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.