Bill Patton, A New Kind of Man (out now, Versicolor Records, versicolor.limitedrun.com)
On his debut record, the guitar man for the likes of Fleet Foxes, Low Hums, Poor Moon, Gold Leaves, J. Tillman, and others exercises a certain Midas touch. Only thing is, everything he touches turns into bleak despair. The Beatles’ seminal “I Want to Hold Your Hand” becomes a Western slow-burner steeped in irony and self-loathing. Jennifer Lopez’s “Jenny From the Block” is reinterpreted to fit a smoky cabaret instead of the dance floor. Given the right somber mood, A New Kind of Man can be cathartic. Patton doesn’t console his listeners, he empathizes, taking cues from his collaborators, like the self-awareness of Father John Misty and the desolate arrangements of that artist when he was known as J. Tillman. The music wallows and mopes. His voice rarely rises above a baritone drawl. Patton is in the shit. The opener, “Alchemy,” moves around a progression similar to John Lennon’s “Imagine,” though tinged with alt-country sensibilities. On the second chorus, he bellows, “If I make it to the fountain of youth/I will come home ridiculous and bearing syphilis.” There’s just no silver lining anywhere here, and while the album isn’t exactly a good time, that’s not to say it isn’t good. Patton writes with poignancy. He opts to be transparent and self-deprecating instead of running rampant with nostalgia or feel-good pop. “Om” and “The Color of the Moon” find Patton at his best, working with dragged- and fuzzed-out guitars and pounding drums; the thundering instrumentals give his music a very welcome extra texture. Man closes with two testaments to love: a cover of Lennon’s “Oh Yoko” and Patton’s own “If I Had a Home.” “If I had a home/You’d be so nice to come home to,” he sings. “And if I had a heart, I would hold you and you would just smile.” For Patton, becoming a “new kind of man” means trawling through gloom and doom. The future is uncertain, but despite the sarcasm and loathing, he wants love like anyone else. Pretty touching stuff for a sad bastard.