Liam Singer Offers "Test Tone" As Teaser for New LP, 'Finish Him' (premiere)

Photo: Julian Master / Courtesy of Clandestine Label Services

Hudson Valley musician Liam Singer draws on Elliott Smith, Steve Reich, B-Movies, and '80s kitsch for "Test Tone" video.

"Test Tone" is the new video from Liam Singer and culled from his new LP Finish Him. Directed by Shawn Ashley Collins, the clip carries an '80s VHS sci-fi/b-movie aesthetic married with elements of modern/experimental dance. While the visuals might add a dose of relief for listeners, the lyrics highlight something more serious, an examination of miscommunication and disconnect within relationships.

Singer, a native of Portland, Oregon makes his home in the New York's Hudson Valley where he runs a performance and arts space. Classically trained on piano he has embraced the music of both Elliott Smith and Steve Reich. (Iso Tomita, Wendy Carlos, and Tangerine Dream were also formative favorites.) One can also detect traces of acts such as Emperor X and Sparks lurking in the music, though perhaps only because of a shared interest in the marriage of the high and low, the haunting and the haunted.

Speaking about the track specifically, Singer says that he wrote in part after he "fully embraced the concept of returning to an earlier love of synthesizers and electronic tone-colors". He adds, "I'd been almost exclusively on piano and using mostly acoustic instrumentation for over a decade, and what had once felt like a move toward greater emotional authenticity was starting to feel limiting. It also increasingly felt out of step with the music I was actually listening to."

If there's a sense of the subconscious, elements that are not overthought coming across in the tune, that's no mistake. Singer offers, "In my personal life, I had committed to an ethic of trying to think less and feel more, to kill my brain. I was going out dancing most nights, connecting to rhythm and low end on a regular basis and realizing how crazy it was that my earlier records often lacked those qualities. I was tired of trying to write music that was self-consciously interesting; I was listening to music that spoke to my body, and wanted to make the same."

Although its creator was enamored of dance "Test Tone" itself, he says, isn't a dance track though, he offers, "In my creative process it was a step in the direction of writing songs out of a more physical place. I'll always be an overly-heady person but getting to a greater balance between mind and body was important to me both musically and personally."

Pressed about the lyrics for the track, Singer says, "They're about the way someone's memory can linger after they're gone and it connects that phenomenon to a larger sense of nostalgia by filtering the memories through the sounds and images created by analog technology. I've always had highly dramatic instincts in my songwriting while being simultaneously afraid of going "over the top," but here I decided to abandon those latter fears. I wrote the lyrics from a particularly goth-y, teen-angsty place. Thankfully, I still feel like I can stand behind them."

Finish Him was recorded and co-produced by Scott Solter (the Mountain Goats, Erik Friedlander, etc.) and features Cheryl Kingan (75 Dollar Bill, the Scene Is Now), Jesse Perlstein (Sontag Shogun) and David Flaherty (Cuddle Magic). Singer has played with Slow Six, Sontag Shogun, the Balustrade Ensemble, and Alexander Turnquist. He notes that the new record is a reference to Mortal Kombat, "but laced with religious and sexual connotations. I like over-the-top expressions of emotions. I'm drawn to the idea that intimate, whispered, Elliott Smith-styled vocals could impart the same drama that an operatic style can, even though they're on the opposite ends of the performative spectrum. Scott Solter (Mountain Goats, etc.) likes to invoke Edward Gorey and the Brothers Quay when we're working. There's a sense of playfulness and high drama at the same time."

Finish Him is released July 13 and may be ordered here.





A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.