The old adage “rules are made to be broken” is not a strange mentality for most indie artists to grasp. But for the Good Graces’s Kim Ware, it’s an outlook she’s only recently adopted.
The Atlanta-based indie-folk collective’s new album Close to the Sun starts off with the dreamy “I Don’t Know Where to Start,” which has Kim pondering her need for “an explanation for breaking my own rules.” It’s something she says she was hesitant to do at first, but now embraces – stepping away from traditional song structures and instrumentation in favor of capturing a certain mood, even if that means forgoing choruses or using drum machines rather than actual drums.
The resulting 11-track offering hints at a wide variety of influences, ultimately coming off like an indie Lucinda Williams or perhaps a countrified Liz Phair. There are a number of twists and turns along the way, like the rubbery drum machine on “My Own Grace,” to the military drums and trumpet that come in from out of nowhere on “Under the Weather,” to the multiple drum tracks that conclude “Curb Appeal.” It’s a diverse ride for sure, but one always anchored by Kim’s twangy, soothing vocals and witty, endearing lyrical style.
While no stranger to releasing records (Kim ran the eskimo kiss records label for 10 years), Close to the Sun is the Good Graces’s first release captured on vinyl and first for the Fort Lowell Records label. At once intimate and atmospheric, catchy and quirky, confessional and carefree, it finds Ware finally shedding her acoustic, singer-songwriter badge she had worn so comfortably since the release of her 2007 debut Sunset Over Saxapahaw, replacing it with a style that’s more confident, edgy, and unpredictable–yet still decidedly very southern. The aforementioned “… Where to Start” in fact starts with a lone, eerie keyboard drone, letting the listener know right away that this is not your typical acoustical fare. From there, beeps and bleeps, drum machines, and electric guitars abound, a style hinted at with portions of last year’s Drawn to You, but now fully realized.
Close to the Sun was recorded partially in Chapel Hill, NC with Jay Manley (Velvet, Hindugrass) at the helm and then completed at Rob Dyson’s Wizkid Sound Studios (Indigo Girls, Brandi Carlile, Lucy Wainright Roche, Book Club) in Atlanta. In addition to Manley and Dyson’s instrumental and production thumbprints apparent throughout the record, it features a talented cast of supporting musicians including John McNicholas (The Sunset District, Spiller), who typically joins Kim for the Good Graces’s live shows, David Minchew (The Skylarks, Angela Faye Martin), and Michael Roman (Stokeswood). The album was mastered especially for vinyl by Rodney Mills at Rodney Mills Masterhouse. Mills has lent his ears to such talents as Pearl Jam, Sugarland, Bob Marley, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Matthew Sweet, Drive By Truckers, Journey, the Allman Brothers, and countless others.
Recalling days when MTV played music videos, your favorite songs were released on black vinyl, and a song’s message was as immediately obvious as its medium, Close to the Sun documents an artist truly coming into her own. Kim laughs that a lot of the album’s songs are about “just trying to figure shit out.” This introspection is perhaps most obvious in the record’s standout track, “Under the Weather,” which starts with Ware lamenting her love for the summer, as it’s a love that only ends up burning her in the end. By the song’s conclusion, though, Ware experiences quite a revelation:
“I’ve always thought that there was a plan Some bigger purpose, one day we’d understand. But what if the truth is there’s just today? And in this very moment, everything is ok.”
Listening to these 11 songs, one gets the impression that it really is.
Previous Press Accolades for the Good Graces:
“If Yo La Tengo’s quieter songs had more of a folksy feel to them, it might sound sorta like this.” ~ Jeff Clark, Stomp and Stammer
“Reminiscent of Kimya Dawson’s work in Moldy Peaches, [Summer of ‘93] has a simple chord progression and a simple chorus, but it never feels derivative. Written in such a way that practically anyone can identify and appreciate, the best thing about this song is that it’s universal and catchy. If the rest of the album is this pleasing and easy to soak in, the Good Graces may just be ready to break out in the Atlanta scene.“ ~ Latest Disgrace
RIYL: Blake Babies, Juliana Hatfield, Kristin Hersh, Liz Phair, Rilo Kiley, “sweet tea” (the beverage), Velocity Girl, Velvet Underground, Yo La Tengo