“This song is something of a damaged pop single. It uses builds and a recurring chorus that is intentionally catchy (that’s not always a focus in my writing). That being said the recurring chorus is a literal cry for help. The song uses imagery from a horrific plane crash that I read about and was greatly disturbed by in my childhood as a metaphor for ongoing familial tragedy. The song is about being confined to a scenario that has stripped you of all your options – let’s maybe leave it at that.”Astral Swans’ Strange Prison is due out May 18th from Canada’s Saved By Vinyl, Japan’s Moorworks, and Netherlands label Tiny Room Records. Produced by (and featuring) Preoccupations’ Scott Munrowith Arts & Crafts artist Dan Mangan and including guest musicians such as Destroyer’s Dan Gaucher, this sonically exploratory and emotionally resonant collection of songs focuses on the nuances of human existence. Full details can be found below.
Astral Swans’ 2015 debut album, All My Favourite Singers Are Willie Nelson, released by Arts & Craftsaffiliate label Madic Records, was described by NOISEY as “a stark, beautiful project; one that embraces darkness rather than shying away from it.” On their sophomore album, Strange Prison, songwriterMatthew Swann continues this philosophical searching with both morbid humour and compassionate character studies.
After two years of extensive touring throughout North America, performing at house shows and on festivals stages with Hayden, Feist, Angel Olsen, Colin Stetson, and Chad VanGaalen (producer of Swann’s previous project Extra Happy Ghost!!!), he approached Preoccupations’ Scott Munroand Arts & Crafts artist Dan Mangan with a new collection of songs. Packed with swooning strings, shimmering keys, and spectral theremin, with guests such as Dan Gaucher (Destroyer, Sandro Perri),Dillon Whitfield (Reuben and The Dark), Rena Kozak (Child Actress), and electronic artist Tigerwing, each song stands alone as a musical world within universal themes of darkness and light.
Lyrically, Strange Prison recalls ’90s lo-fi indie-rockers Bill Callahan and Cat Power, the fragile intimacy of ’60s folk singers Sibylle Baier and Nick Drake, and the inner world-building of Syd Barrett and Daniel Johnston. Swann credits the album’s expressionistic sound painting with an unexpected inspiration fromSly Stone’s early ’70s drug-fueled recordings (There’s a Riot Going On, Fresh, etc.), which he calls “masterpieces of weird production where nothing is used properly.”
“These songs are character studies in the complexity of being human,” Swann explains. “Despite dealing with hard themes of pain, alienation, and our limitations, the end objective is finding beauty to transcend the shittiness of the world. My music is personal, but it’s based on a fundamental belief that humans have more in common than not.”
Moorworks, and Tiny Room Records. It is now available to pre-order here.