Michigan singer-songwriter Chris Bathgate takes just enough time off between records that he needs to be reintroduced every time he resurfaces. His 2011 album Salt Year followed a four-year gap — watch him perform a few of its songs at the Tiny Desk — while its forthcoming follow-up, an EP called Old Factory, took nearly five.
Bathgate's music is as deliberate as his process. In the first single from Old Factory, "Calvary," the singer wraps an ambivalent but ultimately optimistic message — "Ain't it good to be alive / with the wound still in your side?" — in layers of piano, skittering drums, sweet harmonies and, when appropriate, ample space to breathe.
It's a sound familiar to those who've followed the singer's past work, but the song itself arrived at a crossroads in Bathgate's life. He recorded the songs on Old Factory in the aftermath of Salt Year, then embarked on a long stretch of time off, during which he hiked extensively and otherwise left the music world behind. Thankfully, he's not done making music — and in the meantime, it's a pleasure to hear his voice again.
Here's Bathgate, writing about "Calvary" via email:
"'Calvary' is cynical and earnest, wounded and triumphant. Sometimes things have that kind of confusing swing. 'Calvary' does, but I never could decide on which side I stood; it changes, it's both. Written while traveling, recorded in Detroit and New Orleans, 'Calvary' is a song of spanned extremes. It was begun at a distinct moment in my life and completed at a time when everything had shifted."
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