News: New Model Army’s Justin Sullivan announces May solo set; hear the stark storytelling of ‘Amundsen’

Justin Sullivan

NEWS which will delight members of the Militia worldwide: Justin Sullivan, founder of Bradford post-punk legends New Model Army, fierce social advocate and commentator, has announced he’ll be releasing only his second solo album come early May, 18 years on from the previous, Navigating By The Stars.

It’s entitled Surrounded, will comprise sixteen new songs written early on in lockdown the first and it’ll be out on May 28th. Expect evocative lyricism, that bold voice, some proper storytelling.

Necessarily mostly recorded at home, the album also features the current members of New Model Army alongside Lamb’s Jon Thorne, who brings the warm, woody hum of the double bass to new single “Amundsen”; harpist Tom Moth, of Florence and the Machine, and the brother of New Model Army bassist Ceri Monger, as well as string arrangements from composer friends Tobias Unterberg, Henning Nügel and Shir-Ran Yinon.

Justin says: “Under the circumstances, it wasn’t particularly surprising that this was the moment to make another solo record and the songs came thick and fast in the first few weeks of the lockdown.

“There is not so much about what’s happening in the world; as with Navigating By The Stars, which was written in the aftermath of 9/11, I wanted to write about other things – some well-known stories, some less well-known, a few autobiographical and more a landscape of the imagination than social comment.

“I’m grateful for all the many musical contributions I received from friends that help create all the different atmospheres and places; it’s a long album, but it seems that all the songs belonged together in one collection. I hope people enjoy it.”

The announcement come with a teaser single, “Amundsen”, which you can hear below. It’s lilting, has that unblinking starkness which Justin brings inimitably to his songcraft, dropping you right into a story among chilling strings and harp – telling the story of the race to the South Pole 109 years ago that would in glory for some and in frozen death for others.

Justin says of the song: “The stories of polar (and in particular Antarctic) adventurers at the beginning of the 20th century have long been a fascination.

“On my first solo record, “Ocean Rising” is, in part, the story of Ernest Shackleton’s epic voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia. The final race to reach the South Pole between Robert Scott and Roald Amundsen is another fascinating tale.

“Being raised in England, Scott and his ‘noble, tragic’ failure is a story written large in national mythology but the other man, a truly remarkable explorer, is rarely acknowledged.

“The battle over who gets to tell which version of a story is very relevant in these times of ‘culture wars’, but the song is more a simple study of the man himself; I hope I have done him justice.”

‘Amundsen’ is now available across the usual digital streaming platforms.

More excellent news, this time of a back catalogue nature: the release of Surrounded will also see the re-release of Justin’s previous solo album, originally issued on CD only, it will now be available digitally and on vinyl. It will form part of a limited CD box set edition of Surrounded, followed by a standalone release later this year.

It’ll come expanded with two bonus tracks: “Sooner or Later”, which first appeared on a B-side in 2003, and “The Wreck of The Essex”, a song written and recorded later that same year that has laid dormant since save for a few live performances. 

Justin Sullivan’s Surrounded will be released digitally, on CD and deluxe CD box set, and on 2xLP on May 28th; there’s also various merch permutations. You can place your pre-order here.

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