Baio The Names on LP + Download
Since 2006, Chris Baio has been best known as the bass-player in Vampire Weekend, the New York-based rock band who last year won a Grammy for their third album, Modern Vampires of the City. In his downtime between tours, however, Baio recognized in himself an increasing restlessness, a desire to explore his own individual voice away from the band.
He describes The Names as “a realization of my influences and things that I love” - a world quite distinct to that of Vampire Weekend. Those influences do of course emerge in bass-playing, and surfaced on an earlier EP, Sunburn (2012), but what is striking about Baio’s first solo collection is its marked difference to his work with the band.
Across its nine tracks, Baio wanted to return, in part, to the electronic music he had enjoyed while DJing at college, but also to investigate his own lyrical and vocal style to create something quite new and not easily categorized. “What I wanted to feel with this record was that it’s not a band record, it’s not a solo record and it’s not a producer record, but a combination of all three. I wanted to create a space where almost anything could happen,” he says.
In the making of The Names, Baio explored ideas of space - of belonging, identity and finding a place in the world. Some of this was occasioned by his own geographical shift - he and his wife relocated from New York to London in 2013, and he found himself struck by his new city’s expanse of sky, green space, globalness - elements that seem to infuse this record. He began writing these songs at the tail end of that year, and in some ways they were a continuous point in a transient period of his life.
At that point the album was still something of a riddle to him, a conundrum of sorts. But what was certain, even in the album’s infancy, was that he wanted The Names to be a record that was compact and intense and vital, hovering around the 40 minute mark, as many of his favorite Roxy Music or Can albums were. He also wanted the songs to show something of a narrative progression, “So it starts in a darker place,” he says, “and ends with sweet love songs.”
There are “straight-up love songs” here, as well as songs that nod to Dostoyevsky, Kurosawa, Iggy Pop, The Cars; there’s a track Baio describes as “a classic rock band arrangement, throwback pop song” and a “tribute to David Bowie and Bryan Ferry.” There are more sober moments too: thoughts on political unease and depression, on military drones, and lyrics in which he finds himself “questioning what the relationship is between me and my government, on the things I might not agree with but that are being done in the name of my protection.”