Maybe its midnight.  And perhaps a tangled ring of friends surrounds a fire.  But not a fire; instead, a rusty metal citronella candle holder weathered by summer rain and the intense daytime sunlight.  In its wax, cigarette ash and a seed capsule fallen from the weed-tree above.  A cheap plastic table crowded with empty glass bottles...    

Maybe its midnight.  And perhaps a tangled ring of friends surrounds a fire.  But not a fire; instead, a rusty metal citronella candle holder weathered by summer rain and the intense daytime sunlight.  In its wax, cigarette ash and a seed capsule fallen from the weed-tree above.  A cheap plastic table crowded with empty glass bottles...  

 

... And if there is not a group of friends and if they are not there clumsily dancing to some classic rock radio through a muffled speaker, then there are at least two friends whose faces are patterned from the lambent light glowing through the overgrown foliage from a distant utility pole. Or you are alone and there are worse things. The night: thick with summer heat, fuzzy over-disclosure and shifting catharses. Heavy—sure—but you’re laughing. You find some transient comfort—you put on a Walkmen record, a live take from a Tweedy solo concert, a lost Karen Dalton track—in your foot unwittingly tapping to the beat of song that plays amidst the scurrying sounds of street cats and faraway car horns. Maybe its midnight. It probably is.


An understanding of the dictionary definition of the word Oldermost—an outdated modifier plucked from a ghost-town dialect of the American “Wild West”— is not as helpful in appreciating the identity of the Philadelphia quintet as is a realization that this antiquated adjective is indeterminate enough to allow the band to imbue the word with new meaning. It is aname so ambiguous that it can be claimed as the handle for a band that tends to wiggle out of your hands if held too restrictively to one specific genre or influence. While listening, you may feel at home yet you quickly realize that is somewhere you have not been before. The landscape is familiar, but fresh—a warm place that draws you in, a beautiful and melancholic flame that attracts. Oldermost’s music gives you the impression that band continually reaches their hand into some version of the American Songbook, some broad tradition of American music constantly subjected to recurrent revision. But whatever Americana means, or in whatever way that Oldermost is American, per se, it would be because of the where they call home (whatever home means.) There is an ever-present quality of rock and roll inclinations in Oldermost’s music and they are able to hint at nostalgic without stumbling into kitsch. The tonal words in which the band constructs their musical sentences are coherent, even if subtly experimenting with the syntax.


In August 2016, Oldermost will release two new singles. “Honey with Tea” highlights the paradoxical blend of neuroticism and mysticism of lead-singer Bradford Bucknum, whose vocal delivery oscillates between semi-theatrical energetic bursts to gentle, sugary crooning. The inclusion of the up-and-coming Philadelphia singer-songwriting, Rosali, adds a welcomed and hauntingly beautiful element to Oldermost’s previously majority male-centric vocal output. The song’s despairing wit and questionable advice buoyantly tumbles over a sea of lush strings provided by the classically trained yet pop-obsessed compositional asset to the band, David Richard. The class-rock enthusiasm of Mike Sobel’s guitar work slides in and out of the steady rhythms of Stephen Robbins’ focused and passionate drumming and Dan Wolgemuth’s unique and melodic bass playing. The sounds of Sobel’s slide guitar, which is at times horizontal and at other times breaking apart at the vertical edges, provides a unique foundation of sonic texture so that the song can remain innovative but still represent the band’s affinity to popular song construction. “Honey with Tea” features Bucknum’s ability to infuse and recognize a heightened emotional charge, perhaps even a spiritual weight, in the banal. He sings, “If I’m staring at the light, I’m staring at the light of the T.V., but I only watch the ads anymore.”


On “Finally Unsure” Oldermost shows their ability to merge their penchant for era-blending rock and roll with a more chamber-pop, indie-rock sensibility. The track evolves steadily building towards a climatic solo—a release that only momentarily breaks the tension of a song obsessed with the nature of change and a commitment to face unknowing imbued with a palpable fear that upon embracing uncertainty that we may not be recognized by the ones we love. Instead of seeking some sense of tranquility, some paradise of relief populated by easy answers, Bucknum sings that he is trying to find his “way back from heaven.”


Initially recorded in a cabin in upstate New York and then finished in the band’s home studio in Philadelphia, these two new tracks—“Honey with Tea” and “Finally Unsure”—spotlight Oldermost’s evolution and movement into more complex sonic territory on the heels of the momentum built from the band’s previous releases. In 2015, the band released Its Difficult To Know Anything At All, recorded in their Philadelphia studio. The five-song collection playfully revisits the heavy inquiries of their full-length debut I Live Here Now (2014), which was produced by Jonathan Low (Sharon Van Etten, Daniel Rossen, Kurt Vile, Mr. Twin Sister), but does so by building tension both centripetally and centrifugally around the dark and whimsical center of questioning and wonder never quite arriving at any answers. The band’s first release, Oldermost EP (2010), was recorded shortly after three founding members of the band packed their bags and left the Shenendoah Valley to live together in Philadelphia.


“Honey with Tea” and “Finally Unsure” were produced by the Stephen Robbins and Oldermost and were mixed by Jeff Ziegler (The War on Drugs, Nothing, Kurt Vile, Steve Gunn). The band was elated to invite Ziegler to place his singular sonic fingerprint on these songs through the mixing process.


Both tracks are part of a larger, ongoing and forthcoming project that will continue to investigate the nature of uncertainty and the complexities of belonging and intimacy as the band continues to evolve further pushing at the edges of the frame of what makes popular music so much a part of our daily lives.

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