Rising New York-based post-punk act Bootblacks — Panther Almqvist (vocals), Alli Gorman (guitar), Barrett Hiatt (synths) and Larry Gorman (drums) — derive their name from novelist William Burroughs’ description of the dark underbelly of New York. Unsurprisingly, the band’s surroundings have deeply influenced their work both sonically and thematically. “It’s an energetic city and people have all the reasons in the world not to give you the time of day,” the band’s Panther Almqvist says in press notes. “I think our music has been shaped by that in many ways.”
In 2012, the New York-based post-punk released their Jim Sclavunos-produced debut EP Narrowed. 2016 saw the release of their full-length debut Veins, which they supported with extensive touring. Interestingly, 2017’s sophomore effort Fragments found the band expanding their sound with the material becoming more synth-based, more atmospheric and much bigger than its immediate predecessors. And as a result, Fragments received quite a bit of attention, which helped the band earn slots on a number of post-punk/New Wave/goth festivals including Cold Waves, Terminus, Absolution, Wave Gotik Treffen and A Murder of Crows — and the album landed on a lot of year-end lists.
The members of Bootblacks have played at every significant venue in the New York Metropolitan area, sharing stages with Clan of Xymox, Light Asylum, HEALTH and VOWWS. Along the way, they’ve managed to tour across North America and Europe. Of course, like countless acts across the world, the members of the rising New York-based post-punk act had plans — and hopes — for a big 2020, pre COVID-19 pandemic quarantines and lockdowns: they were handpicked to open for Modern English during their North American tour this year. Unfortunately, that tour has been postponed. But in the meantime, the band’s highly anticipated Jason Corbett-produced third album Thin Skies will be released through Artoffact Records and the album reportedly finds the band zooming forward where Fragments left off — with its nine songs meshing dance floor pulse and melodic, brooding post-punk with anthemic hooks. The album’s material also features backing vocals from ACTORS‘ Shannon Hemmett, SRSQ‘s and Them Are Us Too‘s Kennedy Ashyln.
Thin Skies continues the band’s long-held thematic concerns: the loneliness of city life. “Most of the lyrics on the album are about loneliness,” says Almqvist. “Looking back on the lyric writing process there seems to be some connective feeling of isolation and distance present in all of the songs… I’m always hoping that a listener personalizes the song, that’s why the songs never have a narrative but try to embody a feeling.”
Earlier this month, I wrote about Thin Skies‘ first single “Traveling Light,” a brooding yet dance floor friendly track with reverb-drenched guitars that recall The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree-era U2, shimmering synth arpeggios and relentless motorik groove that made the track evoke sweaty nights on the dance floor and coming across someone who captures your attention and dreams. The album’s second and latest single, “The Jealous Star” continues in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor — but centered around jittery percussion, atmospheric synths and motorik pulse, meant to evoke the anxious and unsettled yearning of a confused, vagabond heart.
“I was fascinated with this tradition of the wanderer’s poem, like ‘Ozymandias,'” Bootblacks’ Panther Almqvist says in press notes. “I wanted to contribute my own version to this theme, the eternal traveler, the rolling stone. In the last couple of years I experienced that dichotomy, alone on the road, anxious at home. So ‘The Jealous Star’ is about the disorientation of travel. How it forces you to live outside of yourself and makes you appreciate the places and people you leave.”