Night Beds, the musical project of 26-year-old Colorado Springs native Winston Yellen, received much acclaim for his 2013 debut album, Country Sleep, scoring plaudits for its tortured take on alt country and Yellen's soaring vocals. But after finishing that album and before Country Sleep was even released, Yellen began experimenting with the kind of melancholic, neon-tinged R&B that makes up the mesmerising Ivywild.
The thread that weaves through all of Yellen's music and holds it together is his unmistakable voice - plaintive, yearning, soulful, heartbreaking. Whether it's ascending over the luscious epic-electronics of "Tide Teeth" or aching alone on Country Sleep's opener "Faithful Heights", Yellen's voice has a unique beauty matched by few of his contemporaries.
The second Night Beds album draws on Yellen's original love of Bill Evans through to J Dilla and is made up of what Yellen calls "sad sex jams" and was inspired by a long-term love and a break-up which looms large throughout the albums veiled lyrics. Its genesis can be found in the stoned night in Nashville when Yellen first heard Yeezus. Lying on the floor, Yellen blared the album at top volume.
Ivywild is a truly collaborative effort with a makeshift team of 25 musicians, notably Abe, Yellen's younger brother and closest friend - his credit on the album comes above Winston's own, so much value does he place upon the work Abe put in. Additional vocals come from Heather Hibbard, a singer from Maine who features on over half of the 16 track album, and was contacted by the gregarious Yellen through YouTube, after he found a video of her covering one of his songs. She came out to the studio the very next day.
Finessing the poignant assortment of songs was a sometimes painful task, but dedicated to the core. "I felt at some points we were losing our minds," he says. Initial versions of "Me Liquor and God" band "On High:" were 17 and 33 minutes respectively while "Finished" took four months to record. His editing process though was simple: "If it makes you cry, keep it in." Field recordings also flood the record, offering it a deep textural grain. "It is a luxury record, but it has a worn shirt feel," explains Yellen. "It's lived in. It's like a quilt - but it took forever, cutting up all the vocals and letting it breathe."
Welcome to the sound of Winston Yellen and Night Beds, who in one stunning ten-track debut album Country Sleep, have shown that there is plenty of life left in the world of American music if you have the voice, the songs and the gift to touch hearts and souls. Think of a space between Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon), Gram Parsons and the dreamier side of My Morning Jacket; a heavenly place of pure country soul, touched by an endearing innocence and honesty that can only come from someone still in their early twenties. From Colorado Springs, and now a resident of Nashville where he first moved to study, Yellen’s road to Country Sleep has been anything but the straightest and easiest. In 2006, he formed Night Beds and self-released three rudimentary EPs between 2008 and 2011. Taking out a loan, Yellen rented an out-of-town, pre-civil war home in the woods that was previously owned by the late Johnny Cash and June Carter (and still maintained by the couple’s friends). Inspired by the serendipity of the discovery, he started working on Country Sleep, both in his country retreat and back in civilisation at Nashville’s Brown Owl studio.
Country Sleep begins with just a voice, a high and tender lament, for 71 precious seconds; a spirit to be reckoned with. Next up, a full band kicks up some dust behind a deliciously bittersweet melody. After that, more beautiful crooning unfolds over a violin/guitar backdrop that keeps building until the pace momentarily quickens to the sound of handclaps before a sudden, heart-aching fade. The album concludes with “TENN”, as in Tennessee, written the next day after the night before, hungover and lost. Yellen admits the songs were often born out of, “destructive circumstances, and many varied attempts to sedate myself.”
Indeed, anyone listening to Country Sleep – whose title harks back to the ‘night bed’ in the back of his car – will also find the record a cathartic experience.
The creative voice of Night Beds, Winston Yellen, hails from Nashville by way of Colorado Springs. The 23 year-old songwriter boasts a new, great American voice with a specific brand of intimate thirst that few musicians possess.
On "Even If We Try," Yellen makes a stunning first step and displays his strength of sparseness. The a-side slowly builds in force from a wistful lullaby to an unexpectedly buoyant climax. The song centers around the singer's desire to sever his past life and start anew. It's that awkward and often terrifying feeling of distancing oneself from demons while realizing that they're fundamental elements in gaining the confidence to move forward. "Even If We Try" was recorded in a self-built studio in the former home of Johnny Cash located in Hendersonville, TN. The song was formed on his drives to and from Nashville and Hendersonville.
The b-side "You Were Afraid" was the first song a then 18 year-old Winston Yellen wrote with Night Beds in mind. The song recounts the gut wrenching realization of an imminent end to a relationship and the bittersweetness that can come with it. "Even If We Try" b/w "You Were Afraid" is Night Beds debut 7" for Dead Oceans and will be released on September 18th, 2012.