This album is a tale of two cities, or rather, two studios; one in Hayland, Norway and another in Flatbush, Brooklyn and two brothers who had the idea of recording an album with indie rock magician Gary Olson, who now links the two locations.
Gary Olson is the lead singer, main songwriter and plays the trumpet with the band Ladybug Transistor, which released five albums on Merge Records. He is also a producer and engineer at Marlborough Farms, in the heart of Flatbush Brooklyn.
On the Norwegian side, Ole Johannes Åleskjær has his studio, Tune-J, in the bucolic countryside just outside Oslo (who works as a lumberjack when he’s not recording amazing records). He and his brother Jorn Åleskjær met Gary many years ago when the band Loch Ness Mouse crossed paths with Ladybug Transistor on tour.
In one of these casual encounters, Ole presented the idea of a collaboration in writing and recording between him, his brother Jorn and Gary, with the recording made both in Norway and in Brooklyn. Over an eight-year period, Gary visited Åleskjær’s brother’s barn studio in the idyllic setting near the Swedish border and put forward the basis for the songs the three had written.
Gary then took the recordings back to cosmopolitan Brooklyn, where he added voices, horns and strings in his studio. The recordings returned to Norway for producer Ole to finish the tracks. By the end of 2019, this set of eleven songs naturally flourished on an album.
With Ole producing and playing guitar and Gary on vocals and trumpet, they joined the record Håvard Krogedal – bass, cello; Emil Nikolaisen – drums (both from Serena-Maneesh); Joe McGinty (The Psychedelic Furs, Ryan Adams) – strings, piano and organ arrangements and Suzanne Nienaber (Pale Lights) – choirs.
Although the initial idea was to make simple recordings, Ladybug Transistor fans will certainly be delighted to find Gary’s exultant trumpet sound, the delicious strings and the beautiful pop hooks so well known by the band and which are present in abundance on this album. The melodies are both delicate and strongly memorable, and the brilliant production gives a lingering glow from the best commercial radio from the 70s and indie pop from the 80s.
Fittingly, the album cover photo shows Gary at a disused airfield in New York that is now a national park. There is a dreamy and overwhelming expanse in the old runway that was built in the 1920s. Many of the original buildings still remain. We can feel the ghosts of the old pilots everywhere. Pioneer aviator Thor Solberg started the first successful flight from the USA to Norway from there in 1935. This album continues that tradition.
Gary Olson was asked how he would like this record to be heard. His response was as follows: “I’d suggest listening in a moving train facing the window. Close your eyes and feel the sunlight pass between the trees. Open your eyes slowly and realize you’ve missed your stop, repeat. “