for much of this site’s existence, alexei shishkin has been a constant. the transient singer-songwriter has been providing understated ruminations on ennui and listlessness for the past few years, turning in a steady stream of releases via the minneapolis tape label forged artifacts. on october 19th, shishkin will return with his latest full-length, happy bday, a transcontinental batch of songs as geographically beholden to portland, orgeon, as they are to shishkin’s current residence in new york city.
the album’s newest single, “i don’t mind,” finds shishkin squarely in his element, extolling the virtues and unintended consequences of slowing life down in a measured duet with jess n. pierson. warm, phased guitars augment the relaxing timbre of shishkin’s lead vocal, with arpeggiated melodies and well-placed synth pads drifting in and out of the texture. ever reliable, shishkin combines these elements to offer up something as unassuming as it is profound, a much-needed, sustained exhalation for the collective mind.
“i don’t mind” is premiering today, right here on the dimestore. listen in below.
“album of the fortnight” is a bi-weekly feature that digs into a recent release of note. the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span. this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction. closing out the year: alexei shishkin.
Alexei shishkin is remarkably effective at parlaying seemingly-mundane observations into couplets that suggest pause should be given. he opens his aptly-titled third album, 3, musing that he’s “always floating, on an ocean / ever golden,” the final syllable locking into the accompanying chord progression’s ascension to boost the mood. and, indeed, 3 is an undeniably catchy album, a collection of breezy pop songs that all seem to be competing to have the most memorable hook. shishkin is equally gifted at weaving these guitar motifs through the greater arrangements, sometimes doubling them with vocals, sometimes letting them pull their own weight.
of course, not every moment on 3 is as sunny as the beginning of “pushing my luck.” shishkin explores impermanence and imagination on “fourteen hour,” ramifications of communication breakdown on the infectious “muddled,” and a fleeting sense delivered through an abstract lens on “celeb dog,” each facet delivered in his patented unassuming monotone. an even-keeled exterior may prevail, but there remains ample space for shishkin to sort out the more nuanced components of his narratives.
the majority of 3 was written in 2015, before shishkin’s cross-country move from portland to new york. drums came a year later, tracked remotely by jon fust in boise; final vocals were touched up this year in new york. jess pierson’s voice lightly traces shishkin’s throughout the album, often joining forces with a keyboard or guitar to further support a hook, giving 3 an understated but effective aural anchor that breathes familiarity and comfort.
thirteen tracks gives shishkin ample space to stretch out and venture into newer sonic territory. various horns pop up across 3, warm electric piano turns populate successive tracks “umm” and “talkback machine,” and a prominent envelope filter renders standout cut “pittsburgh” gently psychedelic. and then there’s “slowerr,” a three-minute ostinato predicated on shishkin’s hypnotic looping of the phrase “i didn’t mean it” buried deep within muddied guitar chords and pillowy piano flourishes. having already solidified his pop bonafides, these supplements allow shishkin to burrow deeper into a more nuanced iteration of his songwriting persona.
3 is a wonderful and important addition to alexei shishkin’s already-promising catalogue. it’s out today via the reliable forged artifacts; click through the link below to stream and purchase.
the consistency of alexei shishkin’s output has made him a regular fixture on the dimestore since early 2015, when singles from the dog tapebegan floating listlessly through inboxes and headphones. shishkin creates the kind of bedroom guitar-pop still capable of turning heads in what’s become a very saturated market of home-recorded music; this past february’s excellent yucca streetis a testament to this fact, and we’ll let our review of that album do a bit more talking.
we recently caught up with shishkin via e-mail for a quick chat about the general state of things; as a constant creator, it comes as no surprise that he’s been slowly honing a collection of seven cover songs over the past year, a multi-decade snapshot of influences filtered through his signature aesthetic. we’re more than happy to help shishkin send it off into the ether today.
the aptly-named coverspremieres below, after the interview transcript. dig in.
how are things?your twitter location puts you in new york these days; has the city been conducive to songwriting?
yeah, good good.i am indeed in new york now – moved here in december.it actually hasn’t been very conducive for me, believe it or not.i’m not very comfortable making too much noise where i live right now, so that means when i practice i try to keep it down, and that’s especially shitty for trying to sing.i felt most comfortable singing and playing back in portland.while i guess that’s not actually “songwriting,” i tend to improvise most of the words anyways, so i wouldn’t say i do much songwriting, to be honest.
yucca street has been out for a few months; are you the type to let a release percolate for awhile, or have you started picking away at a new project?
if it was up to me, i’d put out everything immediately when i think it’s done.luckily, matt (at forged artifacts) tends to act as a filter, so fortunately he keeps me from releasing a bunch of half-baked garbage every week.but yeah, the next full-length thing is due out this fall, the one after that probably spring 2017. (i hope?)obviously, there’s this covers thing; i’m also doing a weird little side project called celebrity drum circle and cooking up something with my buddy connor of fjord explorer.i’m hoping to make a trip to rhode island sometime this summer or fall to big nice studio to actually properly record some stuff, maybe – that’s still up in the air.
this might be tangential to your last response, but i’ve gathered via tweets that you’re not too enamored with performing with a live band.is your sense of artistry more grounded in the act of creation and refinement of a collection of songs?
haha!that’s a very articulate way of putting it.honestly, it would be cool to have a band to write and record with, but yeah, touring and shit just seems like such a hassle: coordinating everyone getting off work at the same time, booking all the dates, finding someone with a van, hauling gear around, etc.it just seems like a logistical pain in the ass with little to no return.if i had to be part of a band, i’d rather hang around with a group of friends and write and record and just have a good time.
i listened to the original versions of the list of cover songs you sent over.some were familiar to me, but most weren’t, yet i could pick out their influence on your work pretty easily.could you speak on the significance of a couple of them and why they wound up in this collection?
“the only one” is a tune my friend ryan (pollie) of los angeles police department wrote.in a nutshell, ryan is the reason i even got hooked up with forged artifacts in the first place.without him, i didn’t even realize it was possible to release the music i recorded.
“tell me when it’s over” is a tune by the dream syndicate, a band from california that was around in the 1980s doing the jangle pop stuff (paisley underground) and they had a really great record called days of wine and roses.
“sunny” is just a fun one to noodle around on; infectious progression.
“heaven is a truck” is because i’m a pavement fanboy (sorry not sorry.)
bedroom pop has long since reached critical mass. although batches of home-recorded songs no longer automatically feel as reactionary as they did even just a couple of years ago, a handful of the genre’s purveyors consistently offer up invigorating bodies of work. alexei shishkin is one such bastion; after laying down a foundation of listlessness and loneliness on the dog tape last year, shishkin returns with yucca street, an inimitable collection of songs that once again peers into the many facets of a transient lifestyle.
much of yucca street feels like the aural manifestation of things you might think about while staring bleakly out of a passenger train’s window. shishkin wastes little time reaffirming his downtrodden demeanor; the opening bars of the album’s title track (“haven’t made a meaningful connection in years / everyone always disappears or is it me?”) emit in a mumbling, despondent baritone and firmly plateau across the subsequent ten tracks.
yet shishkin is never explicitly woe-is-me in his delivery. he hesitates, routinely second-guesses decisions, and diligently assigns blame to the appropriate party, even if it’s himself. it’s this diplomacy that helps yucca street transcend selfish, sad-sack trappings and navigate towards a realm of true introspection, embodying an almost-universal stream of consciousness that may be convenient to ignore but extremely beneficial to heed.
a handful of lighter moments do occasionally peer out through the gloomy haze that pervades yucca street. shishkin accomplishes this most notably through timbral juxtapositions, with pristine keyboard melodies jumping out of the buzzsaw foundations on tracks like “confidence” and “town,” but there’s also a nonchalant affect that creeps through his lyrics, as if his woes are in transit and haven’t yet reached their final destination.
on “carpal,” a song that has no business being as inherently catchy as it is, shishkin states his central thesis: “that’s fine with me.” those four words encompass every shoulder shrug, every acceptance of a less-than-favorable situation detailed on yucca street. he’s still able to carve transcontinental locations into poignant reflections – and “stuck” exhibits a tentative shishkin at his most vulnerable – but yucca street largely resonates as a handbook for dealing with transitions, a series of quick, calming anecdotes to help keep a level head in times of constant reflection.
wanderlust comes crashing back to reality on the opening line of alexei shishkin’s new single, “yucca street,” the title track of his forthcoming sophomore album. “haven’t made a meaningful connection in years / everyone always disappears or is it me?” he muses after meandering into the song’s foreground, bolstered by warm, home-recorded guitars and an unexpected piano interlude that joyously contrasts an otherwise-downtrodden demeanor. yucca streetis out february 19th via forged artifacts; dig into the title track below.
despite only having two songs under his belt, alexei shishkin has firmly attached a nomadic element to his persona. both “santa cruz” and “goodbye chile,” his latest offering, are odes to former homes: places that bred familiarity but not necessarily contentment. on “goodbye chile,” shishkin waxes nostalgic (“i was moving slow motion all the time / i was living five miles from the ocean side”) over guitar interjections and stabs of liquid synthesizers, the latter perhaps an allusion to the song’s thematic material. “goodbye chile” is taken from shishkin’s upcoming cassette for forged artifacts, out in april; take a listen below.
lovesickness and homesickness intertwine throughout alexei shishkin’s “santa cruz,” sentiments masked ever so slightly by an apathetic delivery. shishkin’s debut single is a supremely-crafted piece of understated pop, replete with lazy syncopated drums, hollowed-out guitar chords, and a droning baritone skilled at both hesitant concessions and heart-felt confessionals. more plaintive narratives are sure to follow, as “santa cruz” is the first cut taken from shishkin’s upcoming cassette for minneapolis label forged artifacts. check out the track below, and look for (the dog tape) on april 14th.