PRE-ORDER* FALSE SPRING
Catalog #: AHE-23
Release Date: May 29, 2020
*This is a pre-order. Physical album delivery is delayed until August because of Covid-19 delays at the printing and pressing plants. Apologies to all who are waiting patiently.
2. Mad Season
3. Come Morning
4. False Spring
5. Magnetic North
6. Last Fair Deal
8. By Starlight
9. Man Beside You
12. Black Dirt Drift
13. Seaside Downtime
14. Leave The City
15. Amnesia Moon
16. Free To Go
False Spring, Zachary Cale's sixth full-length album, explores the spaces between the cold we left behind and the uncertainty ahead, between that fleeting, green warmth and its lack. "Shine a light on the path so I can see," Cale sings on the album opener, "Shine," making a plea for hope and happiness rather than merely claiming it, starting the search for whatever possibility may exist. And the album explores so many possible paths in ever-shifting textures. On "Come Morning," Cale admits "I'm just sitting on a fence, two fingers out to test the wind" while on others songs -- the disorienting anxiety of "Mad Season"; the bittersweet travel of "By Starlight"; the mix of hope and regret that comes from staying afloat on "Slide" -- False Spring vacillates between facing down the troubling now, reckoning with and paying tribute to then, and sifting through the dark to find the faintest match-head of light for tomorrow.
Cale's poetic lyrics etches out all these themes in complex layers and careful melodies, but the band he assembled for False Spring drives home the sense of openness and possibility in these songs. Cale is accompanied here by Brent Cordero on piano, Wurlitzer and organ, James Preston on bass, and Charles Burst and Jason Labbe on drums. Cale brought the songs to the studio and enlisted the players to flesh them out. He didn't write parts for the musicians; they figured out their own way through these tunes. The record is the sound of the band finding itself, capturing these songs live in all their subtle, ragged glory. The album's 16 songs run just over an hour, but the expansive record is, at every turn, an intimate affair, the listener invited in as these players find connections between this part and that, between one song and another, between melody and feeling.
Stylistically, the band never hems itself in, expanding its sound and morphing it over the album's extended playing time. Early tracks set up shop within lean, dusty folk rock, but things change from there. There are touches of cosmic Americana and country and some Petty-esque tight yet gauzy rompers. Several tracks are instrumentals, acknowledging roots and stretching exercises for Cale and the band. The sweet, solo guitar of the title track, for instance, uncovers some of the early country-blues sounds humming under these tunes, while "Magnetic North" whips up a full-band blues stomper. These instrumentals, and the album as a whole, explore tangents and push at borders, but while they add variety they also -- on a more fundamental level -- suggest cohesion at the heart of the album's wide-open sound and aesthetic.
False Spring is Cale's first album in five years, since the gauzy and atmospheric gem, Duskland. The album was received well, a tour followed but within the year Cale refocused his energy on writing new material. In 2016 he went on a solo tour opening for Dan Bejar of Destroyer in smaller cities across America. More recently he's been playing in a spattering of other bands and supporting other musical projects.
And all that time, he's kept one foot in the studio, recording lots of material, several albums worth. And all of this on top of a full-time job. In short, like so many independent musicians, Zachary Cale has been working.
This new album, though, isn't the sound of work at all. It's the sound of setting thought aside to feel the music. This doesn't set out to make a product; this album explores a process. And, as a result, these dusty, bittersweet tunes stretch out, they breathe. They live in all the in-between spaces Cale evokes so beautifully in his lyrics. The fleeting spring can leave, the new growth may get marred by frost, but the warmth of these songs -- in all their hope and worry and anxiety and open possibility -- will stay with you long after the final note ripples out of the speaker.
Cover illustration by Ryan Williams. Cover Layout by Ryan Johnson.