Exclusive: Listen: Woodpigeon - Thumbtacks And Glue
We've got the first stream of the new Woodpigeon album, with exclusive track by track.
Photo: Paolo Calamita
Despite having filled the last couple of years with multiple EPs, it's been a while since we've had the joy of a new full length from Mark Andrew Hamilton, aka Woodpigeon. But fear ye not, for that's all about to be rectified with the release of his fifth album, 'Thumbtacks And Glue', which is due for release on the 25th January. If you can't wait that long, DIY is proud to have the UK premiere of the record, which you can stream in full below. But first, Mark's written us a track by track guide to his new album. So without any further ado...
Posted 19th February 2013, 3:00pm
The Saddest Music In The World
Woodpigeon, as a project, has always been built around a collective of friends giving full body to the bedroom songs I started recording on a mini-disc recorder late at night so no-one upstairs in my family home would hear. On one of our first tours, we found ourselves opening for Calexico in the UK and Ireland, including a rather untypical Glasgow-Dublin-Edinburgh trio of shows. While waiting for the ferry to Dublin, too young and excited to be exhausted, I pulled out the guitar and the song came nearly fully formed within an hour or so of messing about with it. Unless the shapes are easy to figure out, I never quite know what I’m playing, so I asked one of the classically trained keyboard players along for the ride the chords and happily discovered the first use of a 13th on a Woodpigeon song. Despite the title, I think it’s a happy song – kind of a testament as to why we make music together, for each other. Even if no-one hears these songs, I’m still going to sing them for you. It goes to all of the great musicians I’ve met in my life who as of yet are still undiscovered as they should be, and a bit of thanks for the listeners that I’ve got.
Red Rover, Red Rover
The rest of Thumbtacks was mostly written while I spent a week with some friends in Regina, Saskatchewan, a small city with a great feeling in the Canadian prairies. I went for the lack of distraction, and to collaborate with some players in the group Library Voices. I wanted to write in the same way I’d written Treasury Library Canada – to sit down and put together a sort of narrative and started thinking about things like schoolyard games (this song is the most specific in that – “Red Rover, Red Rover, we call Sammy over,” etc) and the giant in Gulliver’s Travels held down by the thousands of ropes of the little people. The way in which life is made up of thousands of little distractions and those can be just as effective at holding you back and paralyzing you vs. singular bigger tragedies. The song’s about breaking through, winning the game, but realizing there’s always another round. It’s my attempt at sounding like Motown, ladies voices instead of an orchestra. Detroit on a budget.
As Read In The Pine Bluff Commercial
As a child I was a collector of old American comic strips. I wrote letters to the writers of books on the history of comics and the offspring of deceased newspaper comic artists. I asked my parents to build a room in our house where we would put nothing in which was manufactured after the 1950s – a bit of a time capsule. I’d stay up late in the summer listening to radio plays like Orson Welles’ The Shadow and old game shows re-run on Canadian public radio. The Pine Bluff Commercial was a newspaper from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and the daughter of the artist responsible for Dick Tracy sent me a full-page colour comic strip which took up the entire front page under the newspaper’s Masthead. Up until moving from Canada to Austria 18 months ago, held framed pride of place on my bedroom wall. As for the song, it’s simple – I simply wanted to imagine a story one could possibly find inside of this newspaper, past the comic strips. I have no idea what Pine Bluff is actually like, but I imagined it as a sweet-hearted place where anything was possible.
Children Should Be Seen And Not Heard
I’m the end of 3 bloodlines, and on occasion it feels like the pressure’s on. The song was written on an old Fender guitar I’d purchased for well cheap from a tranny co-worker at a shoddy mall record shop needing money for a coke fix. (An experience way out of the perspective of my youth in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, but one which bears repeating). The guitar itself has always been a mess, and the tiny amp which came with it was a brilliant scrappy little thing, making a great noise from the offset. I knew nothing about proper tuning or chord shapes, but had a friend into Sonic Youth and Pavement who collected alternate tunings of things and put this guitar into a strange D-A-D-A-A-D tuning which it keeps to this day. There’s no pedals used to amp up the distortion on this song – it’s all through that tiny little amp using that awful first guitar which barely made it through the recording overdubs alive. I exited a real-life advertising job which was holding me down, the escape from which was the best thing which ever happened to me, yet the thought of sneaking in to my horrible bosses’ apartments and houses to graffiti my farewell on their walls was always somehow inspiring to me.
Sometimes we fall in love, while other times love seems to fall on us. I had a few mini relationships in a row, a bit of a rebound king, quickly growing weary when things looked set to turn serious. But, I couldn’t help falling for one after another. The song is made up mostly of wine glasses, their wet rims rubbed to make those ghostly sounds. The backing vocals are me in reverse, reading lines from a book picked up randomly from a shelf in the studio. Aimee-Jo Benoit sings lead, one of my favourite voices in the world. (I’d written an earlier song for her on Houndstooth Europa called ‘Ladybug Ladybird’, the chorus of which goes “I don’t want to sing these songs / If you’re not there to sing along”). I picture the first half of the record as a bit of a clearing house, of bringing to an end all of what Woodpigeon was trying to accomplish from the outset. Then it all gets a little dark, I think.
I’d had a recurring dream of walking through the streets of Calgary towards some woods, upon which roots and branches would break through the snow and pull me down into the Earth. At one point, we’d planned to even film this idea as a video for an earlier song, shooting it using still cameras frame-by-frame. This dream continued to re-appear in my sleep until I wrote the song, which throughout holds the imagery of the dream – of things growing to take one back into the ground. I couldn’t decide between playing the two chord verses in a major key or a minor key, so opted for both — the first half of the song sticks to minors, the second half to major. The thing with the dream though, is that it never felt like a bad dream. It was scary, sure, but it wasn’t a nightmare. It was more of an acceptance. So the song ends on a triumphant note, some nonsense about living in the trees until we all head into the dirt.
A collection of chords I had jumbled around in my sketchbook for ages. The more songs I’d written, the more I realized they were serving the idea of coming to terms with things, of putting final punctuation on things. So I sat down with the intention of putting a final stop on something which had haunted me for longer than it should have. It’s a good-bye.
Despite spending time living in Edinburgh, I’d never climbed up Arthur’s Seat until some years afterwards, on a return visit back. I’ve been told a Scotsman isn’t considered a grown man until he’s made his way up the hill, so I suppose I wasn’t actually a man until the age of 30. Mid-way up, I stepped wrong and broke my foot – a small, small stress-fracture – but we continued to the top. (By the time I was back at the airport in Calgary, I had to take one of those little golf carts sent to each arrival for those unable to walk, my foot was swollen and black). The form of the song itself came to me while tearing apart some 1920s British musical songs to see how they worked. It was first played in Edinburgh after a fine show in Leith, which ended with my friends in the lovely band Eagleowl and I performing the tune on a bridge outside of the tiny venue. Basically, it’s about reaching the top and wondering, “What now?” Couldn’t one just fly off the other side?
I’d spent so much time traveling away from home that eventually no-where particularly felt like capital-H Home anymore. I’d moved into my grandparents’ old house in Calgary which was built by hand after their move to Canada from Glasgow (my mother’s side came from Vienna), and found myself spending more and more time in the house vs. out at shows or in social situations. I’d gone back to school to finish off a film theory degree – 13 years in the making! – and found more interest in watching old French avant garde clips on borrowed DVDs than anything else. I’d also taken a job in a library, in which I worked in an office by myself from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM Mondays through Fridays, occasionally slipping in and out with very few words spoken to my co-workers. But this stage of near hermetic focus wasn’t a bad thing at all. It was a way to sort everything out. The song itself started as an instrumental march we were to play at a wedding, at which the bride eagerly rushed down the aisle so quickly we had no chance to get even a minute into it. The record is dedicated to “The Original 8”, meaning the 8 Woodpigeons with whom I’ve recorded all of the albums, and with whom the earliest tours were undertaken with. Woodpigeon as a project regularly changes from myself solo into something else entirely, but the early history is all rooted with these folks, all of whom now have their own projects, young families, and blossoming professional careers. I didn’t consider the song finished until they were all playing on ‘Hermit’.
Thumbtacks And Glue
Bringing it all back together – the same guitar used on ‘Children’ in that same chiming tuning, the feedback loops built using a Rhodes piano hooked up to a series of delays and distortion pedals and a 4-string mandolin which seemed forever always a little out of tune. Back to the idea of little things, of being held in a situation by thumbtacks and glue. An attempt to explore my love for the sounds instruments CAN make vs. the ones they’re SUPPOSED to make. I’m proud of this one, and proud of this record.
Woodpigeon's new album 'Thumbtacks And Glue' will be released on 25th February via Fierce Panda.