Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Beautiful Question” by Richard Buckner from the 2013 album Surrounded on Merge.
Since the mid-90s, Richard Buckner has been equal parts journeyman and songwriter: a musician whose ever-changing aesthetic and personal tastes reflect his generally restless approach to songwriting. Buckner’s 1994 debut, Bloomed, was a collection of Van Zandt-esque dark country odes, but it eventually served as a musical stepping stone for his next two major label albums, both of which expanded his stark, country-leaning tendencies with an album-as-song-cycle approach. Unsatisfied with his major label experience, Buckner returned to a series of indie labels at the turn of the century, and has called Merge his home since 2004. His latest album, Surrounded, ranks among Buckner’s more lush work, exchanging the gruff vulnerability of 2011’s Our Blood for softer, often harmonious tones. “Beautiful Question” moves at a wistful, mid-tempo pace as Buckner’s calm growl crawls across the song’s narrative. His conclusion at the end of the song (the titular question) doesn’t offer much closure, but it feels appropriate: Buckner’s career has been long and nuanced, and since there’s plenty more questions to answer, “Beautiful Question” handily serves as another alluring chapter in his book.
Buckner has a single North American tour date in New York next month before he heads across the pond to Europe in December. If he announces another round of touring behind Surrounded, you’ll hear about it on his website and Facebook. In the meantime, watch him perform “Beautiful Question” live at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts last month.