“21st Century Station” is the final single from Peter Matthew Bauer’s forthcoming record Flowers before it’s out September 23rd.
“21st Century Station” was conceived as an early 60s ska hit, playing through a radio tower as panic takes the streets in our present day. It sounds just like that — with broken pianos and guitars, congas, bombastic drums, a bunch of otherworldly backup singers, and a reverberating lead vocal by Peter, leading the way through a wild and joyous 3 and a half minutes. The track was produced and mixed by Peter Matthew Bauer & Matt Barrick.
Speaking on his newest single, Peter wrote: “This song is supposed to be the last song you’ll ever hear on the radio. It has a strange feeling to it, like a joyous, chaotic ending. I imagined everyone running for the woods, packing up their cars and heading north. This is the last song the DJ plays before going off the air.”
Peter was a founder NYC art rock band the Walkmen (Top 25 most influential artists of the 2000s according to Pitchfork) and the album was produced in partnership with his old bandmate Matt Barrick. This is his third solo record.
Peter’s solo work has been featured previously in Rolling Stone, Spin, The AV Club, Flood Magazine, and KEXP. His earlier singles “Knife Fighter” and “Skulls” were featured in Brooklyn Vegan, Stereogum, Under the Radar, American Songwriter, and Earmilk, and have been featured on Spotify’s Fresh Folk and Apple Music’s Wax Eclectic.
Flowers is Peter Matthew Bauer’s first full length record in almost five years. Taking from both his own personal experience alongside the stories of several others; a feeling of chasing what’s hidden at the edge of things inhabits the album.
“It’s filled with a kind of dread but also I think a little joy remains,” says Peter. “It’s this weird continuum of losing people from your past, some close and some just characters I knew who were somehow important. That and this feeling of a kind of terror that we are all experiencing together, this cult like feeling I have from my own childhood (he grew up in ashrams in both Upstate New York and Ganeshpuri, India), chasing down specific images and moments that feel alive within that kind of feeling, and then chasing that childhood feeling itself- that sense of home that feels lost sometimes, those are the things that make up this record. It’s like searching for an undercurrent hidden in everything – like an electric charge.”
The album was made in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, working late at night mostly for the last year and a half. Begun entirely alone in his office in Laurel Canyon, Flowers became a far more collaborative project with the entrance of Matt Barrick, Peter’s old bandmate in the Walkmen and the drummer and co-producer on all but one track.
“I had been really obsessed about doing everything on my own at home at first. I was using a lot of samples for drums and then playing everything else as I could to put the music together,” said Peter. “Then, I realized I had a song where it would be fun to ask Matt to play really fast and heavy again like he used to years ago. We started calling it ‘sports drumming.’ Anyways, once we had that, we hit this natural thing where we saw it through to the end.”
Peter flew to Philadelphia in January where he’d lived before Los Angeles. Barrick had recently opened Silent Partner, a studio he built with Quentin Stoltzfus and Paul Banks. The record was finished and mixed there. “We spent a week in the freezing cold,” says Peter. “We pretty much recorded everything we could through their spring reverb and Matt’s soviet era delay pedal. It was great to work with an old friend again.”
Peter was born in 1978 in Washington DC. A founder of seminal New York art rock band the Walkmen, he released 6 full length albums as part of the band before his first solo LP Liberation! (Mexican Summer) in 2014. He followed that up with Mount Qaf (Divine Love) on his own imprint Fortune Tellers, now a record label and management company in Los Angeles.
Flowers is by far his most eloquent and carefully thought out record, tightly bound together by its original production and songwriting, Barrick’s drumming, and Bauer’s newfound penchant for electric guitar solos.
“Somewhere along the way, I realized I had never really taken a guitar solo in all the years I’ve played music. I became obsessed with figuring out a way to do so while also still moving the songs along. Now that I’ve started, I’m not sure how I’ll stop,” says Peter.
Highlights include the lead single “Knife Fighter” (out May 20th), a dreamy acoustic number built around a deep reggae low end, staccato electric guitars and falsetto singing by Peter; “Skulls,” a rock and roll song carried by a wall of farfisas, Barrick’s drumming, and Bauer’s echoing solo. It also features Liily’s Charlie Anastasis on bass and background vocals from Marisa Brown and Hillary Ashen (Peter’s wife and friend who are constant contributors throughout his work). Others include the title track “Flowers,” originally written around a series of samples from Bo Diddley records and inspired by a childhood friend’s sudden passing and witnessing a surfer funeral on a Santa Monica beach; “Miracles,” the most traditional track on the album with a masterful brass section performed by The Westerlies; and the album’s thematic centerpiece, the final track “Chiyoda, Arkansas, Manila.”
This last song is an abstract portrait of anti cult researchers Bauer met online, drawing on one in particular’s experience and reactions in the abstract. “It was someone I hardly knew so it’s not really about her. It was just my reaction to her – to her cryptic warnings about the state of things and her obsession with Aum Shinrikyo in Japan. It kind of intermingled with my own experience, my own fears about everything at the moment.” Set against a wall of arp synthesizers, electric guitars and Barrick smashing the drums, the song ends with a sound that’s something like a good U2 song being drowned underwater.
Flowers will be released in full on September 23 2022 with singles throughout the spring and summer.
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