Friday sees the release of Chris Baio’s second solo album ‘Man of the World’. Although well known as the bassist in Grammy, NME and Q award-winning indie-rock band Vampire Weekend, he has already made quite an impact on his own with his 2015 solo debut ‘The Names’. That album, also released on Glassnote Records, garnered significant praise from a multitude of media outlets and went on to be streamed almost 10 million times on Spotify.
Sister of Pearl from ‘The Names’.
To some ‘Baio’ is, in fact, a DJ name. Yep, he’s also a DJ, and a very interesting one at that. His solo style is often called indie-tronica or alternative-dance. Whatever it is, it’s fairly obvious that large amounts of extra creativity can be injected into a record if you’ve spent some time spinning discs as well as playing bass.
Man of the world is not more-of-the-same. It has a very different feel to The Names, and for good reason. That first album was probably 90% playful and 10% serious (in no way a criticism). It was a record made in happier times. Man of the World, however, is at least 50% serious, possibly more; a record of more troubling times. Chris cites two factors as being responsible for this shift. Firstly, the unexpected death of David Bowie and subsequently, the direction in which the world appeared to be heading as evidenced by ‘Brexit’ and the rise and ultimate election of Donald Trump.
“Writing Man of the World was my way of processing 2016, a year that began with the death of my favourite artist, David Bowie, and ended with the greatest political disruption of my adult life – all while I was a nomad, an American living in London, touring two continents, never fully of either place. It’s partially about being trapped in my own head, obsessing about things it was too late to change, feeling afraid and guilty and alone. It’s also my attempt to document a certain sense of loss that felt both intensely personal and like part of a larger collective experience many were going through at once.”
And from the record company:
“The album takes a bit of a different approach from his first solo record “The Names”, this time tackling themes of politics and current events from the perspective of a travelling musician over the past year.”
The first single from the album is the still quite playful PHILOSOPHY!
““PHILOSOPHY!” is a deceptively buoyant breakup song chronicling a terminal failure of communication. It is a reflection of an album whose themes of alienation, paranoia, and political will to power are belied by airy melodies and a crystalline pop sheen.”
The video, shot in New York City, and directed by Dan Navetta..
“Features Baio’s signature dance moves and white suit, musical skeletons, spinning globes and close up frames inducing feelings of optimism in a frenetic and uncertain world.”
PHILOSOPHY! from ‘Man of the World’.
Man of the World opens with a bold statement via the emotionally charged Vin Mariani. A reference to a drink that was popular in it’s day. The track is about how intoxicating and addicting certain sentiments and emotions can be. Populism. The idea that all political change is a good thing. “Learning to live with a decision. When it’s not the one I would have made.” And the tone of the album is set.
After a short dose of melodic and hectic ‘please don’t go’ from The Key is Under the Mat, comes the pure joy of Out of Tune. A scathing indictment of one who takes the populism referenced in ‘Vin Mariani’ and shamelessly uses it for his own selfish gain and promotion. Despite the seriousness of the subject, this is one of the more excitable tracks with killer hooks and bold brassy kicks.
The album takes a slightly darker turn upon arrival at DANGEROUE ANAMAL. Most right-minded Westerners have felt that deep conflict between wanting and needing to protect the planet yet being unavoidably part of the problem. This song is for us. “I still eat meat. I still fly. I cross the street. Wherever I like.” There’s no time to dwell on that however as the next track, Man of the World, will, at the very least, get a foot tapping.
Sensitive Guy is the song most reminiscent of earlier work and is partially about paying taxes to a government that commits violent acts. Something most of us are familiar with. Next, I’m Not Curious, which lulls you into a false sense of ‘this feels fairly ordinary’. Fairly ordinary is not what we expect and in fact this track explodes into one of the stand-outs of the album. The contrast between the calmer start and the more intense finish making it so.
Shame in my Name was written shortly after the US election and Chris says that it is essentially the thesis of the album. “I know I’m deeply privileged. To be losing just my mind. I’m fearful for the bodies. Of the vulnerable and kind. I’ve got shame in my name.” From a construction point of view this track has that ultimate Baio hit; the sudden shift into a few moment of insanity followed by a slow return to normal. Perhaps this is a metaphor for the emotions many of us felt up to, during and after the election. The album closes with the cute and melodic Be Mine.
In December 2015 I made ‘The Names’ my album of the year with a score of 10/10. Man of the World is somewhat different, but in terms of quality these albums are equals. Records can’t just be artistically good, they have to stir some emotion and they have to be enjoyable. Man of the World is all of these things and more and deserves nothing less than full marks also. And yes, I fully expect this to be my album of the year come December.
Subura score: 10/10. Sebastian Subura. London. 28/6/2017.
Man of the World was recorded in Brixton, London during 2016.
It was mixed by Bruce Lampcov and co-produced by Chris Baio and John Foyle.
1. Vin Mariani
2. The Key is Under The Mat
3. Out of Tune
5. Exquisite Interlude
6. DANGEROUE ANAMAL
7. Man of the World
8. Sensitive Guy
9. I’m Not Curious
10. Shame in My Name
11. Be Mine
A series of summer tour dates have been announced:
July 14th – Boston, MA – Summer Fridays @ The Institute Of Contemporary Art [DJ Set]
July 19th – London, UK – The Waiting Room
July 22nd – London, UK – Greco-Roman 10 Year Anniversary @ Bloc [DJ Set]
July 29th – Los Angeles, CA – Levitt Pavilion (Free Show)
August 3rd – New York, NY – South Street Seaport (Free Show)
Low-res images used for review purposes only and courtesy of Baio/Glassnote Records.