Patrick Phelan’s third full-length recording is called Cost. To Phelan, it is an understatement. For him, every opportunity explored is another opportunity forgone. More so than on previous Phelan records, Cost places an emphasis on the guttural. His voice and words take center stage. He is much less guarded on Cost than on previous records. There is no lack of desperation in these new songs, yet a hopeful tone is maintained throughout. Balance is the key. Emotion is the lock. And simplicity is the door. Like a finely-tuned architect, Phelan places all of his songs in their proper space, not letting them get crowded with unnecessary words or sounds. He also steers Cost from tipping too far in the “minimalist” direction, thanks in part to a bevy of guitar solos and to the abundance of true rock moments that occur throughout the record. It has been four years since Phelan’s second full-length record Parlor came out (released on Jagjaguwar, as was his debut Songs of…). And during this sabbatical from the frontlines of musical performance, Phelan has devoted his time to the pursuits of cooking — spending time in Italy recently doing just that — and studying local and global human rights. If one’s life energies are zero sum, these recent personal endeavors of Phelan have come at the cost of promoting and performing his recordings. The good news for his fans: the release of Cost coincides with the shift of Phelan’s focus back to both recorded and live music, confirmed by his recent formation of a new live band. Bryan Hoffa, who the record is dedicated to, returns as engineer and co-producer. The record was recorded in several stages, creating an interesting challenge for Phelan who often had to work with “one takes” as the foundation of his pieces. A celebrated cast of players provided support and, bringing their influences to the table, made things a lot easier for Phelan. Greta Brinkman, former bass player for Moby, and Ian Whelan provided splendid bass arrangements. Justin Bailey’s electric guitar arrangements are placed beautifully along-side Phelan’s finger-picked acoustic guitar. And Camper Van Beethoven’s Jonathan Segel offers a haunting violin on two tracks. Phelan’s music — acclaimed critically for its elegant simplicity and earnestness of expression — flourishes on this latest release, building on both old and new influences and contributions.
According to one writer, Patrick Phelan "plays at the fringes of desperation instead of delving head-first into melancholy." It seems that whereas elegant simplicity has become Phelan's most obvious calling card in all of his compositions, whether it is his solo work, his work as part of South or his contributions to friends Drunk or Spokane, what really sets him apart as a songwriter above songwriters is his sense of equilibrium. Balance is the key -- compositionally, lyrically and sonically. His work is neither indulgent nor haphazard. Perhaps it is even more accurate to describe Phelan not as a "singer-songwriter" but as an architect of sound and mood. The foundation of all of his designs seems to be the steady repetition of themes and the recurring states of emotion that are peppered diligently throughout all of his music.PARLOR, Patrick Phelan's second full-length recording, is different from SONGS OF PATRICK PHELAN -- the minimal, intimate debut released in 2000 -- in that much of what was written was done in the studio, a far more "collaborative" theater for Phelan. Also important to note is that much of this record was written on a piano; for Phelan, this time around, there is much less of a reliance on the guitar. Joining him both on stage when he performs live and in the studio are journeyman musicians Paul Watson (with previous contributions to Sparklehorse, Michael Hurley, House of Freaks and FSK), Jim Thomson (Bio Ritmo and Gwar) and Phil Murphy. Released on June 18, 2001.
(they say you never forget)so get on your bike and just ride /amateur cyclist / you have nothing to hideSONGS OF PATRICK PHELAN has a large emotional scope. The music on the record uses such instruments as the cornet and lapslide to create a broad tonal range, including, but not limited to, uptempo Brazilian beats, slower and more resonant country sounds, and the lonesome warmth of church-like organs. The words that Phelan emotes are short and to the point. But these are, for sure, sharply aimed songs about love, the loss of love, failure and transition. Phelan gets, and keeps in his head, what most songwriters forget (as they become more "serious"). That it is against the paler background of simplicity that truth is most discernible.This is the solo debut of Patrick Phelan, a principal member of South who are makers of, as one writer elegantly put it, "ambient music for people who pay attention." A Richmond native for the last six years, Phelan has found time to enter the studio and record personal music. Bryan Hoffa, a frequent Jagjaguwar collaborator, engineered and mixed the record with Phelan at The Sound of Music Annex in Richmond. Also appearing on the record are Drunk members J.T. Yost (on piano) and Via Nuon (on violin), as well as Paul Watson (on cornet) and Phil Murphy (on lapslide). The record was mastered with Brent Lambert at The Kitchen, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.Released on April 17, 2000.