The Posies Solid States
classy and understandably sober... their status as much cherished melody makers seems perfectly secureMOJO
sweetly melancholic... awash with harmony, heart and melodyUNCUT
it's a cold-hearted guitar-pop fan who'd deny just how strong a collection of songs it isIRISH TIMES
a welcome return to form... some of The Posies hookiest tunes in yearsSHINDIG!
Rock ‘n’ roll has rarely been as smart, soulful or satisfying than it has in the hands of The Posies. During an on/off career that’s stretched across four decades, the Seattle-rooted outfit, led by musical polymaths Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow, have shaped and re-shaped their muse, creating one of the more compelling catalogues in modern pop.
From the very beginning, the band sired a succession of classic LPs – including the now seminal "Dear 23" and "Frosting on the Beater"– that served as joyous rejoinders to a generation mired in grunge. And yet, for much of their history, the band has been playing a game of genre tag semantics, dodging facile and limiting descriptions like “power pop” and “retro pop” — terms which initially greeted their 1988 debut, "Failure".
“We started out as teenagers, twenty-some-odd years ago, and we made this lovely, very innocent kind of record that existed in stark contrast to the prevailing winds that were blowing in Seattle at the time,”notes Stringfellow. “Ever since then, people tend to think of us as this very sunny vintage-sounding band. But we really haven’t been that way for a long time.”
“There are so many influences and styles woven into what we do and we’ve never made the same record twice, not even close to it,”adds Auer.
Following a professional and personal split between Auer and Stringfellow at the end of the ‘90s, the second act of The Posies’ career began with 2005’s triumphant reunion effort, "Every Kind of Light". The group’s first studio album in nearly a decade was a musically plangent and lyrically politicised album — informed heavily by the foibles of the Bush Administration and the Iraq War – that reintroduced The Posies to the world in grand fashion.
The band released an acclaimed album "Blood/Candy" in 2010, recorded in Spain in a furious ten day session.
In the ensuing years, the band members pursued various projects on their own.
In many ways The Posies’ current state mirrors the perfect economy of Big Star, the cult Memphis pop band that Auer and Stringfellow helped revive and drive for 17 years, before the tragic passing of frontman Alex Chilton. “With Alex, when we did Big Star things, I’d see him maybe twice a year, and that didn’t seem to matter,”says Stringfellow. “It always seemed to be perfect timing, every time. And I feel like it’s that way with The Posies now as well.”
Ultimately, the magic of The Posies lies in the special chemistry between Auer and Stringfellow. Like any great partnership, it’s one that’s had its ups and downs, stops and starts, over the years. But those experiences have simply served to strengthen the bonds between them.
“Starting the band as kids, we developed our whole social world around each other and this group. And to erase all that at one point and to come back to it was quite healthy,” says Stringfellow. “I’ve learned a lot about relationships in general in that my friendship with Jon has been so unbreakable.”
“At the core of our relationship is a long history, a history that can’t be erased, something that belongs only to the two of us,” says Auer. “It’s what makes our collaboration unique.”
“One thing I’ve observed: it doesn’t feel like we’ve been together as long as we have,” notes Auer. “And, some days, it even feels like we’re just getting started. I think that’s a very good sign.”
With SOLID STATES, their 8th album, the Posies marks dramatic changes in the lives, the music, the evolution of the band.
The title is a contradiction that reflects life: we see life as an unbroken thread of continuity; but it's really a swirling mass of fragments… moments appear to be solid, but they vanish. Change is constant, and we spend energy trying to hold on to a particular way of being or an experience, even when we know it's futile.
When the Posies long time drummer, Darius, died suddenly and unexpectedly last year, Posies founding members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow were devastated. Hard as it was to continue without such a close friend and great musician, the moment called for a reinvention. For now… the idea of the band getting into a room and banging out the music, garage band style, was over. The ideas coming from Jon and Ken were fragile and the moods contemplative. Death, divorce, loss. Even the joys of life are fleeting enough as to be treated with care and respect.
Jon and Ken, each active producers in their own right, created this music in their respective home studios, by sending tracks to each other, adding drums later in the process on top of electronic soundscapes. Ken certainly is more of a keyboardist these days, and in fact on the album it's rare that a song is carried by a strumming guitar and Jon is found here playing more synths and keyboards than ever before. The guitar is used more as a lead instrument or effect. The drums were added in sessions in L.A. with Frankie Siragusa, and in Kansas with Kliph Scurlock. Kliph was the drummer in the Flaming Lips for years, and shares a love of the band Big Star with Jon & Ken. Frankie is yet another producer, having mixed Ken's last solo album "Danzig in the Moonlight"; his first instrument was the drums. Frankie also mixed several of the songs on SOLID STATES and will be joining the band for the tours.
The album was mixed by Tony Hoffer (Midlake, M83, Air, Beck, Belle & Sebastian etc), Willie Linton (who mixed a favorite song of Ken's, "God's Whisper" by Raury), Keith Armstrong and Frankie.
The album opens with "WE R POWER" ... a resistance anthem ... in fact, much of the album comments on the corruption and abuse of power that oppresses us all while bearing a smiley emoticon on its face. "WE R POWER " is a kind of 60’s organ flavoured electropunk; we feel the Posies coming at us from a different perspective than ever before.
"UNLIKELY PLACES" and "ROLLERCOASTER ZEN", both whose lyrics were written after the passing of Darius, explore the uncharted personal depths and unknown quantities of dealing with such profound bereavement.
Download album track Squirrel vs Snake:
"SQUIRREL vs. SNAKE" is a state of the 'disunion' in the USA and beyond... the disharmony, the threats to intellectual freedom, and the cynicism and lies we take for granted now in the age of doublespeak.
The last song "RADIANCE" closes SOLID STATES on a note of hypnotic uplift, a psychedelic indie spiritual of sorts, bursting with driving rhythms and a mélange of instruments, voices, and noises not found on any Posies release previous.
Of course, the Posies still retain their legendary melodic abilities, their trademark vocal harmonies and their lyrical agility. The band has always been exploring, growing. The multiyear gaps between albums are typically spent in countless other projects that bring new skills, sounds, experiences and people to the picture. The band will present the album live in a new format, incorporating laptop elements along with guitars, keyboards and drums. As artists, the band feels it's their duty to take risks and explore.
Solid States will be released on heavyweight vinyl LP, CD and digital on British indie Lojinx on the 29th April 2016 in Europe and on 6th May in Australia and New Zealand. A pre-release tour edition, with bonus download tracks, will be available exclusively at live shows in Europe throughout April.