"4TH OF JULY"
STOCKS IN ASIA/THIRTY TIGERS
PAM NASHEL LETO: email@example.com
TAYLOR HAUGHTON: firstname.lastname@example.org
“I didn’t have to do this,” says Carl Broemel, referring to his new solo album, 4th of July, which will be released August 19 on Stocks in Asia/Thirty Tigers. As a member of My Morning Jacket, Broemel spent the past few years working rock ’n’ roll hours (that is to say, 24/7) with his bandmates to help establish MMJ as one of the best live rock bands currently in the game. Their combined efforts proved successful.
During downtime between album and tour cycles, when he could’ve opted to vacation or catch up on sleep, Broemel instead booked studio sessions in Nashville and, over a four year span of these tiny windows, recorded the sprawling collection of songs that form 4th of July. “I knew that if I booked studio time and had people there that were ready to play, then I would get down to it and stay up late and write songs, so I’d have material ready to record with them.”
Without a deadline, Broemel was able to engage his creative impulses within a space absent of all expectation. Lyrically, the album serves as a kind of journal noting thoughts that had been going on in Broemel’s mind while out on tour, but not on stage. It’s a page that could be ripped from any individual’s life story – the moments where happiness and fulfillment are still met with questions of the unknown and the road not traveled: “In some ways, I found myself being very disconnected from friends and family,” he says, reflecting on road life. “I have to miss weddings and, unfortunately, I have to miss funerals too. So when I missed one that I should’ve been at, I was like, ‘What am I doing? I’m in a town car coming home from the airport and my friend just died. Fuck! What’s really important to me at this moment?’ I was just trying to figure that out. ‘Landing Gear,’ in particular, is just me wondering, ‘What am I doing? What’s important to me? And where is everybody?’”
Indeed, the songs point to a soulful awareness of the inner life — thoughts ponder their own reflection, marveling perhaps at how different our lives look now from the engrained images of ourselves that we’ve held onto from an earlier time. We all carry around these projections that formed at some point during our adolescence and it is not until well into adulthood that we realize how much has actually changed. In that way, 4th of July is a reflective meditation. It has managed to capture the sound of late-night contemplation that even the most successful people face when they crawl into bed at night.
Appropriately then, Broemel says, “A lot of my musical ideas come right before I’m about to fall asleep. I’ll think, ‘God damn it, I just want to sleep — but now I have this melody in my head and I have to get it down.’ That’s where the song ‘Sleepy Lagoon’ came from. It was two in the morning and I mumbled it into my phone. I discovered it about two weeks later and realized I had a song.”
My Morning Jacket’s Bo Koster co-wrote several of the songs, including one (“Best Of”) that he and Broemel kind of just stumbled upon during a recording session for MMJ’s 2010 album, Circuital. And their Jacket bandmate Tom Blankenship plays on a number of tracks, recorded after he moved to Nashville. In Broemel’s words, “There’s just no other bass player in the world that I like more. I can’t even explain it.”
The record also sees guest appearances by Neko Case, Laura Veirs, Russ Pollard, Shelly Colvin, Richard Medek and Jordan Caress. On the other side of the glass, Teddy Morgan (who produced Broemel’s previous effort) returned to co-produce.
The process of making a solo album in which he chose to be 100% hands-on, from top to bottom, inspired Broemel to not only release the album independently, but even create his own indie label — Stocks in Asia. “For me,” he explains, “it’s not about comparing or competing with anything. If anything, this album is just me trying to compete with my own abilities — it was a challenge to do it on my own.”
Weaving together this record from periods of downtime certainly informed the decidedly laid-back grooves of 4th of July; but Broemel also attributes it to the fact that “at heart, I’m just a chilled-out person. And I’m 42 now and I have a child; the things I think about aren’t necessarily breakup songs. It’s more about pondering all those things that people normally do at this age.”
Asked if that meant this album could be called “dad rock”, there’s a pause, then Broemel laughs and says good-naturedly, “I think it’s more like ‘parent rock.’ Let’s not be so sexist, please.”
Truth be told, the parents who will listen to 4th of July are probably already the coolest parents on the block. The ones you wish would adopt you or at least invite you over for dinner, while dropping the needle on “Sleepy Lagoon,” and singing along right through the closing “Best Of” — a song that questions anybody who thinks that all the best things have already been made, long ago in a previous generation.
4th of July proves that’s just not the case.