On Chris Staples’ press kit, it is written:
There are no casual Chris Staples fans. The man inspires devotion. The turnaround from casual listener to evangelist is nearly instantaneous. Play his music during a road trip with friends and inevitably someone will ask, “Who is this?” And a lifelong fan is born.
The description is completely accurate, yet Staples’ avid following remains contained to a select few. Part of the reason might be because Staples has been involved in numerous projects that it has become hard to keep track of what he’s doing. A native of Pensacola, Florida, he was one of the founding members of indie-rock band Twothirtyeight, which achieved some moderate success during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Staples then commenced his first solo project in 2004, using his own name. He released Blackest Hair, Bluest Eyes that year. In 2005, he moved to Seattle, where he initiated a new project called Discover America. Over the next few years, he would release two LPs and a handful of tracks under Discover America while also serving as a guitar player in Father John Misty’s band and being part of Seattle rock band Telekinesis.
After some prodding by friends and colleagues, including Josh Rosenfeld, co-founder and head of Barsuk Records, Staples released American Soft in 2014 via Barsuk. The album was widely applauded by the likes of Bob Boilen of NPR’s All Songs Considered, PASTE Magazine, American Songwriter, and Tiny Tapes.
As a follow up to that record, Staples has released a five-track EP, Cheap Shades. The EP contains two original songs, two live version of tracks from American Soft, and one cover. One listen to the title track will reveal why Staples has developed a reputation as one of America’s most underappreciated singer-songwriters. The track is intimate and warm, engrossing and elegant. It is a reminder that superb music can be written with a minimalist approach, much like what Elliott Smith taught us years ago.
The live versions of “Domino Effect” and “Early Bird Tavern” are also stripped down, yet the simplicity adds beauty to the songs. The former is piano-driven to give it a lounge feel. The latter is lush and breathtakingly haunting, reminding of Jesse Marchant’s daunting yet spectacular approach.
“Cindy, Diana, Janet, and Wanda” is the one upbeat track on the EP that recalls some of the women that still occupy Staples’ mind. With its subtle driving approach, the song has a Wilco feel. Lyrically, you can’t help but feel like you’re sitting at the bar with Staples as he tells you stories of his love life.
The one cover is “Center of the Universe”, originally written and performed by Built to Spill. As is Staples’ tendency, he strips down the song, creating a bedroom-style lullaby out of the original rocker. It works because the slower, more melodic approach elevates each word and the contemplative nature of the song. As a result, Staples’ cover might be better than the original, which speaks to the gifts and talents of this great singer-songwriter. And pretty soon, people won’t be asking, “Who is that”, but instead will be asking, “Can you spin one of Chris Staples’ albums?”
Chris Staples’ Tour Dates
07.30.15 – Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad
07.31.15 – Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
08.02.15 – Austin, TX @ Stubb’s Jr.
08.04.15 – Pensacola, FL @ Vinyl Music Hall
08.05.15 – Gainesville, FL @ The Atlantic
08.06.15 – Orlando, FL @ Will’s Pub
08.07.15 – Tampa, FL @ Crowbar
08.08.15 – Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn
08.09.15 – Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter
08.10.15 – Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506
08.11.15 – New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
08.12.15 – New Haven, CT @ BAR
08.13.15 – Philadelphia, PA @ Ortlieb’s
08.15.15 – Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
08.16.15 – Columbus, OH @ Rumba
08.17.15 – Chicago, IL @ Schubas
08.18.15 – Minneapolis, MN @ Nether Bar
08.19.15 – Omaha, NE @ Reverb
08.21.15 – Billings, MT @ Pub Station
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