The new Bishop Allen record, Lights Out, is here at last. Here's what went into it: ten years, three full-lengths, twelve EPs, thousands of shows, a move out of Brooklyn, a new home in the wooly wilds of Kingston, NY, time off to score the films Bully and Mutual Friends, as well as an Anderson Cooper 360 special, months of demos, drum tracking in a sweat-lodge attic studio during a July heat wave, a wet Fall arranging guitars, bass, and synths in a now-chilly attic studio, the coldest December on record spent mixing, a close call with a frozen pipe and flooded hard drives, and a photo found on a friend's refrigerator.
Bishop Allen builds upon the extraordinary first years of their career with Grrr…, which Dead Oceans will release March 10, 2009. The band fronted by Justin Rice and Christian Rudder is best known for making and self-releasing an EP each month for an entire year, then reworking some of the best songs for a highly acclaimed label debut (The Broken String). The rigorous EP project, and the extensive touring that has followed it, have allowed Bishop Allen to hone their craft: writing, performing and recording music. The resulting album, Grrr..., reveals that after five years of comparisons to other artists—Jonathan Richman, The Kinks, Bright Eyes, Spoon, etc., in rave reviews from Rolling Stone, SPIN, Entertainment Weekly and many others—Bishop Allen has developed an artistry and sound that are unmistakably their own. One thing that distinguishes Bishop Allen’s music is the quality of the writing. Rice’s literate lyrics, which The Los Angeles Times has praised for their “poetic insight,” have a universality that has made them resonant to listeners of all ages and earned them champions ranging from the young comic actor Michael Cera to the National Public Radio host Scott Simon. Each of the 13 tracks comprising Grrr…is a succinct composition, and yet the album also coheres seamlessly as a cycle of song. The melody and/or rhythm of one track is often contiguous with the next. As always, Rice and Rudder are responsible not only for the writing, but the lion’s share of the playing and the recording: the guitars, pianos, marimbas, ukeleles and vocals.
2006 was a big year for Bishop Allen - The band recorded and self-released an EP every month of the year. Fifty-eight songs later, they completed one of the most ambitious recording projects in recent memory. Their 2003 debut, Charm School, was a hooky indie-pop gem, but Bishop Allen's EP material proves far more sophisticated and addictive. With the EPs, Bishop Allen's pop smarts sound timeless, escaping the indie-pop idiom and revealing a language informed by the Kinks, Dylan, and the Zombies. While it was in motion, the EP-a-month project was the toast of the blogosphere, but it wasn't just an online phenomenon; it garnered the band attention everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to NPR's Song of the Day. This adulation all happened without the benefit of a record label or publicist. Bishop Allen was truly DIY, recording and releasing their own records and booking their own tours. In early 2007 the band struck a partnership with Dead Oceans and the first fruit of this relationship is Bishop Allen's sophomore album, The Broken String. If Bishop Allen made a huge musical jump from the 2003 debut to the 2006 EPs, the band made a quantum leap on The Broken String. If Ed Sullivan were alive today, Bishop Allen's story-songs would be ripe for prime time. The Broken String is not just a great record by Bishop Allen standards. It is poised to be the pop soundtrack to the summer of 2007.