24 July 2020 (released)
04 August 2020
When COVID hit and the lockdown was in effect, almost every artist received a similar reaction: “Well, this must give you a bunch of time to write new stuff!”. True ...sort of. Without the giant swaths of time devoted to being on the road and the imminent need to rehearse your back catalog gone, the way was seemingly clear for an explosion of creative output. However, creativity is not such an easy beast to schedule. Time at your instrument is important but so is the right inspiration. When this virus took over the world, there wasn't much consideration for the long term, the societal and philosophical implications of a planet altering event. The sole focus was staying safe and making sure your basic needs were met. How interesting would a song about a virus be anyway?
There's a reason why when artists began to come back out of the woodwork with livestreams, they found insight and motivation in other people's work, cover tunes. Seeing a major event through the lens of a piece of art that has already been given the gift of perspective through time is revelatory. The track can even take on a completely new meaning when reinvented by a new voice in the midst of exceptional times. Some artists chose to look at their own past work through that lens, giving us a new take on their old classics.
North Hollywood songwriter Andy Blunda was one of these artists who found it difficult to make this tragic time a boon for creativity. Instead of trying to spark entirely fresh ideas in a time when basic needs and health were the only real concern, he instead chose to look back at his solo project Blunda to re-contextualize pieces that had been previously unreleased. “When the pandemic hit, I was just finishing up composing the music for Season 5 of Jay Leno's Garage. When that ended and my composing work slowed down I decided it would be a great time to write some new material for my solo project, Blunda. Interestingly, I found it very difficult to write as I watched the world around me fall apart. It seemed pointless and trivial to write music at a time when so many were suffering and daily life had become so fragile. Looking for inspiration, I went back through old hard drives of demos and songs that I had abandoned or just hadn't gotten around to finishing.”
The result is a warm and poignant five-song EP of laid-back summery coastal indie. Blunda cut his teeth at 20 touring with twangy alternative outfit Fastball before recording two albums with the Rick Rubin-produced Paloalto. The former's open road western-style and the latter's tight indie-pop sensibilities come together on his new release, Pulling For You. The collection takes tracks that haven't previously fit on an album and packages them together for a remarkably cohesive EP.
In this Spotify-ruled age, artists are told that you have to grab the listener in the first six seconds or you get lost in the sea of releases. Jam your chorus to the front of the song, add an attention-grabbing non-sequitur sample to jar people. If they had it their way, songs would be the length of a TikTok or Instagram story. Thankfully, not all have subscribed to this reductive commercial sell-out. This particular EP's opening track 'Low' takes the opposite approach. A gradual fade in of steady staccato synth is met by a punchy, yet unhurried rhythm of kick and snare. Piano is to follow with a twangy, tremolo guitar setting the dusty back road scene. Imagine Spoon with a greater depth of tone and more moving chord structure than their signature blase. Blunda slowly simmers the mood, waiting till nearly the two-minute mark to utter a word. Wisps of memory envelop his lines as he delivers an airy verse over a persistent bass line. This track should be making its way on to all the prominent indie Spotify playlists, even with its long slow burn intro.
The title track again anchors itself on Blunda's steadfast piano, this time using strings and acoustic guitar to underpin his melodies. 'Pulling for You' sees his voice venturing into Beck circa Sea Change territory with his relaxed, swaying delivery. Indie staple “Oh oh Oh!”s fill in the gaps between verses. 'Fall' matches this dreamy vocal style with shiny synth flourishes to hit that plateau of calm indie bliss. A verbbed-out coo floats the song off into the clouds with a rose-tinted outro.
The Pulling For You has a feel that's not “stripped down” per se, but less synth-rich and cosmopolitan than previous works like 2014's messages. The production is still full but the organic elements are given more room to shine through adding a layer of earnestness. 'Low' is the standout track with its enigmatic instrumentation and simple yet gripping changes, however, the album as a whole works as one dreamy trip.