Today is the big day, and I am stressed the fuck out. You probably are, too. For the past few months, I’ve been yelling at TV pundits who can’t hear me and wouldn’t care if they did. I’ve been hitting refresh on FiveThirtyEight, because if there has been some drastic polling swing in the last 30 seconds, I want to be the first to know about it. I have envisioned strapping Anthony Weiner to a rocket and firing him into the sun. And I have contemplated my own insignificance in the face of a vast, yawning, uncaring political divide — an abyss that has left nearly half of my country ready to vote for someone I would cross to the other side of a busy street to avoid. I feel pretty good about the nation’s chances of not immolating itself today, but mostly I just want to curl into a ball and wait things out in a cave somewhere. As someone who loves music more than most things, I don’t have a lot of mental energy to devote to this shit today. I need to be actively soothed, and the new Daniel Bachman album does the trick. Its timing is just about perfect.
Bachman is a 26-year-old guitar virtuoso who already has a generous handful of albums to his credit. He comes from the same acoustic-instrumental world that gave us the great folk visionary William Tyler, and his music has the same sort of out-of-time float that Tyler’s does. Bachman mostly records on his own, and his songs tend to be free-floating acoustic meditations — pieces that sometimes return back to the same melody but usually just wander wherever they need to go. Bachman has been learning to play slower and slower since he debuted a few years ago, and there’s more of a bluesy earthiness to his playing than there is in the music of many of his American-primitive peers. Bachman is chasing beauty, and he doesn’t mind if his feet get muddy along the way.
Last year’s River was the straight-up prettiest work of Bachman’s career, and it may have also been the best. But the self-titled album that’s coming out on Friday rivals River, and it does so by going in a slightly different direction. This time around, Bachman is more into drones and open spaces. He’s using sustain and reverb more than he has on past records, and the album opens with nothing but woozy ambient hums for a couple of minutes before that crystalline guitar finally comes in. This is still recognizably ancestral American music, but that distancing effect serves to make the album sound just slightly alien from time to time.
Like William Tyler and most of his other peers, Bachman is a participant in a certain backwater tradition, a disciple of mutant-folk masters like John Fahey and Jack Rose. Like Rose, Bachman comes from the small Virginia college town of Fredricksburg. And like Rose, he’s figured out ways to channel the serenity of the rolling green Virginia hills that surrounded him as a kid into music that calls back to folk traditions while still wandering freely. On his own great 2016 album, Modern Country, Tyler branched out a bit into some experimental directions, using collaborators to help fracture his sound. Bachman, by contrast, is doing just about everything himself; the only other musician credited on the new album is Forrest Marquisee, who plays something called an octotone. But on a song like the 14-minute zone-out “Brightleaf Blues II,” Bachman can incorporate things like Indian ragas without venturing too far from his American roots-music home.
Bachman ends the album with an acoustic take on “Farther Along,” a traditional hymn about wondering why you have to struggle while terrible people live in luxury, and about letting go of that unfairness and letting things be what they are. When a maniacal billionaire nihilist is making his end-run at the White House, there’s something reassuring about hearing that sentiment rendered in sunnily calm acoustic tones. And on a day like today, the quiet serenity of an album like Daniel Bachman can serve as a real balm. This will all be over soon, hopefully. And sometimes, you need an album like this to just help you breathe for a few more hours.
Daniel Bachman is out 11/11 on Three Lobed Recordings. Stream it below.
Other albums of note out this week:
• A Tribe Called Quest’s unheard, feverishly anticipated return We Got It From Here, Thank You For Your Service.
• Sleigh Bells’ bright, hard, sharp Jessica Rabbit.
• Speedy Ortiz leader Sad13’s thoughtfully synthy solo debut Slugger.
• The Men’s seething fuzz-rock attack Devil Music.
• Body/Head’s improvisational live album No Waves.
• You Blew It!’s dark, emotive Abendrot.
• David Bazan’s Christmas album Dark Sacred Night.
• Papa M’s fuzzily reflective Highway Songs.
• Kristin Hersh’s book-and-CD combination Wyatt At Coyote Palace.
• Chicago rap producer oddCouple’s guest-heavy showcase Liberation.
• Simian Mobile Disco’s dance attack Welcome To Sideways.
• Rainbow Arabia’s airy electronic LP LA Heartbreak.
• Wand frontman Cory Hanson’s solo debut The Unborn Capitalist From Limbo.
• Tame Impala/Pond side project GUM’s debut Flash In The Pan.
• Sting’s latest comeback 57th & 9th.
• Superjoint’s all-star doom attack Caught Up In The Gears Of Application.
• Tredici Bacci’s cinematic solo debut Amore Per Tutti.
• Foo Fighter Taylor Hawkins’ solo mini-LP KOTA.
• Teen Suicide’s Bonus EP.
• Leapling’s Killing Time EP.
• Blank Range’s Vista Bent EP.
• Forth Wanderers’ Slop EP.