April 19, 2012
by Variance Staff Writer
Racing Heart play indie folk, but try instead to imagine the earnest yearnings of American golden era pop music, the earthiness of the English folk revival and the searching spirit of contemporary Scandinavian indie rock. The ten songs off their new album, To Walk Beside that Ghost (which releases today on Movemounatins), set out to accomplish something, finding themselves somewhere in the soundscapes that many of today’s Brooklyn-based bands are busy exploring, with lush vocal harmonies that lead your thoughts (and your ears) to the 1960’s and 70’s.
To Walk Beside that Ghost was written and recorded by Racing Heart in Brooklyn, with members from St. Vincent and Sufjan Stevens’ bands joining them in the studio. Centred on the soft acoustics of voice, finger-picked guitar, autoharp, upright bass and drums, but embellished and expanded upon by both analogue synthesizers, a string quartet and brass trio (the stated goal always being that each sound must serve the song and not just act as decoration) this album carries with it inspiration from many different musical decades.
Mostly recorded on what is rumored to be Eddie Van Halen’s old 16-track analog tape machine (adding perhaps the ghosts of blistering guitar solos past to the mix as well), simplicity and sense of purpose was key when recording To Walk Beside that Ghost. The music was committed to tape by living, breathing musicians playing as a group in the same room, or huddled around a single microphone when singing background vocals.
Written after songwriter and prime mover in Racing Heart, Mathias Tjønn relocated to New York from Oslo, Norway (with stops in Rome, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Boston,) the songs they recorded together are informed by both the struggles and the stolen moments of joy that come from relocating to this equal parts mythical and maddening city, caught in the midst of an economic downturn and the grey-weather days that followed.
Variance reviewed the new album in the April issue, calling it "a soundtrack to life, a tribute to good vocal harmonies, and a blast from the past.” Spin said: “Mathias Tjønn's distant muse feels just as irrevocably lost as Justin Vernon's, though the elaborate wash of harmonies more closely recalls Grizzly Bear, Local Natives, or even Maps & Atlases.”
The album, To Walk Beside that Ghost, is now available and the music video for the track, "Emma," premieres today below.