Perhaps best known for his stint with long-time collaborator David Bazan in Pedro the Lion, TW Walsh emerged as a highly regarded singer/songwriter with the 2011 release of Songs of Pain and Leisure. And as Walsh explained in press notes, after the release of every album he’s worked on, he’s often thought about packing it in and doing something else — and with Songs he had felt as though he may have completed something.
At the beginning of 2013, Walsh came down with a mysterious and debilitating illness and over the next 18 months, the singer/songwriter struggled to function. “I didn’t have the energy to be creative . . . I could barely function at all. The only diagnosis I ever received was chronic fatigue syndrome. but I’m still not convinced that was correct. I’ll probably never know what was wrong with me. I’m still not nearly 100%. Eventually, I started to feel better, but then I fell off my bike and broke my elbow. This made it impossible to play guitar or drums for several months” Walsh adds in press notes.
Walsh eventually started to feel healthy enough to start messing around with song ideas. He recorded several demos but nothing sounded quite right to him — he wanted the arrangements to be weirder and more varied and didn’t know how exactly to do it. As the story goes, Walsh contacted Yuuki Matthews, known for his work with The Shins, David Bazan, Crystal Skulls and Teardrops in early 2014 to collaborate together. “This approach clicked” Walsh said “so over the course of exactly one year, we finished the ten songs that make up Fruitless Research. In a few cases, Yuuki reworked the songs from the ground up — keeping only the vocal and some drum elements, and building a new chord progression around the melody. In other cases, he added overdubs and did some creative editing. But in every instance, his vision pushed the song over the edge into something exciting . . . something that I wouldn’t have done on my own. His mixes also blew me away. They’re pretty unconventional at times in their saturation and character. It kind of sounds like a tape from the 80’s you left in the car too long.”
Walsh adds, “Lyrically, this record documents a time of upheaval, discovery and change for me. I turned 40 right in the middle of it. I’ve been working through a lot of existential stuff. At some point, you gotta take a hard look at reality. Try to figure out what your life means.”
“Young Rebels,” the first single off Fruitless Research consists of twisting and turning synth chords, buzzing guitar, throbbing bass and thundering drums paired with an incredibly anthemic hook, and in some way it makes the song sound as though it were recorded in 1983 — think of The Fixx‘s “Red Skies” — but on old, warped analog tape that’s sat around in a dusty room.