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Birmingham-based singer-songwriter Cash Langdon is no stranger to the musical landscape, given his recent collaboration with Nora Button on a long-distance project called Caution, and his involvement with bands Saturday Night and Palette. However, his brand new LP, Sinister Feeling (out tomorrow via Earth Libraries) marks his official solo debut.
Sinister Feeling was introduced with “That Kid” — a song about empathy, chorused with epic guitar swells, playful organ, and roomy slide — and “Hearts Feel Wild” — a twangy, acoustic number detailing the feelings of dissociation that can crop up when entangled in love. It’s a record that takes 60s indie, twee, jangle pop, and Americana and throws them in a blender, making for a satisfying soundtrack of heartwarming, emotive tracks, largely inspired by the place he comes from.
Langdon had spent a few years living in Washington D.C. before 2020, when the prospect of returning to Birmingham grew in appeal, not only for its vibrant art scene but also for the small city camaraderie that allows its rock, hip hop, and country scenes to intersect. He began to write songs about his feelings toward his home state, both critical and fond, demoing the majority of what would become Sinister Feeling before he moved back in April of 2021.
Langdon wrote on the LP writing process, exclusively for The Big Takeover:
“I had been writing songs that didn’t feel like they fit with my other band, Caution. I just wanted to have another outlet for songwriting. Conceptually, the album has a lot to do with the ideas of home and family, but that came naturally as I began to work on the music. I think the pandemic had me thinking a lot about those things.”
As Langdon described, his homecoming to eponymous songwriting allowed more freedom to explore in the studio than the ad-hoc methods he’s recently favored with Caution. He recruited Spence Bailey, his friend of over a decade, to track the record at his home studio in Memphis — another city with nostalgic power for Langdon, who used to visit his cousin there and hang at the dive bar hero Alex Chilton frequented. Reagan Bruce, a powerful drummer Langdon’s known since high school, brought in weighty playing and interesting composition ideas — augmented by Bailey’s ten microphones spread across the kit. Working in a carpeted studio without air conditioning in August, it got pretty hot. But the close quarters in extreme temperatures contributed to the neo-psychedelia warmth and broad experimentalism of the tracks. Rolling guitar hammer-ons are layered with bent organ leads; golden harmonies soar above wide acoustic strums; hazy cymbal splashes punctuate peppy bass interplay. On a couple tracks, Nate Mendelsohn — a producer and former collaborator of Saturday Night — flew in saxophone layers, at times maneuvering into orchestral padding, and elsewhere coalescing into an E. Street-indebted fervor.
Though reckoning with the ghosts of your birthplace can be a heavy lift, Langdon manages to infuse these re-evaluations with musical jubilation. Lemonheads-inspired harmonies float over energetic, Paisley Underground-inspired riffs; kraut rock beats bounce into sitar-reminiscent slide doubles; circuitous arpeggios twist out of distinctive guitar rhythms a la Lucinda Williams. Though Langdon views Sinister Feeling as a pessimistic album — it touches elsewhere on worker exploitation, climate change, Birmingham’s gentrification, and soured friendships — it’s also a way of returning to his roots with a sense of optimism for his community, and paying homage to the music he found foundational growing up. “I always liked country music and classic rock, and I like a lot of other things too,” he offers. “But in some ways, it feels a little more natural to be in the South and like that stuff.” Sinister Feeling blends Langdon’s adventurous taste with respect for his artistic upbringing, always keeping a keen eye on his surroundings.
Cash Langdon’s new LP, Sinister Feeling, is out tomorrow via all DSPs. He recommends for listeners to “hear the album and make their own judgments,” and says that “‘Magic Earth,’ ‘That Kid,’ and ‘Etowah’ feel like the standout tracks to [him].”
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