After nearly two-and-a-half years of writing, recording, and mixing, I’m thrilled to announce Geography, the debut album by City States. Mixed by John McEntire of Tortoise / Sea & Cake, its 10 tracks will be available on mp3 and on vinyl LP later this spring.
This recording is personal in every sense imaginable: for starters, it’s a first for me, as I’ve never made a full-length record before. It’s also very much an assertion of my individual creative sensibilities, as I did a vast majority of demoing, arranging, recording, and graphic design (however I should make very clear that I had two fantastic collaborators: drummer Mike Burmeister, and keyboardist / producer Steve Lund, who, over the course of several writing sessions, delicately steered me away from a variety of bad choices I otherwise might have made).
The lyrical content may be the strongest indicator of why this album means so much to me: my father died unexpectedly about halfway though the composition of the record, and as a result the album is both an account of and an engine for my coming to terms with the significance of this event.
In that regard, the first song I’ve chosen to release from the album—”To Remember”—is especially meaningful. While many of the songs on the record deal with notions of death, grief, and loss, this track is specifically about the relationship I had with him. It was also written somewhat unintentionally on the one-year anniversary of his passing.
Download "To Remember"
To be clear: when I sat down that day I did so with the intent of penning something else. Roughly eleven and-a-half months earlier, I gave a eulogy at my dad’s memorial which I recited by memory but did not write down. A close friend of my father’s was not able to be at the service, so I promised him I’d send him the piece when I finally had a hard copy to share. Days and weeks passed, until finally the anniversary of my dad’s death prompted me to make good on my commitment. (As an aside: the exact time and place was at the Sunday of 2013’s Pitchfork Music Fest; I was helping my girlfriend behind a booth at the craft fair there. Yo La Tengo's set loomed in the background as I wrote.)
It became clear about halfway through my reproduction of the eulogy that its contents were a perfect inspiration for a song, which, up until that point, only had a title and a refrain. The first verse, in particular, speaks of the Fender Jaguar my father bought in the early 1960s when he was fourteen, which he subsequently gave to me when I was a teenager:
The copper wound
The classic sound
The maple neck and tortoise shell
The simple gift of notes that always are mine
Music is one of the greatest gifts of my life, and in many ways I have my father to thank. I wish he were here to listen to this album—I'm fairly certain that he would have loved it.
Stay tuned for additional announcements regarding the LP; in the meantime, be sure to download the debut single. And send me a note if you're so inclined—I'd love to know what you think! Thank you for reading.
Joel / City States