Published Jul 02, 2013Louise Burns got some high-profile when making her sophomore solo album, The Midnight Mass, which features production from Sune Rose Wagner (of the Raveonettes) and Colin Stewart (Dan Mangan, Black Mountain, A.C. Newman). The album drops on July 9 via Light Organ Records, and the whole thing is available to stream right here on Exclaim.ca.
The new songs find Burns venturing in a more dreamily synth-heavy direction, with sonic touchstones including the Cure, Berlin-era David Bowie and Dum Dum Girls. Speaking with Exclaim! on the phone from New York, Burns admits that the album doesn't share many similarities with her recent taste in tunes.
"It's kind of funny how the record turned out, because I literally spent a year listening to Townes Van Zandt and the Dead Man soundtrack," she says. "I honestly thought I'd make a country record when I first started writing."
At the time, the Vancouverite was living in Toronto and began composing demos on her computer at home. "I started writing using Logic rather than on acoustic guitar," she says. "For example, 'Jasper' — pretty much all of that song is from my demo session that I just did in my basement apartment in Toronto."
The sound of the record was largely mapped out already by the time she entered the studio, meaning that there weren't too many surprises during the sessions. "I took about a year of pre-production and writing this record, and I was very specific on what I wanted," she reflects. "I chose the producers because I knew they'd be able to do it for me. Obviously they had ideas as well and brought a lot of their own stuff, but when I go into the studio, I don't go in without knowing exactly what I want."
As for her decision to work with Wagner, she enthuses, "I really like that he's a songwriter, and he really honours the song, the craft of it. I really like his guitar tones and I wanted to go for a bit of a different, more interesting direction with my own music, and I thought he'd be a good match, for mixing especially."
Wagner's sonic stamp emerges on the fuzzy dream-pop ballad "Don't Like Sunny Days" and in the threatening six-string work of "The Lodger." Elsewhere, the album's dramatic synthscapes evoke Burns's work as a member of electronic pop band Gold & Youth.
The recordings include contributions from a slew of guests including Cat Power's Gregg Foreman on guitar, Ladyhawk's Darcy Hancock on guitar, Dum Dum Girls' Sandy (a.k.a. Sandra Vu) on drums, Brasstronaut's Brennan Saul on drums, Sun Wizard's James Younger on guitar, and Fond of Tigers' Jesse Zubot on violin.
The songwriter is currently gearing up to tour later in the summer with Lightning Dust, with whom she will sing backing vocals, in addition to performing her own set. Hopefully by then she will have recovered from a leg injury she sustained while carrying gear on stage this spring.
"I pulled a lot of muscles quite seriously about two months ago. I haven't been able to walk — I've been using a cane," she reveals. "At first it was really shitty. It was really fucking hard, I'm not going to lie. Especially in Gold & Youth I move around a lot and I switch instruments."
She's on the mend, however, so don't expect the setback to interfere with her promotional plans for the new album.
Listen to The Midnight Mass over at our Music/Video section, and check out her tour schedule here.