In the thick of the season of stillness and confined anxieties Tom Schraeder has taken a turn in his career that explores the isolation felt from the lack of motivation and communication. Winter depression can be debilitating, stifling the works of even the greatest artists, but rather than succumb to this suppression Schraeder has sought to capture it and have the work itself embody the solitude and separation. DearBrooklyn,I’mSorry…, the title of his latest collection of songs, is an exploration for Schraeder away from his more familiar terrain of acoustic based Americana. Previously compared by some to Gram Parsons Schraeder knew that his embrace of seasonal depression and grey ambiance was something he should explore. He has a need to continually improve and improvise the direction of his work. With an almost manic desperation, Schraeder aims to distill his feelings, even when these feelings contradict his manic motivation, producing languid melodies of sadness and quiet contemplation. Once, after playing the Chicago Country Festival, he was approached by a few fans who were a little surprised by the direction of his latest songs. The prospect of catching his fans off guard and producing music that, in the minds of some, radically departed from expected norms greatly intrigued Schraeder.
At the 2007 CMJ music festival in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Tom Schraeder projected a musical style that was very much at home amongst the comparisons of golden era country music artists. He and his band were in the company of the talented singer-songwriters that constituted the American independent county scene. On his tour he circulated his album, The Door, the Gutter, the Grave, which embraced the multi-instrumental approach, in many ways declaring him a standard bearer for the singer-songwriter movement that had ubiquitously appeared in the US over the last decade. The following year, Schraeder released a somewhat bipolar experiment called Lying Through Dinner, a collection of songs that sought to challenge his standard style. This record both exploded his sound with the roots rock production of Guadeloupe Cries, but it also hinted toward a markedly new influence. This new approach, used in songs like Any Other Bar andSorryMy Dear, represented exceptional growth in Schraeder’s repertoire. The bipolar release foreshadowed the work he was to engage in January 2010. The focus of his talent on the embodiment of emotional outbursts and reservations necessitated that he do something unexpected.
With DearBrooklyn,I’mSorry…he has done just this. On Sunday January 17th, Schraeder received a call from a friend named Matthew Nurse who had just written a song and wanted to get an opinion. He instantly knew that he wanted to record the song and in the process was compelled to assemble 7 more he had either been working on or had ideas for. Over the course of the next few days Schraeder recorded the tracks, finishing on January 19th. With regard to the inspiration for his unexpected burst of creative output, Schraeder says,
“Ifigured the theme should remain sonically (not lyrically) on winter depression and the way it affects a good portion of my year.Ithought of the [four] things that seem to always come with the disease. The inability to find enough motivation to walk, shower, communicate outside of your room, and of course get out of bed. So,Idecided to add footsteps, water, church bells/helicopters/children (whatI'd hear all last winter living across from a church, an ER, and an elementary school), and wrestled sheets through out the record. ThenIused piercing synth tones to showcase my anxiety and migranes thatIsuffer from.”
A retrospective look over Schraeder’s career reveals a beautiful and accomplished range of work. From The Whiskey Song to Needle Will Bite, from his standard contributions toward American songwriting to his illuminating explorations, Tom Schraeder has never ceased to give everything he’s got. The new collection of songs has only seeded new ideas and new possibilities for what Schraeder does in the future. The record is wrought with diffuse reverberations and low-fi piano and guitar infused with the weighty depth of synthesized bass and sharp digital accents. DearBrooklyn,I’mSorry…clocks in under a half hour with its stylistic crescendo, Tomorrow We’ll Know Why, lasting only 2m 48s. The song is devastating in its beauty and flawless melody. It is an example of basement tape mastery that has been absent for far too long, even inBrooklyn. The track is overwhelmingly gorgeous. The record may be unexpected, and it may be entirely unclear as to how Schraeder has arrived in this cerebral place, but have no doubt his voice and soul are present in every note and every brief, intimate moment.
- Frederick Foxtrot
"Dear Brooklyn, I'm Sorry..." Cover photography by Heather Parkin