New Audio: Calvin Johnson Returns with a Meditative Bit of Bubblegum Pop

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written quite a bit about Calvin Johnson, an  Olympia, WA-born and-based guitarist, singer/songwriter, producer and DJ best known as a founding member of Cool Rays, Beat Happening, The Go Team and The Halo Benders, all of which prominently feature his sonorous baritone. He’s also the founder and owner of renowned indie label K Records — and he was one of the major organizers of the International Pop Underground Convention.

Now, as you may recall, Johnson’s forthcoming A Wonderful Beast is slated for an October 12, 2018 release through his own K Records, and the album, which was recorded at  Audio Eagle Studios in Nashville, TN finds Johnson collaborating with the The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, who cowrote and produced the album and Michelle Branch, who contributes backing vocals on three songs.  Johnson can trace the origins of his collaboration with Carney back to 2005, when the Olympia, WA-based singer/songwriter guitarist, producer and DJ was on a Stateside tour to support his sophomore solo album Before the Dream Faded — and Carney and Johnson met during that tour. As the story goes, the two kept in touch over the years, with Carney suggesting that they should collaborate; but based on their schedules they were only able to work with each other recently. Branch, a solo artist of note is best known for being a member of The Wreckers, and as it turns out that she lives next door to Audio Eagle Studios. Intrigued by the sounds she heard from the shack that houses the studio, she walked over to see for herself what was going on, and she wound up on the album.

Kiss Me Sweetly,” A Wonderful Beast‘s first single was centered around a 60s bubblegum pop-like arrangement featuring a propulsive rhythm section consisting of a thumping, almost boom-bap-like backbeat, a funky bass line and blasts of swirling, kaleidoscopic guitar playing — but by far, the star of the song is the harmonizing between Johnson’s rich, sonorous baritone and Branch’s ethereal soprano, which further emphasizes the song’s swooning nature.  The album’s second single was the Tom Vek meets bubblegum pop-like “Like You Do,” a track that features jagged blasts of guitar, soaring synths and a dance floor friendly hook — but unlike its predecessor, the album’s latest single possesses a mischievous irony at its core, as it features a self-obsessed, self-absorbed narrator, who only sees his own greatness. Interestingly, the album’s latest single “(I’ve Still Got) Sand In My Shoes”  continues in a similar vein as its predecessors, as its a bubblegum pop-inspired yet meditative arrangement, featuring an angular and propulsive rhythm section and blasts of swirling guitar and synth lines, centered by Johnson’s sonorous baritone and Branch’s ethereal vocals harmonizing to give the song a breezily coquettish yet wistful air. It’s the sound of another summer ending, of cooler weather coming and the impending end of yet another year.

Johnson is about to embark on a tour to support his forthcoming album, and it includes two NYC area dates — October 17, 2018 at The Glove and October 18, 2018 at Trans Pecos. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.

Tour Dates:

Sept 26th – The Bartlett – Spokane, WA
Sept 27th – The Roxy – Missoula, MT
Sept 29th – Ojata Records – Grand Forks, ND
Sept 30th – Moon Palace Books – Minneapolis, MN
Oct 1st – The Draw – Appleton, WI
Oct 2nd – Communication – Madison, WI (w/ Control, Tippy)
Oct 3rd – Beanhive – Galesburg, IL (w/ Tooms)
Oct 4th – MO FOAM – St Louis, MO
Oct 5th – See You CD and Vinyl – Urbana, IL
Oct 6th – The Observatory – Chicago, IL (w/ HUJO)
Oct 7th – Tube Factory Artspace – Indianapolis, IN
Oct 8th – Trinosophes – Detroit, MI (w/ Cause for Concern)
Oct 9th – Counter Culture – Saginaw, MI (w/ Cause for Concern, COMPS)
Oct 10th – Ace of Cups – Columbus, OH
Oct 11th – Hive Mind Collective – Akron, OH (w/ Shells)
Oct 12th – Sugar City – Buffalo, NY
Oct 13th – NY Saratoga Arts Center – Saratoga Springs, NY
Oct 14th – Flywheel Arts Collective – Easthampton, MA (w/ Perennial)
Oct 15th – Dorchester Arts Project – Dorchester, MA (w/ Perennial)
Oct 16th – Front Room Space Ballroom – Hamden, CT (w/ Perennial)
Oct 17th – The Glove – Brooklyn, NY
Oct 18th – Trans-Pecos – Queens, NY
Oct 20th – Brick + Mortar Gallery – Easton, PA
Oct 21st – Win Win Coffee Bar – Philadelphia, PA
Oct 22nd – Sign of the Wagon – York, PA
Oct 23rd – Comet Ping Pong – Washington, DC
Oct 24th – Gallery5 Arts – Richmond, VA
Oct 25th – On Pop of the World Studios – Greenboro, NC
Oct 26th – Espresso News – Boone, NC (w/ Endangered, Modern Apologies)
Oct 27th – The Pilot Light – Knoxville, TN
Oct 28th – Flying Monkey Theatre – Huntsville, AL
Oct 29th – Fond Object – Nashville, TN
Oct 30th – Hal & Mal’s – Jackson, MS
Oct 31st – Cite des Arts – Lafayette, LA (w/ Speech Fuzz, Hartle Road, Bruisey Peets)
Nov 1st – New Roxy Theater – Clarksdale, MS (w/ Hartle Road)
Nov 2nd – Amurica – Memphis TN (w/ Hartle Road)
Nov 3rd – Mid-South DIY Festival, Backspace – Fayetteville, AR
Nov 4th – Replay Lounge – Lawrence, KS
Nov 6th – Kilby Court – Salt Lake City, UT
Nov 7th – Java Downtown – Boise, ID
Nov 8th – Michelle’s Event Center – Richland, WA (PETS)
Nov 9th – Beacon Sound – Portland, OR
Nov 10th – The Wandering Goat – Eugene, OR
Nov 11th – The Sou’wester Lounge – Seaview, WA