Chris Maxwell "Nothingland"

$ 29.98

10 Songs | MR136 | Release Date: September 27, 2024

Limited pressing on 150g black vinyl in a gatefold jacket with lyrics & liner notes.

This is a presale for a very limited run vinyl LP. Shipping begins September 23, 2024.



I Don't Hear You

White Cowboy Hat

I Declare

I've Got No One To Drink With Anymore

I Wish I Could See It Coming


Saddest Man

Sinister Love

I Can't Write You Into This Song

The hand of nothing wakes you / Leaves questions on your mind

Leaves you staring at a screen /As if there’s answers there to find

Now it all seems like / The plans you made are over

In the fields you planted rye / But it’s come up clover

So sings veteran singer-songwriter, acclaimed guitarist, and Clio-award-winning composer Chris Maxwell on the title cut of his captivating new album, Nothingland. As the tune unfolds, Maxwell’s soulful croon rides atop a distinctive mix of organic and synthetic sound: finger-picked acoustic meshed with Soviet-era synthesizers, electronics buzzing under church-y harmonies, lap steel shimmering over distorted beats. “Nothingland”both the tune and the collection – illuminates a troubled, recognizable world, but from the get-go, Maxwell offers hope, singing: “Oh Suzanna / I’m holding something in my hand / Keys to the bus to drive us all / Out of Nothingland.” Those keys are these songs.

With producer-bassist Eli Crews (tUnE-yArDs, Nels Cline), the sonic surprises continue throughout Nothingland, audio both familiar and oddball propelling Maxwell’s melodically rich, lyrically incisive observations of pandemic-induced chaos, political insanity, climate anxiety, and, in the darkly hilarious waltz “I’ve Got No One to Drink With Anymore,” a vexing lack of drinking buddies: “My friends like nature and going on mindfulness retreats,” he sings. “Don’t get me wrong I like rocks, but I still take it neat.”

And yet, in the face of lengthening shadows, Maxwell conjures light, humor, and a daring romanticism. In Nothingland, serious shit is afoot, some of it global, some personal, but time and again, love remains unkillable. Through songs both radio-ready and wildly unusual, where, say, a horn-laden 70s R&B pop groove is spiced with distorted electro beats (“Wish I Could See It Coming”), or an arena-worthy guitar solo snakes through garage-y fuzz (“Can’t Write You Into This Song”), Maxwell repeatedly circles back to ardor – for a friend, a partner, a child, a world.  Love is balm, energy source, proof of something greater than the obvious. As he testifies in the Abbey Road-worthy “I Declare”: “Before they say we broke the rules / Hand our fate over to the fools / Before your eyes, they change from green to blue / I declare my love to you.”

Nothingland marks a departure from Maxwell’s previous two releases, the lauded autobiographical Americana pair Arkansas Summer (2016) and New Store No. 2 (2020), spartan, self-produced albums centered around his often-dramatic 70s and 80s upbringing in Little Rock, Arkansas. Released, like Nothingland, on Arkansas-based Max Recordings, both comprised Maxwell’s return to the singer-songwriter realm after nearly twenty years as one half (with drummer/DJ Phil Hernandez) of record production/composer team Elegant Too, best known for their work on beloved multi-Emmy-winning Bob’s Burgers. (Also Inside Amy Schumer, Silver Linings Playbook, as well as writing and producing for other artists such as They Might Be Giants, Yoko Ono and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.) 

What, pray tell, was Maxwell’s primary motivation for this midlife burst of songwriter energy, not seen since his days working with legendary producer Jim Dickinson in the 80s power-pop band The Gunbunnies, and Grammy-nominated, art-damaged 90s NYC combo Skeleton Key? Answer: The 2007 birth of Maxwell’s son. “I wanted him to know the stories,” says Maxwell. “For him, this is the book.” 

After a move from Manhattan to Woodstock, NY, Maxwell re-assumed the mantle of songwriter, reconnecting to a form conceived in Laurel Canyon, CBGB, the Brill Building, Motown, Abbey Road, Stax, et al. His return was hailed. Arkansas Summer and New Store No. 2 elicited praise from renowned authors Rick Moody (The Ice Storm), Robert Gordon (It Came From Memphis), and Jonathan Lethem (Fortress of Solitude), comedian Marc Maron, and music magazines Paste, American Songwriter, Goldmine, and Elmore, to name a few.

About his pivot away from the rootsy, confessional material on previous releases to the more experimental arrangements and broader themes of Nothingland, Maxwell says, “With my first two albums, I needed to place myself in a context – who I am, where I came from. Now that I’ve defined those things, I can move on, and talk about bigger picture stuff.”

In the fraught, uncomfortably revelatory time of covid, that bigger picture came into sharp focus. Maxwell felt the Earth shift significantly, forcing his hand as a songwriter. “I couldn’t get over what was happening,” he says. “The paranoia, people believing such insane lies, the world on fire for real the whole time.”

This time out, Maxwell sought companionship in the process. “I’m at my best as a collaborator,” he says, noting the loneliness of crafting his first two endeavors mostly solo in his home studio. Determined to have more fun and branch out, Maxwell enlisted Crews and his hoard of vintage synthesizers. Such a producer, Maxwell asserts, would “disrupt the process.” Sessions were booked at Woodstock’s Applehead Studio and Crews’ Spillway Sound, near the Ashokan Reservoir. Maxwell dove deep, writing and re-writing, aiming to capture all the absurdity, the abject terror, and the shrouded beauty of the moment.

For Nothingland’s unique soundscape, Maxwell and Crews assembled a stellar ensemble, including lap steel virtuoso Cindy Cashdollar, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, keyboard whiz Marco Benevento, drummers Otto Hauser (Sharon Van Etten, Vetiver) and Manuel Quintana (Marshall Crenshaw, Rachael Yamagata), bassists David Lizmi (fun., Sondra Lerche) and Jeff Lipstein (Mercury Rev, David Johansen), Sam Evian on saxophone, Zach Djanikian on sax and keys, plus vocalists Holly Miranda, Amb. Parsley (Shivaree), Keenan O’Meara (Sufjan Stevens) and Megan Lui (Sufjan Stevens). In the strange, post-lockdown world where the new normal was – and remains – chronic struggle, they committed Nothingland to tape. (Yes, analog tape.)

“I wanted to make a record with songs like the ones that made me tick as a kid,” Maxwell says, harkening to a golden era of expansive albums like Carole King’s Tapestry and John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, “when things could open up as you listen. There was artistry to it, but you still had a responsibility to the audience.”

With Nothingland, those goals are met. Here is an album that masterfully interweaves old school and cutting-edge tech with classic, infectious songwriting and timeless themes; tunes sounding like nothing else you’ve heard, yet resonating in familiar rooms within. Chris Maxwell’s Nothingland is a harsh place we all know, but his work faithfully and joyously reminds us it is no match for love.

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