GUITARS glimmer with a melodic, picked loveliness that can only bring a smile, kinda post-folky; the vocals are a blissed whisper, and an occasional flute circles and glides among sun-kissed slide guitar and trilling synth. The whole thing is hammock-lazy beautiful. But … the zombies? The undead at the forlorn, roadside strip karaoke bar, extremities dropping off as they serenade and snog? Weeerd …
Michael Cormier bakes bread for a day job, which is basically a lovely thing; bringing the simple and yummy joy of the foodstuff broken communally.
He’s also co-founder of Dear Life Records, home to fellow rootsy troubadours Josh Halper and Wes Tirey, and also the musique concrète stylings of Bolomite Jr. (see our recent Dear Life coverage here); drummer in the indie four-piece Friendship.
And he’s also a singer-songwriter of real warmth himself, which he’s shaping to show you on his new album, More Light!!, which will be with us come June 25th on Dear Life and fellow Philly label Oof Records in consort.
You’d be right to note a little …Michigan/Seven Swans-era Sufjan folk-Americana in his aesthetic; maybe a little Iron & Wine, some of that very personal visionary wonkiness of Chad VanGaalen.
And as with his last single, “Empty Mugs” – which concerns waking from a speedboat dream, needing a pee, the bedside table festooned with the titular vessels; his music is at once hilarious and sad and fully aware of the beauty and the absurdity of it all – how the simple and the everyday overlaps with the transcendent. So yeah, the undead having one last whoop-up at that karaoke bar you always drive past and wonder about; why not?
It’s best we ask Michael what’s going on in the song. He says: “This song is an imaginary birthday party I’ve never had, one where I invite friends to a karaoke bar. I’ve been to a handful of birthdays like this, and while I think they are a blast, the setting is perfect for exploring isolation and late-twenties ennui.
“Birthday parties were already on my mind after watching [the film] High Hopes, by Mike Leigh, and the excruciating birthday scene where the camera zooms maddeningly slowly towards the old woman’s face while her adult children, though attempting celebration, scream and bicker off screen. Her eyes look cavernous and empty, the whole scene completely unnerving as shrieks blend with an increasingly dissonant soundtrack.
“So I was trying to write a song that did something like that, zooming in a little too close for a little too long past the external jubilation of communion towards the festering dread seething beneath the surface.
“I asked Lauren Turner to join me in singing harmonies on this song. She released one of my favorite records of 2020, Songs For John Venn, under the name Lou Turner. She is also in the fantastic band Styrofoam Winos, whose self-titled release from January 2021 is already an early favorite for me. She is also the flautist on the track, and both her contributions are invaluable to the universe of the song.
“My dear friend Peter Gill (bandmate in Friendship and Hour, bandleader of the perfect power pop band 2nd Grade) played pedal steel, blending the twang of his instrument perfectly with the synths laid down by Lucas.
“The end of the song also features cellphone recordings of friends of mine singing their favorite karaoke songs acapella. This includes Carmen Perry, Tyler Bussey, Shane Parish, Emi Night, Lina Tullgren, Meg McCauley, Emmie Bishop, and Ava Mirzadegan. It’s really nice hearing your friends sing in such an exposed way. It all got mashed together though, so it’s hard to tell who’s who.
“I didn’t want to get sued for including a bunch of mega hits at the end of my song.”
Michael Cormier’s More Light!! will be released digitally, on CD, cassette and extremely limited (100 only) vinyl by Dear Life Records and Oof Records on June 25th; hell, you can snare a copy for y’self early on, here.