Say I’m Pretty—the gorgeous new album from Nashville-based musical polymath Patrick Damphier—is a collection of sun-kissed guitar pop that effortlessly glides across its 45-minute run time. But while each track seems deceptively simple, repeat listens reveal compelling nuance and depth. With the record’s layered production, a cascade of slowly evolving aural surprises lurks just beneath the hooks, while the lyrics explore characters caught in transition—keeping secrets, choosing sides, crossing bridges, vacillating between what’s real and what’s not, deciding whether to stay or go, fight or flee, be bought or sold, and also wondering if anyone notices them at all. Each spin brings a new discovery.
Perfect for fans of Real Estate, Beach Fossils, and the shimmering, dulcet guitar pop of peak-era Rough Trade Records, there’s an underlying urgency to Say I’m Pretty– and it’s evident from the first track, “The Calendar Lies”: Opportunity knocks and the door opens wider / Tried to sell my good name, never did find a buyer / You say my future’s in flames, I say it’s all lookin’ brighter.
These lines feel optimistic given the pre-apocalyptic tension of daily life in 2018, but they were born of their author’s need to bring Say I’m Pretty to life. Since the dissolution of his acclaimed band, Paper Rival, Damphier has lent his talents as a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer to The Mynabirds, Richard Swift, Molly Parden, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Tim Easton, Houndmouth, Stone Jack Jones, Fences, Sun Seeker, The Arcs and Jessica Lea Mayfield—with whom he’s performed as a sideman, producer and songwriter, contributing the song “Offa My Hands” to her most recent album, Sorry Is Gone. That track—as well her previous album, Make My Head Sing—was recorded at Damphier’s old studio in south Nashville.
Say I’m Pretty was written, performed, recorded and mixed by Damphier himself, though he had some valuable assistance from collaborators Jessica Lea Mayfield, Molly Parden, Nicole Atkins and Richard Swift. The songs that make up the record were culled from a catalog of more than 150. “I was brought up around songwriting,” says Damphier, whose dad, Tom Damphier, came to Nashville at the invitation of Loretta Lynn, and later wrote Reba McEntire’s first #1, “Can’t Even Get the Blues.” “My approach is that the song has to be able to be played—and sustain itself—with one chordal instrument, lyric and melody. I’m not trying to be Nashville Writer’s Night Dude, but if the song can pass that test then I’ll bring it into the studio and experiment with it.”
And experiment he does. With the basic structure of the songs complete, Damphier began to sculpt, adding and subtracting instruments until he found the perfect arrangement. Every song has a vibrant ecosystem of synth textures, percussion, voices and subtle beds of guitar feedback—but never at the behest of the melodies they serve. It’s a sensibility that merges Fleetwood Mac with My Bloody Valentine. That it has so much going on yet maintains is subtlety is no small feat.
“I know people get bored really easy, and I do too,” Damphier says, “so I try to change stuff up. I like the second verse to be different than the third. It doesn’t have to be night and day, but just some little thing to make listeners realize there’s something new happening. I like to keep things moving.”
With Say I’m Pretty finally complete, Damphier is touring behind the album, both solo and with his new band, which features members of Sun Seeker, Lambchop, Okey Dokey, Rayland Baxter, Jenny Lewis and The Features. Despite the meticulous effort that went into to crafting Say I’m Pretty, Damphier is content to let his songs take new shape on stage. “I’m not super concerned with replicating the record,” he says. “That’s why I wanted to make sure the songs were good. It’ll be nice to just play them naked—or at least in a bathrobe.”
Glide is thrilled to be premiering “Money in the Meter” (below) a brilliant open heart heated rocker reminiscent of the experimentalism of Ariel Pink and the immediate musical hook accessibility of Beck. Based on the overwhelming grace and power of this track, we can surely proclaim Say I’m Pretty as one of 2019’s most promising and anticipated new LPs..