Turn Turn Turn to release new album, NEW RAYS FROM AN OLD SUN, on January 27th.
Buoyed by the positive reception of their 2020 debut album, CAN'T GO BACK, the Minneapolis/Eau Claire-based Americana trio, Turn Turn Turn, drew inspiration from the recent pandemic/political zeitgeist and penned more than two dozen songs in 2021. Half of the material made its way onto the band's sophomore effort, NEW RAYS FROM AN OLD SUN, which Turn Turn Turn will release on January 27.
Barb Brynstad (bass and vocals), Savannah Smith (guitar and vocals), and Adam Levy (guitars and vocals) tracked most of the new record at Levy's apartment in St. Paul's Schmidt Artists Lofts. The band also enlisted its core members, drummer Josh Kaplan and keyboardist Peter J. Sands, to lend their musical talents, resulting in a sonic mix that is multilayered and nuanced.
"When we recorded our first album, we didn't have a band yet, and made up the parts as we went," said Brynstad. "Since then, we've logged hundreds of hours honing our live performances with Josh and Peter.”
Added Smith, "As a band, we’ve spent a lot of time together making music and hanging out, talking about the world and relationships. There's a little bit of all of us in these songs."
NEW RAYS FROM AN OLD SUN showcases the band’s country, rock, and soul sensibilities, with more swagger, psychedelic flair, and rough edges than CAN’T GO BACK. The band also repeats the formula that endeared CAN'T GO BACK to fans and music critics: lush harmonies, unexpected chord changes, and miles of lithe, fuzzy guitar licks.
Turn Turn Turn’s Laurel Canyon meets 70's-Nashville-cosmic soul vibe is layered with three-part harmonies that stitch the band’s musical tapestry together. Brynstad, Smith, and Levy have distinct voices, and the combination – a “fourth voice” – is greater than the sum of its parts.
The 11 songs on NEW RAYS FROM AN OLD SUN were inspired by personal events, a desire for human connection, and the omnipresent news cycle streaming a world teetering between chaos and transformation.
"Stranger in a Strange Land" was written by Brynstad after she lost two sisters in a 7-month period in 2020-21. Writing and recording the song helped her process the double tragedy that took place against the backdrop of a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic. The song explores making sense of the world when the rules have changed so dramatically that our compass from the past becomes unreliable.
You went down to the water
You went down to the river to sink or float
Levy's "Hymn of the Hater," which he wrote amidst the reactionary political turmoil of the last few years, could be a lost Stones' "Exile on Mainstreet" track. It shines a light on the struggles of people trying to figure out what it means to be an American during turbulent times.
They think they're nailed to, but they're just burning crosses.
"Powder," written by Levy and sung by Smith, is three vignettes featuring a narcissist, a person hypnotized by a charlatan, and an addict all caught in a web of self-deception. If they can't snap out of the trance, they're lost.
Keep your powder dry, dear
The moment is at hand
Careful not to wait too long
It passes like the hourglass' sand
The title track, "New Rays From an Old Sun," captures the notion of reconciling with the past to find a way forward. The song is an allegory about a beast living in a desert who loses her children. She baits a murderous and greedy religious demagogue into getting trapped in a beautiful palace, where he dies. The beast escapes into the desert to find a peaceful life elsewhere.
There are new rays from an old sun
There are oceans in your eyes
There are giant buildings empty and a rusty can full of surprise
On "7 Kids," the listener accompanies seven children on a parentless journey across unfriendly borders in search of stability and new life. Barb, Savannah and Adam each sing a verse guiding the listener past urban uprisings into the homes of people who have lost faith in science but believe in other truths that string them along.
We’re losing our touch and we’re losing our way
Am I losing my grip
I guess I’d rather not say
"Dopamine Blues," the first single on the record, is about trying to overcome a breakup while reveling in the feel-good brain chemicals released by thinking about an ex. The lure of another hit of dopamine proves too strong for a full recovery.
Every time I try to remember bad times
I can depend on you to give me a heartache
And those hazy dopamine blues.
The band moves into new musical territory with the Bacharach-meets-Stax "If You're Gonna Leave Me"; the porchy, Dylanesque shuffle, "Acceleration Dreams"; and the vibey, psychotropic anthem, "My Eyelids Weigh Mountains."
After they finished recording NEW RAYS, Brynstad, Smith and Levy all experienced significant shifts in their lives. Brynstad accepted a role heading up the marketing department in a healthcare startup, Smith expanded the scope and presence of the vintage clothing store she owns and operates, and Levy accepted a full-time teaching position at a St. Paul performing arts high school. In spite of these shifts, and as they prepare for the release of NEW RAYS, the band is already working on material for their third album.
"I think the best songwriting is about lived experiences, and we all have full, rich lives with ups and downs,” said Smith. “We’re all born optimists, and with music, we are in the enviable position of using those ups and downs as fodder for some really great art.”
"Whatever we end up creating, we draw from the well of great American music,” Brynstad added. “We try to nod to the past while making something that resonates with the present."
"This band continues to evolve,” Levy summed up. “We're all influencing each other. Why do the same thing twice? I can't wait for people to hear where we go next."