Yes, today, September 18, 2015 is the day Chris Baio’s long awaited debut album The Names finally hits record stores (released under the stage name Baio). For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Baio he is the bassist for Vampire Weekend, and if you’ve ever seen VW live he is the only one on stage out dad-dancing frontman Ezra Koenig. You do pick up traces of Vampire Weekend’s euphoric indie pop throughout The Names, but it is most potent on the third track “Sister Of Pearl”. You can almost imagine Ezra Koenig is the one singing this tune with a distorted voice. Okay, enough with his band, because The Names isn’t just a sub- par/killing time while the band’s not in the studio side project, it is an infectiously foot-tapping LP filled with self-reflection.
The Names begins with the 4:53 min electro-free jazz (I know this sounds weird, but trust me it’s wonderful) track “Brainwash yyrr Face”. Some say an album’s opening track is its handshake, and if this is true “Brainwash yrr Face” is a sweaty, dead fish handshake that fascinates rather than repels.
“I Was Born In A Marathon” perfectly showcases Baio’s incredibly eclectic artistry. The fourth song in the nine track LP is split into two acts. Act one features vibrant guitar riffs, off the wall bass lines, and hammering rhythms. The second fragment of “I Was Born In A Marathon” seems to strip away all of the previously mentioned aspects, and substitutes them with smooth vocals that I truthfully didn’t know he possessed. All in all, this song truly encapsulates the experience that Baio is trying to provide the listener with in just a mere 4:30 min. As The Names varies in style track-by-track, “Marathon” varies in style minute-by-minute.
The last song I’d like to touch on is “Endless Rhythm”, mainly because it is the most self-examining song on the LP. It paints a perfect picture of Chris Baio’s songwriting process. At it’s primal level, it is a song about song writing. This fact is prevalent when the bassist, now turned singer/song writer carols, “I’ve never heard a lyric that I really liked, every lyric I’ve written is a lyric I despise, oh, I despise.” However, within the first verse of “Endless Rhythm” the listener understands the uphill battle Baio goes through during his procedures. With lyrics such as, “I came to in a city still indifferent to me, the big sky can humble, it’s too high to see” he provides us with vivid imagery of how songwriting may be difficult, but is all worth it in the end.
Well, this is the end. I never know what to say here, so I guess I’ll just reiterate the fact that The Names is really, really, really good. All I can hope for is that you watched the music video for “Sister Of Pearl”, stopped reading my overanalyzing/trying to be a Pitchfork writer bullshit (gotta knock yourself down a few pegs every now and then), went right over to your preferred music player, and listened to The Names in full. If you did make it this far however, thank you… Now go listen to the album.
Standout Tracks: “Sister Of Pearl”, “Endless Rhythm”, “The Names”