with Elizabeth Moen
BAILEN – Tired Hearts – BIO
Tired Hearts, the new album from rising indie-pop power trio, BAILEN, delivers a dazzling set of songs that navigates the space between the heart’s expectation and the head’s sober reality. New York based siblings, Daniel, David, and Julia’s second full-length album for Fantasy beats with empathy, vulnerability, and resolve.
At times intricate and playful, measured and elaborate, the 12 original songs on Tired Hearts wrestle with an uncertain future where ethics and morality—both communal and personal—seem to be constantly shifting. Locating one’s compass amidst the chaos—a world-wide pandemic, toxic social media culture, economic insecurity and political turbulence—is at the LP’s core.
Producer Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Waxahatchee, Snail Mail) who, along with the band, co-produced Tired Hearts, helped to expand BAILEN’s ambition beyond what they initially envisioned. “We’d played the last record live a hundred times before recording it, so we tracked a lot of it live,” Daniel explains. “With Brad, we took a collagist’s approach. It freed us up to explore and be sonically adventurous.”
In contrast to the road-tested songs on their accomplished debut LP, 2019’s Thrilled to Be Here produced by John Congleton, many of the songs on Tired Hearts were honed in the studio as opposed to live on tour – “the songs changed so much over the course of recording process,” Julia remarks.
Most noticeably, Cook encouraged the trio to experiment with how they sing. “We deliberately used the more vulnerable parts of our voices,” Julia says. “After not being in the studio for years, we were in vulnerable places, and this record reflects the frustration and tenderness of that time.” “We pushed ourselves lyrically, it’s the most exposed, intimate music we’ve written as a result,” David affirms.
Indeed, BAILEN’s radiant harmonies, spare, synth-driven tracks, and futuristic, ear-catching arrangements usher in Tired Heart’s exhilarating avant-pop evolution. “Shadows,” affectingly captures “the moment you see someone and realize you can spend the rest of your life with them.” “Nothing Left to Give” echoes of HAIM’s sparkling pop, while “These Bones,” contains a hint of Phoebe Bridgers’ hushed intimacy.
Perhaps no two songs embody that fresh ethos (and the band’s incredible range) more than the high-gloss, New Wave dance track “Call It Like It Is,” and the stunning “BRCA (Nothing Takes Me Down),” which takes its name from the hereditary breast cancer gene that Julia and her mother (who is a breast cancer survivor) share. Over the track’s slow building rhythmic pulse, Julia sings of hospital gowns and uncertainty, untying a complex knot of familial anxiety, guilt, and acceptance, while embracing the determination to move forward: I’ll still live like I’m dying/ But I won’t let it take me down, she insists. “It’s about finding ways to not be defined by these circumstances, and to move past them with resilience.”
Raised and rooted in New York City by classically trained musician parents and their wide-ranging, eclectic record collection, BAILEN has emerged as a favorite in indie circles by cultivating a passionate following via word of mouth, robust playlisting and a stream of steady touring and collaborating with artists such as Amos Lee, The Lone Bellow, Joseph, and Hozier to name a few.
On Tired Hearts, their exquisite and thought-provoking new album, BAILEN learns how to dream in the face of life’s uncertainty and in the process, moves forward aware, resilient, and hopeful. “This album is a breakthrough for us,” Daniel says. “It’s been a rocky road, but we’re really grateful that it’s led us here.”
From her life to the studio, Elizabeth Moen carries with her a certain kind of street-smart wisdom: She knows when you’re on your bullshit and she is also highly sensitive to when her own actions fall short. This perceptive quality is a gift and a burden. The burden is that she is too smart, too tuned into reality to lie to herself and put on a facade that makes it easier to pass for ok. The gift is that instead of giving in, Moen channels life’s turmoil into a constant process of growth–as a songwriter, an arranger, and powerful lyricist.
Emerging from the introductory stage of her career, Moen is now cementing her commitment to craft: Making Wherever You Aren’t wasn’t just an impassioned way to pass time, it was a calling and an opportunity to reflect life’s lessons into a gripping statement of art.
A self-taught guitarist, Moen wrote her first songs while a student at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. It was a small town in the Heartland but also a culturally dense world of artists, musicians, and writers–a scene whose space limitations meant the traditional songwriters, the alternative rockers, and the avant-garde enthusiasts were playing the same house shows, talking at the same bars, and dancing in the same clubs. That interdisciplinary experience and its overlap of styles shaped Moen's aesthetic scope over her first self-released albums.
She gave up her lease in Iowa City and toured for two years across the USA, the UK, and the EU, eventually making Chicago her homebase. It was during that swirl of migration that she leaned into the project that would become Wherever You Aren’t. The first sparks: A session in Dublin, Ireland in Summer 2019 where she recorded the lead track “Headgear.” Then: Passing through Alabama on her Fall 2019 tour, she laid down the core tracks for “Synthetic Fabrics.” With a long list of songs and just enough money to pay the players and engineers, she guided her band to San Francisco’s Hyde Street Studios to record basics for a full album in early 2020.
Those initial sessions produced 14 songs. As the pandemic took hold, she tracked vocals and overdubs wherever she could–apartments and studios across the States, Canada, and Ireland and finished mixing and mastering in Winter 2021. (She only took a pause to record a satellite set of songs in the midst of the process; those tracks became her haunting Creature of Habit EP.)
Stepping back from those two years of work, Moen reflects: These songs are about mental health, joy, panic attacks, falling in love, falling out of it, and accepting that sometimes it will stay with you forever.
Musically, the record teases sounds from alt. country, contemporary Nashville, and indie soul but mostly settles into the less genre-specific tone of early 20’s weariness. Where 2020’s Creature of Habit etched out a dark, synth-folk vibe, Wherever You Aren’t finds its spirit in guitar twangs and robust rhythms; though something ethereal and haunting is always there in the mix–it’s Moen’s nuanced understanding of space, knowing when to flood a track with catharsis and crescendo and when to let her voice guide us through eerie minimalism. As evidenced across all her catalog, Moen can bend any genre to her unique mix of sorrow, hope, and endurance.
Throughout these songs, Moen confidently exhumes the emotional hangover of our 20s: a turbulent, sometimes euphoric, often fraught time. “Where’s My Bike?” is scorching in its irreverence, annoyance, and downright anger with nothing ever being quite all-together. Like many of her songs, it’s a vignette and metaphor at once–so many young adult anxieties and self-doubts are rolled into one: Ex-lovers, parents, and the inability to financially support oneself even though you’re supposed to be grown up. My friends, she belts out, don’t talk to me much anymore/I don’t blame them/What do I have left to say about shit/That’d be worth listening to? And on “Synthetic Fabrics”, she starkly admits the desire to Spend the day focused on the next one.
Her commitment to this album, to her career, and to continually showing up affirms Moen’s raw and honed ability to see the truth, face it, and send it back into the world as a beautiful song. The album ends with a big-hearted display of empathy. Surrounded by swirling harmonies and ascendant strings, Moen sings that she’ll meet you/us/herself, Wherever you are/Wherever you aren’t/That’s okay.
She understands that past lovers, friends, and family–even in their failures and missteps–are also just people trying to make sense of the world in real-time. And in this admission, Moen stays true to her most succinct statement about the record and her current worldview: This album has shown me that I have the capacity to grow.
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$20 - GA
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