Nat Baldwin - Most Valuable Player / by laurel

The first time I saw the Golden Gate Bridge, I was wearing a high school sweatshirt and flannel PJ pants with snowflake print. In the middle of the day. I was also wearing a baseball cap with a lei of flowers embroidered on the crown. 

Clearly, this was a long, long time ago (ok, not as long as I would have liked. I'd estimate it was 1999, which neither excuses nor explains the Hawaiian baseball cap).

The second time I saw the Golden Gate Bridge (two out of two, if you're keeping track), I listened to Nat Baldwin. "Wake Up It's Time To Rise" was the perfect accompaniment to San Francisco's architectural masterpiece. Baldwin's upright bass built the spires, connecting them to wires and cables; his vocals painted it red. Baldwin's first album, 2005's Lights Out, was nearly flawless in its architectural, elegiac approach; spare and ascetic, with only Baldwin's mournful warble and flicking bass to carry it. 

Nat Baldwin's latest musical offering, Most Valuable Player, is (let me cut to the chase, here) one of the best releases I've heard this year. No two ways about it; and no need to beat around the proverbial bush more than I already have. Buy the album, and buy it now. Because Nat Baldwin is in good company, folks: He's a former member of the Dirty Projectors and studied under legendary free-jazzist Anthony Braxton. Additionally, Most Valuable Player is produced by Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor, and features Dave Longstreth and his 12-string electric guitar. That's quite the lineup. 

I'm on my fourth consecutive listen today, and every time I pass by another track from the album, I discover something else that thrills me to the core; no easy feat, considering it's Friday and I woke up about three solid hours earlier than I'd have preferred. (Read: Ms. Dailey is cranky today, y'alls)

While Lights Out seemed to bask in its own spare, elegant glory, Most Valuable Player eases the listener into the idea that by adding a squalling guitar pluck here and the warm timbre of a trumpet there, a far more elegant and realized sound can be achieved. And that's exactly what Baldwin does; for every push of Longstreth's yelping guitar, Baldwin pulls it back and wraps his lilting voice around every syllable, alternately swooning on his bass and plucking with his lyrics. It's a magical combination, one that allows each track to bleed into the next, creating a shimmering and esoteric whole. 

If I haven't convinced you by now, then check out his myspace, or Download "Lake Erie" and read a short interview here.

But like I said before, just buy the album. (I got mine from e-music, where I not only have a monthly subscription, but that is where my friend Patrick now works, who was the one to originally introduce me to Baldwin's music when we both worked at AA together. Incidentally, he is also the dude in my header image on this page. I should add that both Patrick and Nat are from Michigan. And both are musicians whose work can be found on here and here. Exclamation point! This is a full-circle blog, people.)

Check out this commercial for Orange Telecom, featuring "Only In My Dreams" from Lights Out (2005). (Also, how much does this commercial remind anyone of the Ecstasy show at the Geffen a couple years ago? Just me? Ok, then.)