Since moving to the Durham, NC area in 2010, I’ve heard Jon Lindsay’s name over and over. As the director of the North Carolina Music Love Army and an accomplished songwriter with an impressive résumé—two solo LPs, full-band projects, more collaborations than you can count, and even two original musical theater scores—the Portland native is probably the hardest-working musician in the state. Every time a friend or acquaintance sang his praises, I had the same thought: “I really need to listen to this guy.” And then, of course, I’d get distracted, and the cycle would repeat.
It wasn’t until I came across the single “All Them Houses,” from his upcoming LP Cities & Schools, that I realized what I’d been missing. That was a month ago, and I’ve probably played the song ten times per day ever since—and that’s a conservative estimate. From there, I delved into his catalogue and liked everything I heard.
Today, Paste is thrilled to present “Lifer,” the second single from Cities & School. Like “All Them Houses,” the song has a wonderful combination that I’ve come to see as a staple of Lindsay’s work—a memorable, upbeat melody urged along by lyrics that demonstrate a kind of social awareness you rarely find in indie music. Lindsay’s themes often strike a melancholy contrast with the music, but he explores them with an almost journalistic examination of modern life. Take these lines from “Lifer”:
here comes the train
but will it pass you by
the loving life most have made
nobody waits back home
for the lean banking queen
your lover’s downtown, downtown
you gave your heart so long ago
(fell asleep in your clothes)
no turnin’ back now, back now
night passes so terribly slow
Quick: Name another song, especially by a male artist, that explores the life of a woman who has devoted her life to a professional career, and is now weighing the rewards with a life of increasing loneliness. It’s smart, and empathetic, and endlessly interesting. You can find the same wide-angle perspective in “All Them Houses,” which presents a story of broken romance that includes a surprising metaphor—the empty houses dotting the American landscape, ghost towns of the recession.
Yet even when he’s taking the view from above, Lindsay is never more than one line away from racing back to earth and crushing you with a poignant detail. We see him employ this transitional technique on “Lifer” to devastating effect:
This office block
it’s your masterpiece
I hope it pays you back
devotion and loyalty
Nobody calls your phone
so you jump when it rings
These kinds of behavioral nuggets are the buried treasure in Lindsay’s songs, and the reward for a close listen. But even if you heard “Lifer” or “All Them Houses” on the side of a busy highway through fritzy headphones, you’d enjoy them for the melody and Lindsay’s infectious energy. Listen to “Lifer” above, and stay tuned for Cities & Schools, which I believe will be one of the underdog indie gems of 2016.
Album cover art:
“Lifer” is the second of three singles that will be released from Lindsay’s new album Cities & Schools, which comes out in late February. The first single, “All Them Houses,” can be heard here. Lindsay will be playing several shows at SXSW in March, and will soon announce a series of national tour dates on his website. Follow Jon on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.
Written, arranged, performed, recorded and produced by Jon Lindsay, at Sioux Sioux Studios, Charlotte NC. Engineered by Mike Pepe and Jon Lindsay. Additional engineering by Patrick Boyd. Mixed by Mike Pepe and Jon Lindsay. Mastered by Dave Harris at Studio B Mastering, Charlotte, NC.
Photos by Jon Lindsay
Art Direction by George Hage
copyright 2015, Jon Lindsay Music; All rights reserved
Management contact: Justin Sinkovich (Justin@Epitonic.com)