Bartees Strange has been around. The son of a military dad and an opera-singer mother, he was born in England and did stints in Germany and Greenland before settling in Oklahoma for his teen years. These days, in addition to his work as an environmental lobbyist in DC — which involved strategic work with Greta Thunberg’s climate campaign — he’s built a music career in the emo and folk-punk realm. His songs don’t really fit into any category, though. Last year’s “In A Cab,” for instance, has a Beirut-worthy brass section and soulful vocals reminiscent of TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, while Strange adopts more of a hearty Springsteen howl on 2017’s “Get Over It.”
He’ll have a proper album out later this year, but first he’s releasing an EP of the National covers. Fittingly, Say Goodbye To Pretty Boy is coming out on Brassland, the label founded two decades ago by the Dessner brothers and Alec Bemis. Our first preview of the five-song set is Strange’s take on “About Today,” a stone-cold classic from 2004’s Cherry Tree EP. He’s given it an electronic makeover in the style of glitchy, postmillennial Radiohead while preserving the bleary tenderness at its core.
The EP’s cover art features the Pan-African flag and a frayed black sticker, a nod to Black Dots. In a statement, Strange explains the concept:
They try to tear that black dot off the surface, but it’s still there. Battling erasure has been a big part of my journey as an artist. This black dot represents attempts to undersell the contributions black people have made to genres like indie rock music. Despite the lack of credit, we’re still here and we’re adding to these scenes everyday.
Hear the “About Today” cover below.
And here’s a Bartees Strange original to go along with it:
01 “About Today”
03 “Mr. November”
04 “All The Wine”
05 “A Reasonable Man (I Don’t Mind)”
06 “Going Going”
08 “Far” (Bandcamp only)
Say Goodbye To Pretty Boy is out 3/13 on Brassland. Pre-order it here.