*The Following Press Release Was Issued By Clandestine PR*
RIYL: Chris Cohen, Dear Nora, Luke Temple, Sam Amidon, Grizzly Bear, Elliott Smith, Avey Tare, Sufjan Stevens, Porches, The Microphones, Wilco
Stephen Becker (Chris Weiss)
“both expansive in scope and intimate in execution, bringing a celestial psych sheen to its glassy folk beauty.” –Under The Radar
Stephen Becker—the Brooklyn, NY multi-instrumentalist who plays with Katie Von Schleicher, Vagabond, Market, Johanna Samuels, Strawberry Runners, Youbet — shared “Company” a third and final second single from his debut full-length A Calm That Shifts (out now), which was produced with lifelong friend Adam Hirsch (Luke Temple, Boyscouts, Rose Droll, Meerna, Madeline Kenney, Sam Amidon).
“Company” arrives alongside a Dan Goedeker-animated video, which premiered via Under The Radar magazine. On the track, Stephen Becker shared the following statement: “‘Company’ is about late 20’s social anxiety, self isolation, the rabbit hole that is getting immersed in your self and your art. It’s a strange game – toeing that line between productive solo time and breezy social time, being part of a community. The truth is that both are productive, but it’s easy to get confused in this results-oriented content-hungry world. Productive is the wrong word, maybe I mean helpful or important. I wrote ‘Company’ on a whim, the evening before one of our last tracking days in the studio. It actually almost got cut from the record. I’m glad it didn’t.”
WATCH: Stephen Becker, “Company”
It’s easy to become absorbed by the raw musicianship on display throughout A Calm That Shifts, Brooklyn singer-songwriter Stephen Becker’s debut full-length LP. Its psychedelic pop songs lean into hairpin turns in song structure, style and emotional affect. Becker’s proficiency as a musician is breathtaking — he plays almost every instrument on the record — evidencing a formidable jazz pedigree and an appreciation for the technical prowess of progressive 2000s indie-rock units like Dirty Projectors, St. Vincent and Grizzly Bear. It’s difficult to resist playing each of these tracks back to latch onto a musical throughline only caught after it was almost over: a bit of sinuous guitar and synth counterpoint, a pivot between a fractured groove and rhythmic malfunction, or a gorgeous Brian Wilson-reminiscent chord modulation.
But though Becker loves to push his own musicianship to its limit and revel in the element of surprise, he is most interested in smoothing over peaks and valleys — in “making complexity sound intuitive and digestible,” as he puts it. His vocals are muted and conversational, unifying these songs effortlessly. Sometimes, he lapses into whispered, half-sketched narratives that recall heroes like Sibylle Baier and Elliott Smith; elsewhere, he spins sticky and enigmatic phrases out into cathartic mantras, channeling Thom Yorke or Björk’s high drama.
Recorded over the course of three years with his childhood friend and producer Adam Hirsch, the record touches on, among so much else, the breakdown of communication between family members, the NYC-specific illusion of a better life lived upstate, a documentary about Elvis’ later years and Werner Herzog’s essays on film theory. But perhaps its central preoccupation — most clearly explored on “Unspoken”—were childhood memories of being told to speak up by teachers and other adults and how the concept of quietness factors into the way he lives his life as a near-thirty-year-old.
There is a subtle affinity between Becker’s musical language and libretto on A Calm That Shifts that make the record feel like more than the sum of its parts and a disarmingly earnest statement. The push and pull between extroversion and reticence in the music evokes Becker’s working model for a life well-lived: the attempt to preserve inner peace and represent one’s self honestly while fending off the myriad factors in the modern world which threaten to disrupt that balance.
A Calm That Shifts is out now via NNA Tapes and is available to preorder here.
3. “Disappearing Hand”
5. “Living Proof”
7. “All in All”
9. “Secondary Player”
12. “Home Isn’t Home”