SUMMER, 1984: THIRTEEN-YEAR OLD BROOKLYN GIRL TAKES BABYSITTING MONEY UPTOWN TO TOWER RECORDS, FINDS 'HEARTBEAT CITY 'ON CASSETTE. DRAWN IN BY SLIGHTLY RACY COVER ART, UNNERVED BUT FASCINATED BY LEAD SINGER'S PUNCHY WARBLE, SHE FINDS HERSELF DEFENSELESS AGAINST INTRICATE LAYERS OF POP HOOKS... BOUNCES ALBUM FROM WALKMAN TO BOOM BOX AND BACK UNTIL TAPE IS DESTROYED WHILE DUBBING IT FOR BEST FRIEND (MORE BABYSITTING FOLLOWS)...
Nothing in the music of Kris Delmhorst immediately suggests a deep affinity with proto-punk new-wave masters The Cars, and yet a dozen years into a career at the nexus of folk, indie-pop, and Americana, Delmhorst has taken a brief vacation from her own literate songwriting to bring usCARS, a collection of songs by the band that defined an era.
Balancing classic hits and deep cuts, Delmhorst has painstakingly deconstructed every hook-laden arrangement, every unforgettable line, creating a sonic palette inventively recast: Ric Ocasek's herky-jerky bravado is replaced by the amber warmth of Delmhorst's luminescent voice; the processed, synth-heavy aesthetic of the originals is reinvented with an array of organic instruments inlcuding fiddle, accordion, upright bass, suitcase drum kit, mandolin, clarinet, penny whistle, and harmonica.
Delmhorst assembled a boisterous band of multi-instrumentalists and a chorus of women singers to bring a variety of sounds to the party. Opting for a session as loose and live as possible, they cut the album in two days with as many as ten players performing live at one time. In a twist of serendipity, mutual acquaintances connected Delmhorst with Cars keyboardist Greg Hawkes, who signed on to add ukelele on a number of the tracks, bringing the project full circle.
Pop standards like "You Might Think"and "Shake It Up" are faithfully - and danceably - covered, while the rockers include a stripped-down version of "Just What I Needed", a moody and mind-bending "Hello Again", and an explosive take on the lesser-known "Getting Through". Perhaps most fascinating is the newly discovered interior landscape of ballads like "Drive", "You Wear Those Eyes", and "Magic", which appears here as a tender fingerstyle ballad gilded by shimmering layers of background harmony.
CARS offers recreation in both senses: a joyful lark partnered with serious interpretation, the uncomplicated love of youthful fandom paired with a deep attention to and respect for craft. Kris Delmhorst offers up an exuberant and moving dream of the summer of 1984 painted in new colors; roll down the window and turn it up!
Kris Delmhorst was born in Brooklyn in 1970 and has been a wide ranging and restless consumer and producer of music ever since. Her previous Signature Sounds releases include 2008's largely self-recorded Shotgun Singer, "a work of lo-fi beauty... evidence of an artist taking flight" -Boston Herald: "Beautifully flaunts a minimalist artistic approach...among the best tunes Delmhorst has ever recorded" - No Depression, and 2006's Strange Conversation, a collection of songs inspired by the work of famous poets "As seamless and brave as it is brilliantly creative - Irish Times, "moody, euphoric, and transcendent" -LA Times.