I like spooky music. Not necessarily scary music--though I have a small corner of my heart that’s draped in black set aside for Ministry as well--but music that is a bit unsettling. There are certain tones and vocal inflections that for one reason or another leave me at ill-ease. And I like it. I made an entire mixtape of 70s Creepout songs that were probably never intended to scare anyone when they were written.
Steve Gunn makes some spooky music and he’s one of my favorite artists of late. He has a good sense of melody and a great ear for guitar tones. Did he maybe spend some nights as a child falling asleep under a pile of coats while his parents partied in another room? My guess is yes.
I maintain a playlist called Golden that pulls together a bunch of songs that give me fall shivers and nostalgic heartstring tugs. There’s loads of Beck’s Sea Change, Kurt Vile’s Walking on a Pretty Day, Steve Gunn’s Sundowner, Elliott Smith, Damien Jurado, Lord Huron, and now…Chris Staples.
Staples’ new album, Golden Age, shares more in common with those songs and that feeling than its title. There’s a type of sadness, without being maudlin. And maybe that’s to be expected. After a rough patch where Staples was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes that resulted in pancreas failure, a bike accident that required surgery, and the dissolution of a long-term relationship, Chris Staples is afforded some sad bastard time.
But that’s what’s great about this record: it’s not sad bastard music. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE me some of that. But Staples’ album maintains a bit of pop bounce with lovely melodies and simple production. It’s been described as a “subtle” record, which I guess is as good anything I would come up to describe the production. Because subtlety implies hidden complexity, and this record has that in spades.
Give a listen to lead off track “Relatively Permanent” and tell me you aren’t ready to sit down with Chris, have a beer, and talk about where you grew up.