I don’t know if the average person quite understands what an awesome gig it is go be a music writer. Presumably, you started writing about music because you first listened to it a bunch and couldn’t get enough. Then, you want to tell everyone about all the cool music you listen to and what they really should be digging into.
Whether you’re coming from a critical, super-opinionated perspective or just trying to capture the moment the music touched home, you just want to get the word out. And when you tell the right people — publicists, managers, record labels — they will send you albums upon albums of music to listen to, more than the average or even above-average music connoisseur can manage.
All these pieces of artwork, self-expression, sounds and life that you cherish, down to the fiber of your being, are given to you just because you asked. Think about some of the things in this life you love the most and what it would be like if you got them just by asking. It’s pretty great, right?
Recently, I asked Kevin Calabro of New York label Royal Potato Family if there was anything he had coming down the pipeline that I could help publicize. Let’s be sure to clarify that by asking, I mean emailing someone 3,000 miles away I had neither met, seen a picture of nor knew what their voice sounded like, to send me some music next time they had something to promote. Only in the 21st century.
Nonetheless, graciously he passed along decker.’s “Into the Red” and it has been a fixture on my personal playlist for the past couple weeks. Really, it just speaks to how something as magical and mundane as receiving music over the Internet has the potential to impact you for the rest of your life.
Brandon Decker hails from the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona, and has been releasing music under the name decker. since 2009. Interestingly, his newest release “Into the Red” is actually a retrospective of his six independently released albums within that time, along with a pair of new songs. It’s a little, well-deserving light Royal Potato Family is shining on the Southwest artist. Well, decker.’s little light shines brightly if not humbly, a personal campfire providing warmth in the wilderness of life.
The retrospective starts off with brand new song “Matchstick Man,” a fiery and direct response to the tumultuous White House administration. Flames shoot from his voice as he proclaims,“There comes a time when your time’s all out, but then again you never really were in control,” his passion propelling the tumbling rhythm. He works himself into a rampaging fever dream of crashing piano and razor sharp guitars on next track “Holy Ghost,” a bat-out-of-hell rockabilly song that suits speeding through the desert at night just to get a fix of being alive. As you go through “Into the Red,” you begin to realize that capturing that spark of life is really the essence of decker.’s music.
You feel that spark on just about every track. Decker. has crafted his music in relative isolation from the greater musical populous, which makes it feel unique and specific to his experience. It’s an ambitious welding of psych-folk, heatwave blues and ramshackle rock whose ingenuity lies in making all of these things work coherently and beautifully when they probably shouldn’t, much like a gigantic desert sculpture made from the discarded treasures of hubcaps, rusted-out car frames and personal belongings left along the highway.
At times, he can be ambitious and dramatic, like on standout “Patsy” from the album of the same name. His lamentations of vulnerability and despair are teased out in an acoustic, finger-picked melody before gushing out in sweeps of a string section and cascading bells. The guitarist crackles with the electric energy of dark, morning light in the mini-epic “The Phantom,” sounding like a grizzled War On Drugs song.
But decker. never limits himself to any one style or emotion on “Into the Red,” his breadth as wide as the human experience. “Sun, Shine In” is a gypsy blues ballad complete with touches of trumpet and mandolin, “ODB” glows with intimate soul as a jovial folk song and .decker combines drum sampling and acoustic guitars with paranoid success on “In The Same Boat.” While all these songs are pulled from different albums and tacked together for “Into the Red,” there is a cohesion to them that makes it stand alone.
Decker. was a sweet surprise for me. He’s a truly unique musician whose music can adapt to any situation thanks to his scope and understanding of genuine human emotions. Released Aug. 25, “Into the Red” is a special record that reveals there are only more riches in the desert to discover with decker. And I probably would have never found it on my own just browsing through the vast musical landscape. Decker. just found himself on my digital doorstep, thanks to my occupation as a music writer, and being introduced to these little nuggets of musical gold is the biggest perk of the job. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Below are images of Tahoe Onstage writer Garrett Bethmann on the job.