Song of the Day: Lee Ranaldo – New Thing

Lee Ranaldo

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 DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “New Thing” by Lee Ranaldo from the 2017 album Electric Trim out September 15th on Mute Records.

Lee Ranaldo – New Thing (MP3)

It’s a new thing from an old fave: former Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo returns to Mute Records for his twelfth solo album, Electric Trim. “I’m so excited about this record,” he shares, via a press release. “It represents new developments and directions for me and I can’t wait to hit the road and play this music live. I’m also so pleased to partner with Mute for this release — it’s like a homecoming of sorts as Sonic Youth’s early records were released on Blast First/Mute. To me Mute has always been a true artist’s label, concentrating first and foremost on the music.”

The album may be credited to Ranaldo alone, but it features a wealth of collaborations: Electric Trim was recorded in both New York City and Barcelona with producer Raül “Refree” Fernandez and Ranaldo’s longtime backing band, The Dust — former Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, guitarist Alan Licht, and bassist Tim Luntzel. The album also features guest appearances from Nels Cline of Wilco, Kid Millions of Oneida, and Sharon Van Etten who sings on six of the album’s nine tracks. Additionally, the lyrics for six of the nine tracks (though not necessarily the same six as Sharon’s) were co-written by author award winning New York author Jonathan Lethem.

On top of all that, the video for today’s Song of the Day was directed by Naomi Yang of Galaxie 500 and Damon & Naomi. Ranaldo explains, “I’ve described ‘New Thing’ as ‘my song about the internet’ — about our thousands of ‘friends’ and the obsession with accumulating ‘likes’. When Naomi and I began discussing ideas for the video we knew we wanted to reference that subject matter but didn’t want to do so in any heavy-handed way. I told her I’d like to be a character of some sort rather than ‘guy singing with guitar’ and she found ‘Buster,’ as we dubbed the JVC 3100R ‘Television/Radio Pyramid Capsule Unit’ on eBay. You wouldn’t believe what a cool old useless piece of outdated technology like that sells for these days!”

Yang adds, “We didn’t have to do anything more than hit the streets of New York to find the familiar scenario of everyone out and about glued to their screens. And so Lee, although he was carrying around a cumbersome vintage screen, was not so out of place. Some people noticed him, many did not at all. The idea of a ‘New Thing’ has another association for me. Lee and I actually first met all the way back in 1989 when I was in Galaxie 500 and he was in Sonic Youth — and I wanted to capture the personal nature and energy of his new projects while giving a nod to the past. In the video, you can catch a glimpse of Lee’s paintings in his studio, of the Sonic Youth tape archive… and you can dive deep into the hypnotic sounds of his ‘New Thing’.”

Enjoy both the video, and a trailer for the new album below. Ranaldo heads out on tour this fall, including a Saturday, October 28th stop at Barboza.

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