new music mondays: richmond fontaine;
I’m lying on the floor, listening to records, the cool of the hard wood against my spine and the sound reverbrating through my huge, cushioned headphones. As I listen, I daydream: of deserts and telephone wires, wind and space and open-top cars, diners and sad-looking casinos shot on kodachrome film. I wish, not for the first time, that I could find some way to do this full-time and still make rent.
I suspect that, if ever a band existed to be listened to on vinyl, it would be Richmond Fontaine. The timeless feel and the warmth of the format fits frontman Willy Vlautin’s songwriting style perfectly, and breathes life into his unlikely cast of characters. A talented novellist in his own right, Vlautin’s songs are more short stories than barroom anthems.
We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River, the band’s forthcoming eighth album, unfolds like a sleepy road and is perhaps even less immediate than previous releases. Dreamy interludes, a snatched breath of watch out, or your heart will be nothing but scars sound from far away, like through a broken transistor radio, between warm vignettes and snapshots into the lives of Vlautin’s unlikely characters. It’s an ongoing theme of his: dreamers trapped in desperate, ordinary lives, creating their own universes and escaping into books, liquor or the collected works of Paul Newman. The couple in the album’s title – and opening – track seem almost childlike as they sneak into an abandoned house and broken swimming pool if it wasn’t for the fact that they had a car.
These are the tales of the desperate, the lonely, who sneak in the tiny details of the bar-room storyteller. She said she wasn’t used to drinking, but I could tell she was, a desperate party to an unfortunate affair tries to excuse himself in “The Boyfriends”, pleading I ain’t like that! “43″ is a dark, dirty song about the death throes of an abusive relationship, and the protagonist of “The Pull” retreats from the world suddenly – leaves his girlfriend, stops talking and creates a new life for himself between the gym and a mattress on a dirty floor.
There are bright moments in here too: “You Can Move Back Here” is the ideal choice for a lead single, and “Maybe We Were Both Born Blue” is almost defiant. And in “Ruby and Lou” we find Post to Wire‘s broken hearts reborn. The whole world might be cursed, she says, but it’s hard to believe when we’re together.
“A Letter To The Patron Saint of Nurses” concludes the album and, despite the musical backdrop, it’s no more a song than the short story that accompanies the single release. Haunting and simple, Vlautin’s voice stays with you long after the record fades out.
We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River is out on 17th August. Single “You Can Move Back Here” on screen-printed 7″, limited to 500 copies, is released today.