punk fury one would expect from Ted—and even these feel streamlined like never before—but they are offset with an adventurousness in both tone and structure. The intention was to upend expectations but, on songs like the bookends of “Moon Out of Phase” and “Let’s Stay On The Moon,” the intention never gets in the way of the result. There’s no strain of effort in songs that are unlike anything Ted has done previously. The Hanged Man is a career high, born through industry soul sickness, nausea-inducing crisis, and a talent that feels like secular grace.
About Elk City
ELK CITY ‘Undertow’
Out 9/22 on Magic Door Record Label
It sure is tempting to join a cult. To drop whatever it is we do over and over and just plain start
over, with a fresh sense of community and identity and a new way to love and live and be in this
world a whole other way. Cult-life can’t be any crazier than how we’re doing it now, in this
backwards, modern world in which we find ourselves. So… it could be time to X out of this
celestial Zoom, peel off the athleisure wear and slap on a space tunic that says, ‘Hey, I’ve found
something else, and this is my new family now and they can give me inner peace and Heaven
on Earth in exchange for letting go of everything I thought I was and society expects me to be.’
Let’s do it.
This is the pull of Elk City’s seventh Album, Undertow. Like their previous LP, Above the Water,
Undertow is inspired by the band’s love of documentaries such as The Source Family and Wild,
Wild Country, films that explore the allure of cults and extreme alternative lifestyles. From the
opening title track, Undertow sucks you into a different kind of record. Peculiar pop constructs
built of rare materials, found only in the wilds behind Ray Ketchem’s Magic Door Recording
Studio in Montclair, NJ. This is where Elk City’s founding members, Renée LoBue and Ray
Ketchem, along with Luna’s Sean Eden, Richard Baluyut from Versus and Chris Robertson
(Feed, Punch Havana) have meticulously built this record and this band a whole other way.
Songs often begin with improvised live-jams that become load-bearing beams for layers and
layers of instrumentation and harmonies. It’s a process that both asks questions and answers
them. What is a pop song? (Whatever we say it is) How many guitars are too many? (none)
Should we add strings here? (Yes! No! Strings and what else?) Elk City’s live shows also push
boundaries of what a band should be, adding and subtracting, sometimes pulling James Baluyut
(Versus) into the vortex, sometimes playing acoustic, never afraid of what ifs and what is rock,
Even after seven albums, Elk City are still deliberately hard to define, still seekers, unafraid to
shed this life and lead the listener on a journey to new sounds and feelings. And as long as they
remain curious, they will report back what they have found, with albums like Undertow, packed
with siren songs to lure you in and fill you with a devout ecstasy, body and soul. You came here
looking for something. And now you know.
Welcome to Elk City.
Feel the pull. Feel the branches touch who I am.
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