Thin Lear isolates in ‘Wooden Cave’; Debut album out today, feat. on NPR’s NMF

Photo credit: Emely Grisanty
“Wooden Cave — easily one of the best, if not the best album of this horrifying year so far — does what so many of the best albums do. It creates a unique artistic statement that’s a pleasure to hear from start to finish but includes plenty of ugly truths and harsh realities. Matt Longo isn’t immune to the horrors of the world, but he knows how to wrap them up in gorgeous, lush, sophisticated songs.”
Chris Ingalls, PopMatters
“A warm, rich, and intimate chamber-pop album that revolves around life, love, death and dreams.“
Jen Dan, The Big Takeover
“Almost lullaby-like in its simplicity, [“A Simple Phrase”] begins with a gentle sigh and barely raises its temperature much from there, Longo’s voice accompanied by a soft strum, a grand piano, and a subtle string-quartet backdrop which quietly illuminates the whole piece.”
Tom Johnson, GoldFlakePaint
“At once hard to describe, but easy to grab onto…immensely satisfying. Thin Lear is extremely thoughtful in its combining of the five elements of music: melody, harmony, rhythm, tone color, and form.”
Kira Grunenberg, American Songwriter
“An enigmatic cross between Belle and Sebastian, Wilco, and Ben Folds…a master of his craft…as tasteful as indie rock gets.”
Zachary Keirstead, Earmilk
“The recordings are rich with unique musical nuance, conjuring up the insular worlds of Astral Weeks-era Van Morrison, Tim Buckley, and Shuggie Otis.”
Mike Olinger, The Vinyl District
“His voice washes over you like a lullaby. It’s an honest portrait of a moment in time, punctuated by the content we lean into to make peace with the turbulence.”
Corinne Osnos, The Wild Honey Pie
“…ambitious and has a lot of nerve in paring down sounds to their most resonant, and at times haunting, while preserving a solid folkish feel.”
Tower Records, Hannah Means-Shannon
July 24, 2020 – Indie singer-songwriter Thin Lear shares his debut full-length album Wooden Cave on EggHunt Records. NPR featured Thin Lear on today’s New Music Friday and the album received a 9/10 review from PopMatters, who called it “one of the best, if not the best album of this year,” praising Thin Lear’s “chamber pop perfection of the highest order.”
Wooden Cave includes the singles “Maniacs,” that American Songwriter described as “immensely satisfying,” the beautiful “Death in a Field,” which Earmilk called “intimate and dreamy” and “as tasteful as indie rock gets,” as well as “A Simple Phrase,” which GoldFlakePaint praised as “delicate and hypnotic,” and his latest release, the urgent “Behold You Now.” Then of course there’s the title track “Wooden Cave,” which features intricately placed vocals that flow alongside ominous strings and piano to narrate the story of a dangerous loner; a tale more timely than ever. As Thin Lear describes, “It’s a song against people who weaponize their loneliness, turn it into rage, and point it outward.”
The overarching theme of Wooden Cave is one of isolation and self-exploration. As he began writing the record, Longo studied 1920’s occultist Netta Fornario and her mysterious life, particularly her experience on a tiny island off of Scotland. He found himself dreaming of her on a consistent basis, often waking with a fleeting image of the woman. Though they’ve experienced very different lives, Longo felt an immediate empathy for her, and recognized her story as that of an artist. Much of the resulting album was inspired by this initial connection. The resulting record creates a hazy alternate reality to showcase the respective mentalities of a rotating group of outcasts.
Over the course of the quarantine, Longo’s been performing on various livestreams, including a previously filmed session for BreakThru Radio, and performed for The Wild Honey Pie’s “Buzzsessions” with a cover of Donovan’s “To Sing For You” and a beautiful rendition of his own song “Different Tune.” The Buzzsesion will be available on DSPS August 14, pre-save here. Today, at 4:30pm EST, he’ll host an album release livestream with EggHunt Records, simultaneously on both Instagrams (@thinlear, @egghuntrecords). Then on July 28 at 5:00pm EST, Thin Lear is scheduled for a performance on Bandsintown via Twitch. RSVP here.
For more information about Thin Lear, connect with him on social media @thinlear or visit his website at Purchase Wooden Cave here.
In the cloud of a dream, sleeping brain churning in memory and melatonin, he wandered into a wooden cave. Deep within, bathed in soft blue light, the face of Netta hovered in the shadows.
Queens-based songwriter Matt Longo had always been drawn to the stories of forgotten eccentrics, but never haunted by their subjects. And yet, upon reading of 1920’s occultist Netta Fornario, and her misunderstood end on a tiny island off of Scotland, he found himself dreaming of her on a consistent basis, often waking with a fleeting image of the woman. Netta had inexplicably left her friends and family in search of magic…and lost everything. After many years of fronting bands, and then releasing several records under his own name, Matt felt an immediate empathy for her, and recognized her story as that of an artist.
He’d recently been searching for a path forward, for a way to encapsulate a growing disillusionment with city living, crumbling relationships, and self-imposed artistic pressures. His fixation on Netta, and her real or imagined visitations, provided him with a muse for his writing, and an outlet for an exploration on outcasts, death, and the hope that might remain in its wake.
Inspired by the immersive, idiosyncratic creative process of songwriters in the Elephant 6 collective, Matt wrote songs in all-night flurries of activity in his Astoria apartment. Pulling influence from the insular world of Astral Weeks, the melodic adventurousness of Harry Nilsson, and the eclecticism of Shuggie Otis, Matt aimed to create a set of songs existing on a sonic and lyrical island of their own. He emerged with eleven tracks, songs sprawling from ornate, warm ballads, to psychedelically-tinged folk, to propulsive grooves, brimming with melody and heart.
To record the album, Matt formed a loose collective of musicians, the bulk of whom cut their teeth for years in jazz and progressive music. Recording at studios throughout the city, often with different groups entirely, depending on the required feel of a track, Matt imbued his set of wide-eyed story-songs with a rich palate of instrumentation: a lush quartet, a gleaming brass section, ethereal organs, and ghostly pedal steel, all backed by a kinetic sway and thump.
A two-year labor of love, and the debut album under his Thin Lear moniker, Wooden Cave was finally finished in mid 2019: the culmination of hauntings, of determined lyrical exploration, of intense, intimate recording sessions that allowed each song its chance to bloom.
The songs reveal different paths for their outcast narrators, the love, hope, despair, or danger awaiting them at the end of their journeys. “Netta,” the album opener, puts the listener in the titular character’s world, walking us through her last days over shivering orchestration and a cathartic conclusion. The frenetic “Maniacs,” with its relentlessly chugging pace, charts a desperate internet dweller’s alienation and pull towards cult-like thinking. In “A Simple Phrase,” backed by sweet, enveloping strings, the singer laments an ongoing, literal internal choir of insecurity, and how these voices can carry within generations of a family, before resolving to quiet them.
Wooden Cave, written for outsiders like Netta, radiates with a sonic glow that harkens back to 70’s-era studio obsessives, familiar and surprising in equal measure, like a face from a dream.
Album mastered by Joe Lambert (Hiss Golden Messenger, Sharon Van Etten, The National).
  1. Netta
  2. Wooden Cave
  3. A Simple Phrase
  4. The Guesthouse
  5. Death in a Field
  6. I Thought I Was Alone
  7. Maniacs
  8. Different Tune
  9. Behold You Now
  10. ’93 Heap
  11. Your Family
Photo credit: Emely Grisanty
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