Manic Productions Presents
Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band, The Low Anthem
300 York St.
New Haven, CT, 06511
This event is all ages
Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band
The Beast In Its Tracks, the new album from renowned singer-songwriter Josh Ritter, was released on March 5 on Pytheas Recordings. Of the record, Ritter says, "In the year after my marriage ended, I realized that I had more new songs than I'd ever had at one time. Far from the grand, sweeping feel of the songs on So Runs the World Away, these new songs felt like rocks in the shoe, hard little nuggets of whatever they were, be it spite, remorse, or happiness."
Recorded during 2011-2012 at the Great North Sound Society in Parsonsfield, Maine, The Beast In Its Tracks continues Ritter's longtime collaboration with producer and keyboard player Sam Kassirer. As Josh describes, "I hadn't composed this stuff, I'd scrawled it down, just trying to keep ahead of the heartbreak. They needed to be recorded like that. We needed to work fast, make decisions quickly, keep the songs as spare as they could be kept, and above all never allow ourselves to blunt the sharp edges. Some of the songs were mean or evil. So be it."
The new album follows Ritter's 2010 release, So Runs The World Away, of which Bob Boilen from NPR Music declared, "I've come to expect good records from him...but this one took my breath away," while the Boston Globe praised, "quite sensational…marks the finest music he has made."
In 2011, Ritter made his debut as a published author with his New York Times Best-selling novel, Bright's Passage (Dial Press/Random House). Of the work, Stephen King writes in The New York Times Book Review, "Shines with a compressed lyricism that recalls Ray Bradbury in his prime . . . This is the work of a gifted novelist."
The Low Anthem
The Universe may or may not have had a Pre-Universe. Stars eventually formed and turned on. Planets and moons followed. Everything in motion, constantly changing, as in a dance of the fireflies. At some point, Ben Knox Miller and Jeff Prystowsky were born to the human family, grew up to love music, and as atomic randomness dictates, found each other turning two on the baseball diamond. They started a band in 2006 called The Low Anthem, and over ten years of making music together, have developed a distinctive sound, and grown a beautiful friendship.
Sounds and silences co-exist. Sounds of nature, extrahuman, fill the silences on the ballfield. What sounds can guitars and basses make into this great creative void? Thus began the journey of acoustics, friendship, song, and their meanings. Providence, RI was the meeting place. They found an apartment together on East St., bought a microphone, and got to work. What came out they called What The Crow Brings. It was their first record.
“I remember hanging a microphone outside a third floor window, and the cable dangling over a clothesline on the second floor,” mused Jeff. “We got the take, though,” said Ben.
That winter, while many Rhode Islanders sought shelter on the mainland, Ben and Jeff assembled a small crew of friends and sailed to Block Island to make another album. What came out they called Oh My God, Charlie Darwin. It was their second. “I always wanted to record the sound of crackling fire, and finally had my chance” said Jeff. “You never know what thorns to the rose may grow,” said Ben.
You can’t really predict the future, or know the past. Somehow, the second record struck a chord. There seemingly wasn’t a land on Earth that the band didn’t stop in to play those songs to people who wanted to hear them. But the band grew restless. “I wanted to record again,” tells Jeff. “How many times can you count the moon with stick markers on the inside of a minivan?” said Ben. The band returned home to find a large abandoned pasta sauce factory in a complex of mill buildings in Central Falls, RI, took up residence, and got to work. What came out they called Smart Flesh. It was their third. “Damn cold in there,” said Jeff. “But luckily we had a band’s dream: a pizza sponsorship, a baffleball court, and a built in workout facility--one could bike from the control room to the couch.” “The mood was clear, late stage capitalism decay,” said Ben. NyTimes sent a reporter to the factory for a story.
Does a tour van in a vacuum..? The band found a new home in Providence, in an old vaudeville era opera house called the Columbus Theatre.
“What goes up must come down, and what goes out must start within,” said Jeff. The band set out to build a recording studio and make a new album with a different sound. It was an ambitious task, and one that took more time than they thought. “We fell in love with the place. And love, blind as mics are deaf, bent our perception of time,” said Ben. What came out they called Eyeland, and named the studio in its honor. The old venue soon reopened its closed doors, with the help of the band, and NyTimes again sent a reporter to cover the story. When the studio doors opened, many friends came to record there and enjoy its beauty. "It's beautiful," said Florence. "Ditto," said Bryan.
You Won’t is the musical duo of Josh Arnoudse and Raky Sastri, who first met in 1999 as unlikely fencing partners in a high school production of the Broadway flop “My Favorite Year.” Some 17 years later, they are still collaborating closely but no longer assaulting each other with pointy metal rods. Since the release of their full-length debut “Skeptic Goodbye” in 2012, You Won’t has toured across North America, garnering praise from the likes of SPIN, NPR, KEXP, and The New York Times for their raggedly infectious and charmingly idiosyncratic sound. Their dynamic and enthusiastically unorthodox live performances have earned them supports slots with The Lumineers, The Joy Formidable, Josh Ritter, Lucius, and Deer Tick, and an appearance on NBC’s Last Call with Carson Daly. Their mixed feelings about social media have earned them scorn and derision. “Revolutionaries”, the band’s second LP, is at its heart a reflection on the crumbling of youthful idealism in the face of the compromises and moral ambiguities of adulthood. The title pays tribute both to the duo’s childhood home of Lexington, Massachusetts (site of the first battle of the American Revolution) and to the enduring, quixotic sense of shared purpose that has fueled their creative partnership for more than a decade and a half. Prior to forming You Won’t in early 2011, Arnoudse and Sastri had already been making theater, films, and music together for nearly a dozen years, enduring countless false starts, disappointments, and disillusionments along the way but never wavering in their support for each other and their collaborative vision. Their platonic marriage as a two-man rock’n’roll band proved the biggest challenge yet to this sacred artistic mission, and not coincidentally “Revolutionaries” is rife with references to shaken beliefs, shifting loyalties, and wounded pride. Self-produced by the band at home over a period of two and a half years, “Revolutionaries” is the product of a long, often Sisyphean recording process and approximately 10,000 hours spent banging foreheads against walls. The album’s raw, driving, cacophonous aesthetic is more expansive and sonically adventurous than that of its predecessor, the natural outgrowth of the four-legged noise circus You Won’t has been bringing to dive bars and rock clubs across the US for the past few years. At its musical core is the merging of Arnoudse’s evocative lyrics, lilting melodies and punk-infused guitar with Sastri’s nimble, jazz-inflected percussion and seemingly endless supply of obscure instrumentation (whirly tubes, electronic bagpipes, and singing saw are all employed here). Over 15 intertwining tracks, “Revolutionaries” tells a story of wrong turns, curveballs, and injured buttocks, interspersed with the occasional moment of unexpected clarity. Taken as a whole, the album is a thoughtful and frequently witty meditation on what we choose to believe, who we choose to believe in, and how these choices shape our lives. Most importantly, it represents the latest and most public salvo in a revolution that the members of You Won’t have privately been leading, in some form or another, for the past 17 years.