Scott Bartenhagen – “Beacons” (Stereogum Premiere)

There’s a strip of California that no one really talks about. It’s hours from Hollywood and the sunny glamour of LA and just outside the glow cast by San Francisco’s storied art and tech bubble. Essentially, it’s just miles and miles of hideous desert, parceled off into lonely, isolated towns. Scott Bartenhagen grew up in one of these, a city called Lathrop, and with all that wide open space and little to do, he naturally took to guitar and songwriting. Bartenhagen still teaches guitar lessons, and his willfully individualistic style is part of what makes him interesting in the vastly overpopulated singer-songwriter niche. He’s been releasing music slowly and surely for a few years, but his forthcoming Black Dane EP will be his first for a label. The EP will be out via Los Angeles independent label New Professor Music, one that’s run by Greg Katz of blown-out pop-rock outfit L.A. Font.

Today we’re premiering the first track, “Beacons,” a song that begins as a lowing, lovely flicker and billows into blazing, bright fullness. You can hear the gentle improvisation of jazz burrowing up through Bartenhagen’s stronger folk inclinations, as the whirring of shakers rises into a flurry of frenzied percussion. In his simple, succinct lyrical style, a beacon has been diminished to a lamp on a bedside table. By your second listen through, you’ll realize this doesn’t mean it has diminished at all. For all the pastoral, honeyed chording at the beginning of the track, it’s the dissonant, glowering ones at the end that turn this thing spectral, like a lighthouse with a possessed beam. Listen.

Here’s the Black Dane tracklist:

01 “Black Dane”
02 “Beacons”
03 “Novels”
04 “Meadowwight”

Black Dane is out 6/30 via New Professor Music. Pre-order it here.