Release Date: Nov 15, 2011
Record label: Western Vinyl Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
With the bullet points of his songwriting résumé featuring collaborations alongside artists such as Marissa Nadler, Lower Dens and Twin Shadow’s George Lewis Jr. , as well as work under his own former band Tulsa, it makes sense that Boston-based singer-songwriter Carter Tanton has finally gotten around to produce a record that he could put out under his own name. Featuring Nadler on guest vocals for the track “Fake Pretend,” and an honor-worthy cover of Sparklehorse’s “Saturday,” the resulting full-length, entitled Freeclouds, channels a seesawing mix of Americana and psychedelic electronics.
“I need just a little time to sing you a line you won’t soon forget,” Carter Tanton sings on opener “Murderous Joy”. And you won’t soon be able to forget Freeclouds. Content to embrace his role as a frontman, Freeclouds delves into myriad sounds, each track’s ideals differing from the next. While Tanton has crafted an extensive history of past collaborations, including work with album guest Marissa Nadler and his time with the Lower Dens, Freeclouds is a lasting effort all his own.
Carter Tanton has quietly built an impressive resume over the past few years. Though this is his second proper solo record (He released the solid Birds & Rain in 2005), Tanton has found plenty of success. His band Tulsa released the EP I Was Submerged to critical acclaim, and Tanton has played a big role in Marissa Nadler’s recently released eponymous record; plus he’s a member of another great band in Lower Dens.
Carter Tanton's shift back from group work in Tulsa to his own work for the release of Freeclouds seems to be fully front-loaded in the sound of the album as much as any particular moniker. The cryptic touches of a lush, flecks-of-classic-4AD background in Tulsa's earlier work transforms here into a crisper, more self-consciously live feeling with the opening "Murderous Joy," acoustic guitars and a break with a classic feeling of glam rock descend to it all backing Tanton's yearning singing. But the immediately following "Fake Pretend," a collaboration with Marissa Nadler, takes a turn toward shimmering electronic/shoegaze feedback and beats, showing that Freeclouds has a little more up its sleeve than either a clear break from Tanton's past or a simple extension of it.
Freeclouds shows Carter Tanton exploring his sound on his debut solo album, but the varied approaches don’t stem from indecisiveness so much as from a wealth of ideas. Since his previous band Tulsa broke up, he’s worked as a songwriter and guitarist (most notably with Marissa Nadler, who shows up on a track here) and he’s joined Jana Hunter’s band Lower Dens. Now with his own release, he blasts out the sounds as if they’ve been held back for a few years.
The work of Carter Tanton is relatively unknown outside of tight-knit indie circles, but there's already evidence to suggest he's going to be a lifer. In 2007 he released a record of bullish roots rock with Tulsa titled I Was Submerged, only for that band to disintegrate before their potential was fully realized. Tanton has subsequently worked with Marissa Nadler and Baltimore art punks Lower Dens, establishing himself as a guitarist with both bands.
Baltimore singer/songwriter Carter Tanton may have initially been discouraged when his former band Tulsa’s follow-up to 2007’s I Was Submerged (Park The Van) wasn’t released because of legal and label struggles—after all, he had spent two years writing and recording it. But Tanton toured as the guitarist for Boston folk artist Marissa Nadler after the band split, and his experience working on Nadler’s record with her inspired his latest release, Freeclouds (Western Vinyl). And yes, the album title and some tracks on the record reference Bowie’s “Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud,” seemingly continuing where Tulsa left off while also putting a new spin on the kinds of melodic and emotional atmospheres that made Bowie such an icon.