BIG STIR RECORDS is delighted to announce the July 16 CD and digital release of an all-new album from ANTON BARBEAU. OH THE JOYS WE LIVE FOR, heralded by its lead single “One Of Her Superpowers”, is up for preorder now at www.bigstirrecords.com/store and everywhere, and will be streaming across all platforms on its street date. The followup to Anton's acclaimed 2019 album Manbird, Oh The Joys is the answer to the question: what does a globetrotting psychedelic troubadour, having just released an ambitious concept album about being in constant motion, do when he's forced to stay in one place?
The answer here is that Barbeau lets his mind wander, while becoming deeply in tune with his sedentary surroundings, and produces one of the most inviting collections of his considerable career. Forced to decamp from Berlin, Germany, to a farm outside of Sacramento with collaborator and now-wife Julia Boorinakis Harper due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Anton brought with him the seeds for no fewer than four projects. Oh The Joys We Live For, the album that coalesced from the disparate concepts, is both intimate and expansive, reflective of its rustic origins but also full of the flights of surreal fancy and sweet melodic intrigue upon which Barbeau's reputation has been built.
Anton is musically aided and abetted by Harper and, remotely, an international cast of collaborators including UK songwriter/chanteuses Rosie Abbott and Sharron Kraus, the latter of whom adds appropriately bucolic recorder to several tracks. Kevin Allison of Anton's US backing band KENNY and Elephant 6 mainstay Bryan Poole contribute guitar, and there's a saxophone contribution from Fred Quentin of the French collective SALT (with whom Barbeau frequently sings). Mostly, though, the record is Ant working on his own on the farm, armed with what was at hand: an acoustic guitar and an electric 12-string, a Hofner bass, Logic Pro, and some choice bits and bobs previously tracked in Berlin.
The songs on Oh The Joys have similarly of-the-moment origins. It's a collection, Anton says, of whatever he happened to have in his pockets at the moment, but from the title track, a psych-folk litany of simple pleasures such as only Barbeau could recite, to the soaring, jangling closer “I Been Thinking 'Bout You”, everything fits. That tune, like the single “One Of Her Superpowers” was written for a shelved project Ant calls I Can't Believe It's Not Power Pop! and both show the man as an innate master of the form who's simply too sly for its lyrical limitations. The equally catchy “Cowbell Camembert” is a fragment of a proposed synth-folk song cycle called Christian Wife, centered on a square couple with secret kinks. “Die Smiling” and the infectious “Salt Lick” (with its refrain “Daddy kisses Mommy 'cuz Mommy's made of minerals”) were tracks written with a new Salt record in mind, and the hauntingly hilarious, piano-and-synth driven “Three Days The Death Enigma” was commenced in Berlin before Anton's extended return to the states.
There are flashes of rubbery countrified dub (“I Love It When She Does The Dishes”) and arty European synth pop (“Crystals”), fragments of orchestral experimentation (“Filmik”) and surreally boozy 6/8 sway (“When Life Brings You Beer”). But the definitive vibe might be set by the unlikeliest of Anton's abandoned projects, The Falco Years. “It was to be my lockdown party album,” he says, “but who wants to relive a pandemic, and really, who wants to party with Anton?” Listeners just might, though. What emerges isn't exactly a party, but it does often transform the listener into a fly on the wall of Anton and Julia's domestic existence in isolation in the quirkily sweetest of ways: by the time it's over you'll know which art films they watched night by night, the shape of their daily routine, and, on the appropriately tense “It's Alright Rosie”, the steps they took to acclimate their pets to lockdown life.
“You crossed a vast frontier, you are here,” Anton sings on “When Life Brings You Beer,” reeling off a list of the realities of daily farm life and a reminder of the vital importance of simply being present. It's not a lockdown party, but it is fun, a portrait of an agile mind making the very best of the limits of life in 2020, and spinning them into musical gold through the act of stubborn creativity. The surreal adornments hang fetchingly on a record that may be one of the most “real” depictions of life during quarantine you're likely to hear. Oh The Joys We Live For puts to bed the notion that a “quarantine album” need be a dreary, po-faced affair and lives up to its title as a document of oddball but genuine hope in salvation via contemplating – yes – whatever may be in your pockets at the moment. And it's another shining jewel in Anton Barbeau's already sterling catalog awaiting your contemplation as well.