Jonathan Wilson had a busy 2017, producing Father John Misty's Grammy- nominated Pure Comedy and touring arenas around the globe as a guitarist and vocalist for Pink Floyd legend Roger Waters (for whom he also contributed to the lauded Is This The Life We Really Want? album.) Wilson also saw widespread acclaim heaped on Karen Elson's sophomore LP Double Roses, which he recorded with her in Los Angeles in 2016. But it's not looking like Wilson is going to get much of a rest in 2018 either, as he'll be continuing on with the worldwide Waters tour and will release his new solo album Rare Birds. The highly anticipated LP features backing vocals from Lana Del Rey, Father John Misty, fellow Roger Waters bandmates Lucius and an extraordinary musical gift from otherworldly Brian Eno collaborator Laraaji.
Although much of the album is comprised lyrically of meditations on a failed relationship and its aftermath, Wilson insists that Rare Birds is not really a concept album. "It's meant more as a healing affair, a rejuvenation, a reconciliation, for others, and for me. I wanted to balance personal narrative with the need I feel for calming healing music. I think we need journeys in sound, psychedelic gossamer-winged music that includes elements consciously and purposefully to incite hope, positivity, longing, reckless abandon and regret. It's all in there." And, for this one, music critics will need to retire the comparisons to heritage rockers and Laurel Canyon troubadours as they're hardly useful anymore. Wilson's new sound takes a synthetic/acoustic, best-of-both-worlds analogue/digital hybrid approach to achieve the complexity, sonic density and glossy hi-fi coating of Rare Birds. Heard for the first time on a Jonathan Wilson album are the sounds of synthesizers and drum machines.
Wilson describes Rare Birds as a "maximalist," high density album more influenced by '80s British production than anything to do with Southern California in 1970s. It's a dynamic new approach for Wilson that calls to mind one of Peter Gabriel's early solo albums or even mid-period Kate Bush. "This album is a hell of a lot more Trevor Horn than anything, you know, Laurel Canyon-related," he notes. Of Rare Birds as a whole Wilson adds, "I want my music to hit people like an emotional tidal wave. With my songwriting it's never about a clever couplet or smug turn of phrase, it's about the intensity, the impact. Besides, we're all fishing downstream from Townes Van Zandt anyway, so the only thing left to do is go BIG."