Worlds Most Stressed Out Gardener
Chad VanGaalen

Sub Pop

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Artist : Chad VanGaalen
Album : Worlds Most Stressed Out Gardener
Label : Sub Pop
Release date : 19th March 2021
Vinyl colour : Clear with gold, red and blue high melt
Catalogue Number : SP1408
Barcode : 0098787140811

Tracklisting

Spider Milk
Flute Peace
Starlight
Where Is It All Going?
Earth From a Distance
Nightwaves
Plant Music
Nothing Is Strange
Inner Fire
Golden Pear
Nightmare Scenario
Samurai Sword
Water Brother

Initial LP copies pressed on clear with gold, red and blue high melt coloured vinyl.

Calgary songwriter Chad VanGaalen’s new album, ‘World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener’, is a psychedelic bumper crop. A collection of tunes that does away with obsessiveness, the anxiety of perfectionism, in favour of freshness and immediacy - capturing the world as it was met while recording alone at home over a period of years. “Don’t overthink it,” VanGaalen told himself again and again, despite the push/pull love/hate of his relationship with songwriting. “I’m always trying to get outside of the song - but then I realize I love the song.”

This is a record that gleams with VanGaalen’s musical signatures: found sound, reverb, polychromatic folk music that is by turns cartoonish and hyperphysical - like ultra-magnified footage of a virus or a leaf. Apparently, the album began life as a “pretty minimal” flute record. (There’s only a vestige now, on ‘Flute Peace’, one of three instrumentals.) Later it became an electronic record “for a while” and finally, “right at the last second,” it “turned into a pile of garbage.” The good kind of garbage: glinting, useful, free. Music as compost - leaves and branches ready to be re-ingested by the earth, turned into a flower.

Throughout these 40 minutes, VanGaalen floats from mania to solace to oblivion, searching for zen in all the wrong places. “Turn up the radio / I think we’re dead,” he sings on ‘Nothing Is Strange’; or, on the inside-out rocker ‘Nightmare Scenario’: “You’re stressed out when you should be feeling very well.” The singer’s mental landscape is rotting and redemptive, beautiful in spite of itself - and his soundscapes reflect this fertile decay.

He has been influenced by his instrumental work on TV scores (Dream Corp’s third season began this fall) but still “nothing can really replace the human voice,” he admits. Like Arthur Russell or Syd Barrett, it’s VanGaalen’s vocals that shine a path through the swampland - from the cello-lashed ‘Water Brother’ to ‘Starlight’’s krautrock pipe-dream.

These days, VanGaalen cherishes the privacy of the studio, the capacity to wander around, get distracted, and “move at the speed of life.” Whereas once he would obsess over mic techniques, now he puts the microphone in the same place every time - trying to capture a song quickly, the idea at its heart. He’ll act on his infatuations - for the flute, a squeaky clarinet, his basement’s copper plumbing (remade into xylophones for ‘Samurai Sword’) - and then he’ll try to get out, “veering away from responsibility,” before he overdoes his stay.

In the end, it’s like gardening. You have to live with your horrible decision-making; the weather’s going to mess with you if it wants to; and if you plant a hundred heads of broccoli, “now you gotta eat a hundred heads of broccoli - or watch them go to seed.” But mostly VanGaalen just tries to be a deer: “I remember seeing some deer come out in the Okanagan Valley once,” he says, “watching them wait for a sunbeam to hit a perfect bunch of grapes - and then eating them right out of the sunbeam. I’d recommend that.”

Genre: Alternative Folk Pop

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