Week in Pop: Cat Hoch, Mr. Husband, The Total Bettys, VA Violet

Sjimon Gompers

The harmonic pop mastery of Mr. Husband; oka the Brian Wilson for the new generation; photographed by Mrs. Husband.

Mr. Husband

Fresh out of the green room & counting down the seconds to show time with Mr. Husband, oka Kinny Huxpin; press photo courtesy of the artist.

Fresh out of the green room & counting down the seconds to show time with Mr. Husband, oka Kinny Huxpin; press photo courtesy of the artist.

Face it—Yellow K Records’ proliferation & banner year was one of the best things about 2016 & that streak is not letting up anytime soon. From a humble one bedroom apartment out of Baltimore, Yellow K co-founder/operator & one of half of New God, Kenny Tompkins, has launched his alter-ego personality Mr. Husband. A creative outfit that serves as an outlet for the versatile artist that verges on the edge of novelty indulgences has succeeded in creating what is possibly the Pet Sounds/Smile for the current, new generation. Introducing the world to the eccentric & oddball persona that is Mr. Husband, it is our honor & privilege to present the world premiere first listen to the anticipated album Plaid on Plaid in full ahead of it’s release May 5 through Yellow K.

Created with a smart & knowing sense of brilliant orchestration; Mr. Husband’s Plaid On Plaid retains a sense of humanist humors that might be one of the greatest Beach Boys/Brian Wilson’s facsimile our current, common era has enjoyed on this side of the millennium. The evocative chords careen in ways like needles & threads stitching together the sweetest plaid textile designs where the anachronistic emulation occurs in such a seamless way that makes everything new sound old again & vice versa. The almost accidental genius of this record is that through it’s flights of fancy & abundant sunny, mixed with melancholia, sensations spawn a limitless stream of sentimentality that instantly makes this a standout release in the Yellow K catalog that has already changed the world & DIY pop landscapes through featured releases by everyone from Eskimeaux (now known as Ó), Japanese Breakfast, LUKA, You’ll Never Get To Heaven, Shelf Life & so many more.

Mr. Husband lets you into the world of Plaid On Plaid with the smooth, Sunday morning style feels of “Riding a Lightning Bolt” that already is a contender for one of the best album openings in the history of introductory lead-in numbers on full-lengths. Chords are heard like the wind whispering gently through the branches of willow trees in rows of seemingly infinite orchards. And those inspired & well-detailed tones only begin there, as “Love Don’t Worry” updates “Don’t Cry (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)” & “Don’t Worry Baby” with some of the greatest harmony arrangements you are going to hear all year. And heck, if you listen to “Love Don’t Worry” with your eyes closed & mind completely clear & blank you will swear that this was an outtake from some sort of sandbox-demo reel that was recently unearthed. An ode to Mrs. Husband is heard on the romantic “Cookie Pie” that sounds like everything from college rock station to AM radio fare that you have possibly known your entire life. What is remarkable is how much thought is put into the chord arrangements & textures that are made like precision guided cupid-arrows that strike at the most vulnerable & guarded chambers of the heart. Sense of sadness & human behaviors are meditated upon with the tear-streaked “Gone forever” that delves into the reckoning of relationship breaks & the absences that are infinite. That genuine & gentile nature of the Mr. Husband style is heard on “Only a Fool” that makes golden-era modern pop creations sound almost too easy (that might also have your parents swearing they grew up with it on their home radio dials). The tradition of California dreaming in Baltimore continues on “Shake That Dream” that entertains those feelings that remain after a night vision that offers up an impressive wall-of-sound beach-blanket-boogaloo for everyone to shake along in time to. Instances of insomnia involving restless & wandering thoughts are expressed on “Can’t Sleep” that imagines stars a comet rain of planets & stars descending upon the artist as the song itself slowly sinks into the lullaby swaying arms of sacred serenity. The cycle runs its course and leaves you with the outro of “Champagne Bossernova” that pops some bottles & gently reclines to the sun’s simmering evening fade as bossa nova progression accents & far away harmonies can be heard sung as if carried to the listener from some lonely shore on a faraway beach. Joining us after the following debut listen to Plaid On Plaid; don’t miss our interview with Mr. Husband himself.

First off, tell us the story behind the choice of solo moniker being Mr. Husband.

There seems to be some confusion about this. Lots of stereogummers and other folks think I’m the Kenny from the Yellow K label but that is not the case. He signed me up to the label and we send each other professional music emails all the time but we are different people. People have called me Kenny Husband for a long time cause my real name is Kinny Huxpin. Huxpin sounds like husband and it just stuck, man. LMBO.

The tartan choice of title, Plaid on Plaid has a very vintage-stylistic feeling of nostalgia. What meanings does this album title hold for you?

Bob Dylan once made a record called Blonde On Blonde which I thought was pretty good but could use some improvement so I made a record that would address his mistakes and called it Blonde On Blonde 2. Then I got a letter from his lawyers saying that this was not cool and I had to change it so we called it Sgt. Peppers 2 but then Jon Lemon’s son Julliard Lemon tweeted at me that this was also not cool. So I thought, Man, Bob Dylan and The Beatles used up all the good titles…what am I gonna do? and right then I saw my dude walking down the street wearing a plaid shirt over another plaid shirt and it looked handsome AF and then it hit me: Plaid On Plaid, man. So we called the record that.

For you personally & creatively; what felt different about composing music solo-wise for Mr. Husband versus working with your brother on creating harmonies & compositions for New God?

Again, I’m not that Kenny… But he was kind enough to send his brother, Curtis, out to the studio to help me with some drum parts. He is a good guy, a shit-hot drummer, and we had a good time eating vegan macaroons between takes.

But my harmonies and compositions are something I’m glad to discuss anyway. It’s really no big deal. Simple craftsmanship, really. I just go in the studio and project the unspoken depths of my soul into the fourth dimension and record it into pro-tools or cassette or whatever I have around at the time then we upload it onto the web and—boom—that’s how you make a song.

Let’s talk about harmonies for a minute….I feel like we have discussed this for years but describe for you how you approached creating these Brian Wilson-nouveau style of near harmonic perfection, especially with Mr. Husband that sound like they were ripped from mid-60s Gold Star Studios?

Well you are too kind, Sjimon! Brian Wilson of the beach boys and I text all the time about harmonies. I think I speak for both of us when I say that harmonies are a good part of music. Me personally, I just try to write them to sound good and when that happens I’m happy about it. If I don’t make them sound good I usually sulk about it and eat donuts until I can’t look at myself in the mirror anymore.

Inside pop culture's inner-sanctum of luminaries; press photo courtesy of the artists.

Inside pop culture’s inner-sanctum of luminaries; press photo courtesy of the artists.

I want to hear more about the making of this record….how long had you been working on making Plaid on Plaid?

It was a pretty short process. I just started writing songs when I was 14 and then I made about 15 records and then I dropped out of college and never went back to the detriment of my professional career, finances, and mental health and then I made an EP and then I sacrificed many relationships and countless opportunities to be happy and then I made a record of 8 tracks of chill guitar pop party jams and then uploaded it to bandcamp dot com.

What did you learn about yourself as a singer & songwriter from this process?

That they ain’t nothin pro about pro tools. The real guys—your Ariel Pinks, your Mac DeMarcos, your Jon Lemons—these guys know the secret. You gotta make it sound bad to make it sound good. But I also learned that Spotify is this thing that makes all the money for your music and then they give it to Taylor Swift when you’re done. So that kind of sucked. But it was pretty chill otherwise.

Your imprint Yellow K has been an independent label on the rise. Wanted to get your thoughts & feelings regarding the label’s growth, where’s it’s been, memories of launching it & where you feel Yellow K Records is headed.

I’m not as involved as you may think but this is my take on Yellow K and the boys: Josh, Kenny, and Curt are single-handedly responsible for every good note of music released in the years 2014-2017 and you can put that in your Wikipedia search and smoke it, Father John Misty.

What is Kenny Tompkins listening to right now (that’s not Beach Boys or Brother Records related, ha, kidding of course!) that the world should also be listening to?

Can’t speak for Kenny T. but this is what me and Cookie Pie have been jamming lately:

Keola Beamer, Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar In the Real Old Style

I listen to side A of this record every night at dinner and it never gets old. Cozy and earnest.

O K H O, Alprazolam

Woozy jagged instrumental hip hop that feels menacing and compelling like old RZA.

Loving, (self-titled)

Sounds like Mac DeMarco took a time machine back to make an album with a teenage Neil Young who just got his heart broke but has learned to love again through the recording process.

Taking a break to hang out with Mr. Husband over a game of hacky sack; photographed by Mrs. Husband.

Taking a break to hang out with Mr. Husband over a game of hacky sack; photographed by Mrs. Husband.

What is next for Mr. Husband?

Well I gotta play all my professional music concerts next month when the record comes out, then I’ll probably email some folks about my music then just sit back and watch the replies roll in. Then…just frickin’ coast, brother. By the way…do you have the email for where you get Pitchfork’s best new music?

What is next & new for New God?

Kenny T. told me he is working on a location-based release whatever the heck that means but I’m sure it will sound pretty.

Hopes, dreams, wishes, prayers, meditations, etc for 2017 & so forth?

So many people out there are living in fear for so many reasons. I don’t believe in fear and I hope those folks find moments of relief, comfort, and peace as often as they can and I hope to contribute what I can to that effort through music.

Mr. Husband’s magnum opus Plaid on Plaid will be available May 5 via Yellow K.

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