It's finally here. Years after his old band disbanded (and also saw its own delays in releases) and years after some of the songs were initially written, Eli Mardock will finally release “Everything Happens for the First Time.”
Out Aug. 6 on Paper Garden Records, the album features some songs written when Eagle Seagull was still a band, and some from when the band was dissolving.
The title track was written during the time that the band imploded, and Mardock said the song, with its sunny and poppy sound, is “about mindfulness and living in the moment and really appreciating each experience of everything unique and new.”
Other songs have a more personal story to them, including “Algebra and the Moon,” where part of the vocal is sung by Mardock's wife, Carrie.
“I sang it at my wedding,” Mardock told me over the phone. “That was written about Carrie when we were still in Eagle Seagull. It's a song that is about longing, and I think the lyrics are pretty straightforward about my feelings at the time.”
Though they're now happily married and recently welcomed a son, their relationship is a complicated one, and it contributed to some of the songs on “Everything Happens for the First Time.” Their relationship began when they were in Eagle Seagull and married to other people, but Mardock called it “something good coming out of something dark.”
“If You're With Me, Then You're Against Me,” in particular, has that vibe. Co-written with former Eagle Seagull bandmate J.J. Idt, the song has a thumping bassline and synthy melodies that may make you dance around. There's also a duet between Mardock and his wife and lines such as “we're just two beautiful monsters dancing in the dark.”
“It's unique in that it's a poppy, single-type song, but the chorus only hits once at the very end. I remember when we were working on it, someone said, 'You can't do this. You can't have the chorus just at the end,'” Mardock said. “But I really like that. The layers of sounds in that build and build, and it's almost Phil Spector-y with the wall of sound with the choir and that piano and that big pop chorus.”
Though I've mentioned Eagle Seagull a few times in this column, don't expect another album that sounds just the same. “Everything Happens for the First Time” is an expansive record and has Coldplay-esque moving ballads (“The King of the Crickets”), distorted space rock (“Children of the World's New Uterus”) and Pink Floyd rock romps (“Theologians Tell Me”) among the more radio-ready sunny pop.
And where Eagle Seagull was a band, this is definitely all Mardock. He wrote all the songs, produced the album, played almost all of the instruments and sang lead vocals on every song. In short, he had total control.
“Being in the band was super fun and I loved being in Eagle Seagull. You always butt heads and you always have to make concessions on other people's ideas. Sometimes ideas are great and sometimes they're not,” he said. “That's part of the fun of being in a band. You hang out and you get really close with people. You have all these ideas and you put them all together and you get these really great things. ... But for various reasons, not just personal things, it was toxic for me. It's been really good to get out and reset.”
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Mardock's album comes out Tuesday, but his Lincoln and Omaha album release shows aren't until July 19 and 20. It's been awhile since he's played live, so expect to hear some new songs that aren't even on the new album. Then this fall, he's going to play solo shows in Europe and the United States.
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Wilco recently performed an all-request, all-covers set at the Solid Sound Festival. Intrepid live concert taper Dan Lynch recorded the entire thing and hosts it on his nyctaper.com website. With covers of songs by Big Star, Neil Young, the Band, Daft Punk, the Kinks, Yo La Tengo, Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan and others, the set has been so popular that it has crashed Lynch's website a couple of times.
CORRECTION: The release date of the album “Everything Happens for the First Time” was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.