MSB to release SHORT STORIES
Often the artists that are most enduring and universally revered - think: John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty - are so not just because of their music, but because of their unique ability to tell a story. And time and again, those stories about their lives reveal something to us about our own. Prolific singer-songwriter Michael Sackler-Berner, aka MSB, has spent the last eight years aspiring to nothing less than such hallowed purpose and it's led him to what is sure to be remembered as a career-defining moment.
MSB will release Short Stories on Feb 22 via CEN/The Orchard.
On the intriguingly conceptual new album, MSB has combed through those songwriting moments that have most shaped him, for a resulting collection that incisively captures the evolution of his singular musical talents.
"These are cherry picked songs from the last six years," he says. "I've put out a lot of music but these were the most important songs to me, and I was saving them up for a special record."
Special, indeed. From the very first moments of "A Thousand Times", his poignantly piercing, Leonard Cohenesque lament on doomed romance ("If you don't leave / You can't come back for more") set to a stirring suite of strings, one begins to grasp his considerable ability to convey genuine, affective emotional gravity.
But then "Death to the Uptight" and "Trouble is Fun" both tap into a sly, Anglo sort of cool, recalling the iconoclasm of British pop greats from The Kinks to Blur - with all the cleverness and attention grabbing hooks to match.
Another standout, "City Living" is hip scat jazz, possibly as if imagined by Elvis Costello - with its colorful, urban lyrical evocations of, "Everybody loves the sunshine / But asphalt makes me complete." You could easily imagine that he might have penned it for Ol' Blue Eyes, and can even hear him crooning it in your head if you try. But if that weren't enough genre-hopping, the exhilarating "Top of the Hill" finds him howling ferally over revved up, fuzzed-out psych-punk, complete with retro Farfisa organ.
Having grown up on everything from B.B. King to Sinatra to '90s hip-hop, MSB recalls, "My inability to learn other people's songs, combined with my poetry-filled adolescent diary, led me into songwriting."
A kid from New York City who would go on to cut his teeth in the same Montreal scene that spawned Arcade Fire (though he now calls Brooklyn home), he was introduced to the public musically via his well-received 2010 debut album MSB. It was notable not just for its proficient and eclectic songwriting - but also for soundtracking hit television shows the likes of Law & Order, Dateline and, most prominently, FX's Sons of Anarchy.
Seven years and an equal number of releases later, MSB's songs would continue to connect with a mainstream audience via popular television dramas - Nurse Jackie, Chicago Fire, Army Wives and Netflix's Bloodline, to be specific. But Short Stories is destined to become the album that most viscerally and definitively defines his talent as an artist and songwriter going forward.
"It's an album of fully realized Short Stories," he reiterates by way of the title. "The goal was to let each song lean all the way into whatever style suited it best production wise. But to me...it just sounds like me."
MSB Tour Dates
Nov 29 - Washington, DC - Pearl Street Warehouse *
Nov 30 - Philadelphia, PA - Boot & Saddle *
Dec 02 - Boston, MA - City Winery Haymarket *
Dec 18 - New York, NY - City Vineyard
* w/ 7Horse