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Chris Cohen - Paint A Room (Limited Edition Red Vinyl) - VINYL LP
Chris Cohen - Paint A Room (Limited Edition Red Vinyl) - VINYL LP

LUNA price: $24.98

Stock Status:In Stock

Product Code: LSS098787317305


Chris Cohen was always a quiet kid. In fact, this introversion was one reason he began playing music as a toddler—to communicate without speaking to identify with others without the direct representation of words. It has worked, too, with Cohen’s terrific stint in the mighty Deerhoof and his own captivating art-rock act The Curtains, preceding production and session work for the likes of Weyes Blood, Kurt Vile, Le Ren, and Marina Allen. Somewhere along that long way, Cohen started writing lyrics. He found that, though it didn’t come naturally, the process offered a new sense of self-discovery and reckoning, a way to see himself and the world from unexpected angles. His three twilit albums of casually complicated pop during the last decade radiated these epiphanies: handling family strife, navigating advancing age, and understanding social woes.

But Cohen has never had as much to sing so directly as he does on Paint a Room, his first album in five years and his debut for Hardly Art. If Cohen’s meanings have previously lurked inside the tessellated musical layers he built alone, they are newly clear and resonant here, animated and underscored for the first time by a band playing in real time. There is the endless miasma of state violence on the subversively melodious opener “Damage,” the existential exhaustion of modernity on the horn-traced jangle “Laughing”: this is Cohen communicating with friends not only through his deep understanding of groove, harmony, and hook but also with his listeners through songs that croon of our uneasy little era.

In the past, Cohen made records in spells of isolation, phases when, as he puts it, he would “try to make my world a lot smaller.” He would play any of a dozen or so instruments until he stumbled upon something interesting, then slowly build upward and outward upon the idea. The method was solitary and stepwise, an act of accretion and deletion.

Cohen, though, has been playing live with bassist Davin Givhan, drummer Josh da Costa, and keyboardist Jay Israelson in some fashion for the better part of a decade. This time around, then, he built demos in the dusty garage of the suburban Altadena rental that smelled like old wood and gasoline and tried something new—he took the songs on tour with that crew, yielding total control by letting them fill in or flourish their own parts as they saw fit. They came back home and began recording as a band.

Cohen even called in a few friends to help, with Jeff Parker contributing the fluttering horn arrangement on “Damage,” and Parker collaborator Josh Johnson (who produced Meshell Ndegeocello’s Grammy-Award-winning album The Omnichord Real Book) supplying flute, sax, and clarinet arrangements throughout the record. It felt a little bit like producing someone else’s records, with Cohen given the chance to step back and evaluate others’ contributions to his own songs rather than scrutinize every little bit he made himself. This was a longtime ambition realized, another way of relating to others openly through sound.

Cohen, really, has never sounded so assured on a solo album, gliding above or sinking into this band that boasts a preternatural sense of feel. On “Damage,” as he surveys the way we lord power over people with less of it in most every walk of life, his voice lifts above Johnson’s horns like he’s looking for a way out. Cohen wrote “Sunever” for a transgender child in his life, while considering the violence that hard-and-fast categories can create. This song reminds us that we are “always in between,” that transitions are just a part of life. With the hook, he sweetly sings his vow: “You’re gonna find a way.” Cohen is tender and vulnerable in the lead, his voice cracking with feeling as the tune presses forward toward a better future. Written by cutting and pasting phrases from the unemployment form he filled out at the pandemic’s start, the frolicking “Physical Address” considers what it is we all want for our lives, how we untether ourselves from the past in the present. On Paint a Room, Cohen’s music feels like a warm spring breeze, easy to love and gentle to feel. But it’s often carrying something heavy, as if blowing in from some unseen storm cloud.

Cohen had another hobby as a kid: transcendental meditation, a practice his parents taught him when he was six. It’s still part of his life, a window into observing his thought processes, habits, and relationship to the rest of the world. Making music—and, turns out, writing lyrics for it—works in a similar way for Cohen, as he’s able to understand and then articulate notions that wouldn’t be so easy with the absolutism of mere words. Paint a Room both reckons with reality and conjures an alternate one, where nighttime walks and a neighbor’s wind chimes offer endless escapes for the imagination, space for the mind to roam. Sublime and sunlit, these 10 songs consider dreamy new ways out of old predicaments, clearly stating the problem and dancing and singing their way somewhere new.

...OUT 12 JULY 2024!

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