Flemish Eye/Sub Pop
World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener
For any artist there is an underlying urge to make everything you do perfect. Most artistic statements just aren’t based on any old whim. These statements are often things that have been thought provoking or even tormenting to its creator. Even an artist such as Chad VanGaalen, who has been putting out wonderfully interesting work for the last twenty years, there is that need. With that need for perfection comes a tendency to overthink and with overthinking comes a loss of immediacy and these were two of the many things that VanGaalen wanted to keep alive on his latest record, World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener. The album employs an everything AND the kitchen sink approach to itself. It’s all done in the most charming, absurd, gorgeous and immediate ways possible. VanGaalen has captured himself at his purest and it is a joy to go on this journey with him.
The album kicks off with “Spider Milk” and it sets the tone for the slight murkiness that is almost the trademark of the album’s sound. Almost, because, when VanGaalen starts to sing, his vocal melodies cut through the din of delay and scuzz while shining a bright light on the proceedings. Even “Starlight” with its dirge-y rhythm absolutely soars when it gets to its outstanding chorus. “Where’s It All Going” keeps things open, airy and stuns with some amazing dual guitar interplay. There is almost a Neil Young like quality to VanGaalen’s melodic sensibility here, and honestly, it is pretty exciting. The album doesn’t stay in one place for very long. It’s constantly shifting its focus to new time changes, melodies, instrumentation and that’s often within each song. There are some lovely interludes such as the instrumental “Earth From A Distance” with it’s big, stunning synths that evolve into an outer space orchestra of bleeps and boops and “Plant Music” with it’s bowed strings and moody atmosphere. “Nightwaves” bring back some of the dry, crispy drums that trademarked the start of the album and the absolutely enchanting “Golden Pear” bookends itself with field recording of children and birds. The song might feature VanGaalen at his most idiosyncratic, with the loopy vocal melody that has a ton of fun with the pronunciation of the word “skeleton”. Album highlight, “Nightmare Scenario” and the lead off single “Samurai Sword” are quintessential VanGaalen; showcasing his awesome storytelling skills that are equally earnest and funny but never joke-y. The beauty truly shines through any of the absurdity.
It’s always a treat when Chad VanGaalen puts out new music and World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener is one of his best. It’s rare that an artist can so firmly plant you into his world the way that VanGaalen does here. The album feels like a genuine insight into his creative process and it is an absolute joy to behold.
Buy or stream The Worlds Most Stressful Gardener by Chad VanGaalen HERE