Alt-folk/alt-country singer-songwriter Stephen Clair releases his new album, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Stripped to the bone, the album features Clair and his guitar or Clair and his piano.
Talking about the album, Clair says, “I recorded it alone, in a room, over months, guitar in my lap, mousing with one hand, groping through the microphones surrounding me. What you hear are complete, intact performances of each song. No punching in, no edits, no cutting and pasting.”
Known for his dry sense of humor and guitar stylings, Clair has been a fixture on the Americana, alt-country, and dorky independent rock scene since his debut album, Altoona Hotel. Since then, Clair has released a series of albums, including 2019’s garage-laced Strange Perfume, produced by Malcolm Burn.
Made up of 11 tracks, entry points on The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life include “Pizza And Fairytales,” a melancholic song with repetitious lyrics that offer glimmerings of subdued expectations.
A personal favorite because of its exposition of the old saying “looks that kill,” “I Died On The Crosstown Bus This Morning” narrates Clair receiving a smile from a gorgeous woman on the uptown landing. Highlighted by Clair’s nonchalant, raspy vocals over a muddy acoustic guitar, the song oozes genuine feelings.
Visceral and slightly dissonant, “I Think You’re Lonely” reveals Clair’s inference of a person’s life while scrolling through their Instagram page. Clair’s plaintive guitar adds to the aloneness of the tune, evoking projections of his own status quo – anyone scrolling through random Instagram pages is immersed in aching solitude.
A song about a recently dissolved relationship, “Watering The Flowers,” reveals a kind of emotional denial as well as a barren hopefulness that his lover might return. So, he keeps watering the flowers. The numb tone of the vocals is both heartbreaking and childlike.
“Tic Tac Toe” conflates the x’s and o’s of the game with the x’s and o’s representing hugs and kisses at the bottom of letters to friends or lovers. The upbeat melody of the tune belies the connotation of the lyrics, while a braying harmonica injects the song with the sound of crying.
Although incredibly Spartan, there’s a weird and wonderful allure to the compositions and simple vocals of Stephen Clair.
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life Track Listing:
1. Pizza And Fairy Tales
2. I Died On The Crosstown Bus This Morning
3. I Think You’re Lonely
4. Watering The Flowers
5. Days Passed
6. Tic Tac Toe
7. The World Has Changed
8. I Imagined I Was An Elevator
9. You Do Nothing But Good in This World
10. Bubble Bath
11. Come For The Winter
Run Time: 35:20
Release Date: November 17, 2023
Record Label: Independent