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Berryland

by The Berries

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about

The Berries’ sophomore full-length feels like something of an oddity in 2019. It’s an unabashed love letter to decades of guitar music that manages to sound fresh, it’s got Americana sway and Brit rock swagger. It’s an album preoccupied with the state of the world that never strays from the realm of personal; it explores the pull of extremes in an effort to find balance;and it doesn’t surrender to nihilism nor pander to hopefulness. It’s Berryland, and it rocks.

Matt Berry, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and overall mastermind of The Berries, first began to turn heads with his work in louder bands in the west coast underground music scene (Big Bite, Happy Diving), but his true love has always been unfiltered melody. “I’ve always been attracted to pop sensibilities and I was interested in making music that leaned more towards that instead of volume and distortion,” he explains. After a handful of demos, The Berries’ released their 2018 debut LP Start All Over Again, which documented a miserable Seattle winter and Berry’s impressive ability to organically wear his influences on his sleeve. As he began working on a follow up, he found himself becoming more and more at ease in forging those inspirations within his own unique sonic identity.

That assured sense of identity is unmistakable on Berryland. After tracking drums with Trevor Spencer at his studio outside Seattle, Way Out, Berry began the in-depth process of recording nearly every other instrument on the album in his own home. “Every day I wake up and if I’m not working, I'm in my cave for eight hours makng music, so I was very used to spending days just working on a song,” he recalls. The extra time spent tinkering and experimenting can be heard in Berryland’s vast array of guitar tones, psychedelic flourishes, and layered vocal harmonies. Traces of Berry’s punk roots remain in the occasional noisy guitar squall, which meets the jangle and twang with surprising cohesion. Driving all the guitars is Berryland’s secret weapon: its attention to rhythm. The sense of groove and occasional electronic percussion are subtle but key elements of the album’s pulse, often inspired by Berry’s love of the 1990s intersection of rock and danceable beats.

All this musical freedom supports Berry’s chief lyrical concerns: a desire for autonomy in the face of all the structures we create for some semblance of solid ground in an increasingly unstable world. “Everything I think about is on this spectrum,” he explains. “Independent or dependent, creating rules for yourself and relying on them, or allowing yourself that personal freedom. It’s really hard for me to not go insanely in one direction or another, and a lot of the record is trying to find that balance.” Opening track “Makes Me Sick” sets up this dichotomy, with Berry leaning into his more nihilistic side overtop a thumping bass line and hallucinatory beat that recalls the many works of J. Spaceman. “Lowest Form Of Life” follows with a gently melancholy guitar lick and Berry lamenting the eagerness some have to put their heads in the sand and avoid the harsh realities of our modern world. Tracks like “Fruit” or “Passing Scene” are unconventional heartbreak songs that feature slide guitar and some of Berry’s finest vocal harmonies -- a lilting respite before the full-on boogie of “Feral Eyes”

“D.Y.W.I.B.” kicks of the B-side with Berry conjuring a cosmic singalong by way of Primal Scream and Neil Young, while elsewhere “Pedestal” jumps between alt-country strut and dirge. The back and forth between guitar bravado and somber songwriting on Berryland often mirror’s the shaky internal battle between the more self-absorbed and altruistic sides of human nature in Berry’s lyrics. “Hell On The Speedway” and closing track “Heavy Rain” offer a more optimistic spin on the fatalism of earlier songs. “All you can really do is try to keep going,” Berry says, “You have to keep pushing whatever ethos you believe in and try to make the best of it.” This a quiet sentiment might seem out of place in our complex world, but in Berryland, it sounds about right.

credits

released September 20, 2019

Drums recorded/engineered by Trevor Spencer at Way Out Studios
Vocals (tracks 1-7, 9) recorded/engineered by Kent Soliday at his house
Pedal Steel (tracks 2 and 5) recorded by Nick Merz
All other instruments recorded by Matthew Berry at Spruce House
Mixed by Matthew Berry at Spruce House
Mastered by Jack Shirley at The Atomic Garden

Pedal Steel (tracks 2 and 5) played by Nicholas Merz
Flute (track 1) played by Veronica Dye
All other instruments played by Matthew Berry

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Track Name: Makes Me Sick
high praise for the man in white
sing his song, sing it right
all around you the fire burns
i'm getting high as soon as i return
hear the drums, watch the sun soar high 
as you run

because my mind, it needs your kiss
something about it makes me sick
Track Name: Lowest Form Of Life
when i walk alone past the violence i can't unsee
when my vision's gone, i get the feeling of being free
but then you call
a victim to all
no, and the feelings fall

singing a lovers tune for the ones you call bullshit
and tell them what you want, and how you're going to make the best of it
oh yes you are
but then you call
a victim to all
no, and the feelings fall
Track Name: Fruit
lay me down and take my hand
say it in a way i'll understand
through the mist i saw chosen land
fallen men, swords in the sand
i dont want to split it in two, but i don't want to tell you lies
was it mine or yours to lose, i don't want to tell you lies

a handsome king caught me by surprise
he lost his dignity right between my eyes
i dont want to split it in two, but i don't want to tell you lies
was it mine or yours to lose, i don't want to tell you lies
is that all you have to give? i don't want to tell you lies
and do you miss him when he says, that i don't want to tell you lies
i don't want to tell you lies
Track Name: Passing Scene
well i've been thinking over, yeah maybe for a time or two
you say you don't want me around, i'm thinking that you do
because it's the hairs on my neck that stand up so damn tall
they tell you who i really am, and i don't know how long i can go

and i dont want you singing songs about me baby
whisper it to me in a passing scene
tall and ugly, stories that i sell you
hold me to the words i say i mean
Track Name: Feral Eyes
down the road i see hateful eyes staring back at me
sizeable complex, i don't see past it i do not rest
feral eyes they see you one way
and pray to god that you don't stay

focused vision, a life of your own and its worth living
out in the quarry i do not revel, i do not worry
feral eyes they see you one way
and prey to god that you don't stay
abandoned love its got you down
until something new comes around
Track Name: D.Y.W.I.B.
well i was drifting in and out of sight
hard enough to see beyond the light
men in war do as they like
but i want you to feel alright
and do you want it bad?
do you need it bad?
do you want it bad?
do you need it bad?

fatal lovers on parade
see the finish line flicker and fade
praise the man who seeks no estate
worse than that probably insane
and do you want it bad?
do you need it bad?
because i want it bad
and i need it bad
Track Name: Hell On The Speedway
i can't see it, the lights too low
im taking it easy, i'm taking it slow
stepping forward in due time
so you can get yours and i get mine

something around the bend is showing you the way
it holds your tired hand and tells you its okay
as far as i'm concerned its all the same
praise the power of your creation
now
Track Name: Along The Water
walk beside a lonely dancer
feel her hand growing cold, wanting more
reverent light shines upon you
steals your sight, junked and wronged
by your own

just speak your mind freely and tell me how you feel
all along the water, i'll know it's real
the light it lies to you and yours
hides away in what you meant
i've lost the sense of what is mine
and i believe it's heaven sent
Track Name: Pedestal
light of day peaking in, it almost blinds you 
from your sins
afraid of your wanting now, and how it holds you
from the hounds, oh they're hungry for you
a holy house soaked in the rain
it's washing you of your pain
and when you're saying that is that
i swear i hear the devil laugh
i swear i'm hearing it, how he laughs
oh he's laughing at you

and now i'm after a man i know so well
someone who could put me on a pedestal
Track Name: Heavy Rain
i had ideas about your tone
a horrible pain about you sent down the road
from the north i feel it pour, a heavy rain
i hope to god it don't drive me insane
because i've been waiting up for you
something that you got to prove
but somewhere there i lost my mind
and i've been a little different, a little off the line
a holy man speaking to me, he says i'm a lie
says i'm a lie

and down by the water you walk
praising for a saviour you know you don't want  

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