Over the past couple years I’ve had a few opportunities to talk to Shawn Fogel about his band Golden Bloom (and, more often than not, “Breaking Bad”). I first caught him at a performance of one of his many side projects, Neutral Uke Hotel, which also includes Golden Bloom bandmate Josh Cohen. Then I ran into him at SxSw in 2011. Since that encounter he’s been back in Chicago four times to play-once again as Neutral Uke Hotel, then a solo show, and two more with his band. Each time I’ve been impressed with his great songwriting and passion for his craft.
On Golden Bloom’s new EP, No Day Like Today, I’m struck with another quality to his music-the professionalism. This record is by far the most polished and beautiful-sounding thing he’s put out. Some of that credit could go to the fact that the band approached this one as more of a group project. They went up to a secluded area and worked on the songs together instead of Shawn writing everything and acting as more of a director. The sound is a great leap forward for Golden Bloom, a group I already thought of as one of the best indie-pop bands working today.
Such a step forward, in fact, that when I first heard the opening track, “Flying Mountain,” I had to check and make sure I’d put on the right album. It sounded like Band Of Horses were covering a song by The Shins off Oh Inverted World. It took me a minute to get my bearings, but once I realized that it was in fact Golden Bloom I was taken aback. It’s incredibly well put-together, and the guitar work by Jeff Patlingrao is, as always, phenomenal.
And the EP just keeps getting better. It’s five tracks of unrelenting awesomeness that I always suspected was lurking under the surface, but I didn’t expect it to all come out at once! This is as close to a perfect indie-pop record as is humanly possible.
The record takes a somber turn on the second track, “Deliver It To Me.” It’s a piano-driven song with some flashes of beautiful guitar. Death, love, life itself-why are we here? All those ideas get looked at in some way on this song. Fogel takes a look at the entitled society we live in with the line “Why must we want so much more than we need. Wait for the fruit without planting the seed.” In the song’s final journey through the chorus it perks up a bit, evoking thoughts of Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band-to me, anyway.
“Shadow Of A Man” might be the most familiar to Golden Bloom fans. It’s not a great leap from the songs on Fan The Flames. This has a great drum track with handclaps thrown on top of it that makes it a really fun song even though the subject matter is pretty serious. The verses are dense, requiring the listener to pay attention, but the reward for doing so is very high with lyrics like these:
“My days are numbered and I’m racing against time.Been handed down my sentence long before I did the crime. Did you ever wonder how life changes when you’re dying? I know that you might hate me but you can’t blame me for trying.”
No Day Like Today has built upon Golden Bloom’s previous efforts and improved in every way. Fogel’s already strong songwriting is sharper here. They’ve really gone out of their way to make a great-sounding EP with a lot of layers to every song. The band produced the album themselves, and it makes the argument that no one knows how to treat the music better than those who wrote it.
Golden Bloom has a few shows listed for now, but I’m sure more will be added. Only New York, Massachussetts, and Connecticut so far (there’s one listed on ReverbNation in Chicago, but that may be a solo set by Shawn-it’s not listed on Facebook). The album officially comes out on January 29th, but if you go to their Pledge Music page you can get it sooner.