California nostalgia as Springsteen introduces new sound
WASHINGTON - AFP
Bruce Springsteen will release his first new album in five years on June 14, calling it a "jewel box of a record."
"This record is a return to my solo recordings featuring character-driven songs and sweeping, cinematic orchestral arrangements," Springsteen said.
He still belts out melancholy ruminations on the American condition in his signature gravelly voice, but in this his 19th album his inspiration has changed.
Instead of small Rust Belt towns worn down by the decline of the economy and morale, he turns to southern Californian country-pop classics of the 1960s and 70s, infusing his music with a deep nostalgia for a golden era of the United States, slowly becoming buried under Californian sand but with hope for its return.
The result is a 13-track album, titled "Western Stars" that covers "a sweeping range of American themes, of highways and desert spaces, of isolation and community," said the 69-year-old rocker in a statement.
But also of "the permanence of home and hope."
The album's first single, "Hello Sunshine," which dropped in April, sounds like a slow country ballad, with lyrics that invite hope back into an old underdog's life.
Springsteen followed the song with "Tucson Train" in May, which tells the story of a man turning his life around. The tentatively optimistic lyrics are set to classical instruments, including an entire brass section to replace Springsteen's late musical partner in crime, the much-loved E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died in 2011.
"Western Stars" pays homage to musicians of Springsteen's young adulthood.
The album features echoes of Glen Campbell, Roy Orbison and, particularly in "Hello Sunshine," Harry Nilsson's version of "Everybody's Talkin."
By playing with what has long fascinated him, Springsteen reveals more of himself, in a manner true to his characteristic sincere melancholy.
"Western Stars" is Springsteen's first studio album since 2014's "High Hopes," which followed "Wrecking Ball" in 2012.
It also comes months after the artist closed his wildly successful run on Broadway, a 236-concert residency that is now available streaming on Netflix.
When the show ended in December after several renewals, it was one of Broadway's most coveted tickets, with resale prices running upwards of $1,000.