2020 was a terrible year for gardening. It was terrible for peppers, it was terrible for tomatoes, it was terrible for the condition of the soul. But Chad VanGaalen somehow raised a garden all the same: carrots and sprouts and broccoli and a revivifying new album, all of them grown at home. He likes to eat directly off the plant, he says—”I get down on my knees and graze. It’s nice to feel the vegetables in your face”—and the 13 songs on World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener were harvested with just such a spirit: in their raw state, young and vegetal, at the very moment, they were made.
What that means is that the Calgary songwriter’s new album is a psychedelic bumper crop. A collection of tunes that does away with obsessiveness, the anxiety of perfectionism, in favor of freshness and immediacy — capturing the world as it was met while recording alone at home over a period of years. “Don’t overthink it,” VanGaalen told himself again and again, despite the push/pull love/hate of his relationship with songwriting. “I’m always trying to get outsideof the song—but then I realize I love the song.”
This is a record that gleams with VanGaalen’s musical signatures: found sound, reverb, polychromatic folk music that is by turns cartoonish and hyperphysical—like ultra magnified footage of a virus or a leaf. Apparently, the LP began life as a “pretty minimal” flute record. (There’s only a vestige now, on “Flute Peace”—one of three instrumentals.) Later it became an electronic record “for a while” and finally, “right at the last second,” it “turned into a pile of garbage.” The good kind of garbage: glinting, useful, free. Music as compost—leaves, and branches ready to be re-ingested by the earth, turned into a flower.
See it live at Oslo on Feb 16th 2022.
Tickets £13 +bf
1A Amhurst Rd, Kingsland, London, E8 1LL