For its latest audio compilation, Esopus invited 13 musical acts to create new songs inspired by close-call moments from their lives. The CD will appear in Esopus 23, the latest edition of the award-winning nonprofit annual arts publication that includes a themed musical compilation in every issue. Esopus 23 will be on newsstands in early May.
Not surprisingly, a number of the CD’s contributors zeroed in on life-or-death situations. Alternative hip-hop artist YC the Cynic’s “6 Million” concerns itself with more than one tension-filled experience he’s had with police officers: “It’s a story all too familiar to black and brown people in America,” he reports. “When every encounter has the potential to escalate easily, it always feels like a close call.” Anthony LaMarca was shocked to discover last summer while on tour with The War on Drugs that he had developed a rare form of cancer; he’s confident the early detection will allow him to put it into “deep remission,” and his wistful song, “In the Morning,” movingly conveys the challenges—physical and emotional—he’s dealing with as he undergoes treatment. Youthful (i.e., poor) judgment calls inspired two songs: the atmospheric “In July,” in which Gabriel Birnbaum recounts a harrowing experience he had as a teenager on an abandoned (or so he thought) railroad bridge over the Charles River in Boston, and Colin Gilmore’s “What Are Friends For?”, inspired by his falling in with the wrong crowd in high school, which he claims led to “too many close calls to count.”
Grant Widmer’s “Dream of a Mother Bear” is a rumination on the catastrophic consequences he feels our country would have suffered had it elected “a deranged hockey mom” to the vice presidency in 2008. In the short-and-sweet “Stay,” Stephen Becker of Trees Take Ease references a dog walk from several years ago gone awry. Kristin Andreassen delved into her family history for “Heaven’s Elevator,” in which she tells the story of her great-grandparents moving to Oregon from Norway with a religious colony whose pastor announced one day he’d determined the exact date of the end of the world. The Kickstand Band’s track “Lose Yer Chance” explores another matter concerning the soul, namely the decision of bandmates Gordon Smith and Allison Young to pursue their music despite the advice of friends and family to embrace “respectable” careers.
Quite a few of the songs on the compilation focus on the vagaries of love. Darren Solomon’s “Hudson River School” is a lament about a one-that-got-away moment from his past, while tracks by Lemolo, Dollshot, and The Big Bright all concern themselves with narrow escapes from an unhealthy relationship.
The CD’s opening song, Jo Lawry’s “So Close,” recorded by the singer-songwriter one night in her hotel room while on a recent tour with Sting, offers a particularly resonant, and exceedingly clever, example of a difficult relationship she very nearly abandoned but committed to in the end. Like all of the superbly crafted tracks on this compilation, the brush with fate it describes feels both personal and universal.
Earlier Esopus themed compilations have featured music inspired by Craigslist “Missed Connections” listings (#2), subscribers’ imaginary friends (#4), black-and-white films (#12), television shows (#15), and bodily organs (#22). Past contributors include Jens Lekman, Stephin Merritt, Neko Case and Carl Newman, Sam Amidon, Cloud Nothings, The Mountain Goats, Kimya Dawson, Will Sheff, Frightened Rabbit, Doveman, The Fiery Furnaces, Grizzly Bear, Busdriver, Atlas Sound, Lee Ranaldo, Low, Wye Oak, The Ruby Suns, Owen Pallett, Dirty Projectors, Andrew Bird, Vetiver, and more than 200 other artists working in all genres of music.
For more information about Esopus, visit www.esopus.org (where audio clips from all of our past CDs are available) or contact editor Tod Lippy at email@example.com or (212) 473-0919.