Staten releases new, thought provoking 'Saints' LP
In the advent of failure, one can often discover a new opportunity among the tragedy in their midst. A prime example of this is the story of Justin Fernandez, who saw a door open during a particularly difficult time, and after pursuing it, produced an incredible project — a beautiful and tragic album, "Saints."
Working under the artist name Staten, "Saints" was written, recorded, produced and mixed over a nine month period. It started on July 29, 2015 and ended this past February. The LP chronicles an auto-biographical account of a particularly challenging experience, from moving across country for work, then facing isolation, anxiety and other external pressures, and ultimately leading in an early resignation and the guilt that follows.
Though the tale is poignant and flowing, Staten’s work to convey the narrative, musically, creates a touching masterpiece, intermingling articulate instrumentation with raw emotion and words from the heart. The first song off the LP, "Patricia," sets the mood placidly, with a glowing, gentle, almost implicatively holy organ introducing the piece. This is then accompanied by a heartbroken, waltzing, acoustic guitar, garnished with tenderly nostalgic lyrics sung through a worn, melancholy voice.
“This must be the feeling my father felt the first time when he saw my mother,” Staten said.
Though the piece stays relaxed, harmonies and electric bass enter the scene, and in the end, it forms a picture of young romance and peaceful harmony, completely contrary to the brewing storm which will follow through song after song.
A noticeable theme starts to develop, and the lyrics of the songs darken, reflecting the building anxiety and internal struggle, while the music becomes more experimental. With the introduction of electronic drums and bass, "Antilles" and "6201" imitate the work of Childish Gambino. The song "Solace" builds into an intuitive mix, taking influence from Kendrick Lamar and Man Overboard.
“I liked the idea of combining genres,” Staten said. “I love acoustic folk, Sufjan Stevens, but I also liked Taylor Swift and Childish Gambino, and I wanted to combine them. Some people are nervous about it, but I really wanted to try it.”
What is developed from this mix is a unique pseudo-acoustic pop, with subtle tastes of modern hip hop and a dash of high school pop punk, a genre only found by the work of Staten.
The album’s progression takes an extremely severe turn through the song "Dogwood," an outlier from the rest of the album. Staten writes about his emotional breaking point, accompanied by a cold, wandering piano, harsh vocals and a dry string section, leading up to a powerful resolve of desperation and fear.
“I was actually afraid of (writing Dogwood) looking at my thoughts, I teared at recording it," Staten said. "It was very hard to write.”
"Saint" had a diverse and colorful exploration of themes, and a broad spectrum of experiment. After the halfway point in "Dogwood," the songs seem to take a very specific approach — mainly sung vocals, constant acoustic guitar and piano or synths only. The themes also become more focused on one concept. Not love or romance, not anxiety, but failure and suicide become a ruminating thought that reoccurs throughout the songs.
The resolution to the album, "Madonna," is a heartbreaking piece, reminiscent to that of a suicide note — yet, executed with certainty and self assurance. The album reaches a completely different sound from the first song. Now, it is stripped down, brutally emotionally honest and raw.
In this state, the journey through "Saint" comes to a close, as Staten sings, “I don’t care when I die, that I won’t be canonized, all that really matters is what I look through my mother’s eyes.”
Moving, ethereal and grounded in reality, Staten’s "Saint" is a groundbreaking LP which covers themes of romance, failure, religion and suicide in an extremely organic and relatable way. Yet, the music — being so delicate, purposeful and distinctive — is the true prize of this album. This is a touching LP, unforgivingly honest with emotions, yet, attentively polite and compassionate through the instrumentation.
"Saint" will be released on March 3. 100 percent of the proceeds will go to charity for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Staten will also be performing March 18 at the Meat Locker in Montclair, and May 14 at Espresso Joe’s in Keyport, NJ.