Sam Craighead is a musician out of Columbus who has been cranking out consistently awesome downcast pop-rock for well over a decade. We premiered the debut album from his guitar-driven psych-pop project Feature Films a couple years back, and today we present his latest solo LP, The Tuesday Night Music Club.
Rather than an album-length Sheryl Crow tribute, the 10-song set tends toward low-key indie rock tunes strewn with melancholy self-reflection and pop cultural debris. Shades of other thoughtful indie singer-songwriter types abound — Mark Eitzel, David Berman, Sufjan Stevens, even Father John Misty — but Craighead has developed a musical language all his own, both in terms of his rich chamber-pop arrangements and a sardonic wit communicated so gently that it sometimes takes a while to realize he’s clowning you.
Ever since his days fronting the anonymous Ohio band Heavy Mole, Craighead’s plainspoken melodies have had a irresistibly fluid quality, as if they’re rolling right out of his consciousness and into yours in one smooth motion. On The Tuesday Night Music Club, he casts them against gorgeous organic backdrops knit together from keyboards, guitars, and the occasional understated orchestral flourish — humble and welcoming framework for his droll insights about nostalgia, consumerism, and the futile ways Americans strive for meaning. Here’s how Craighead himself explains it:
Despite the fact that Beanie Babies come up 2.5 times and one track is from the perspective of K-Fed, the songs on this record are all really sincere. I love going to this one thrift store in town that’s on the edge of a rich, older neighborhood. It’s fascinating to look at the collectable junk we used to think was valuable and how worthless it became in such a short period of time. Not that long ago, this still-packaged Boyds Bear temporarily gave someone a greater sense of self worth. We live in a consumer hellscape. Have you seen Matrix 2?
That sort of humor is a selling point here, but it’s not really a comedy album. Craighead’s songs usually scan as beautiful up front and then begin to reveal their full resonance as you dig into the lyrics. For instance, opening track “Regality” first nabs your attention with surging brass and a sighing piano-pop sway; then you notice it’s a commentary on consumption as a coping mechanism for depression, Craighead spinning a tale about building the world’s most impressive Beanie Baby collection as both an investment and a monument to self. Or consider this passage from “Finally Some Art,” casually deadpanned in Craighead’s lower register in a way that, rather than broadcasting the humor, uses it to subtly underline a deep sense of resignation:
Funny watching younger people get nostalgic for/ All the shitty things we seemed to think were pretty good before/ And while I never thought that I’d be into Temple Of The Dog/ I still can’t deny the feeling that I get from that one song/ I’m on a hunger strike, and it’s not the type where I never eat/ It’s just smoothies all the time/ Shake for breakfast, shake for lunch, a sensible dinner/ And then I’m gonna have to exercise/ I’ll pass out on the couch tonight
Only ’90s kids will catch the Slimfast reference! There’s much more goodness along those lines, so stream the full album below.
The Tuesday Night Music Club is out 5/19 on Head2Wall. Pre-order it here. Craighead plays a release show at 2PM this Saturday, 5/20, at Wild Goose Creative in Columbus with Johnster, Andy Gabbard & Grape Whizzer, and special musical interludes by Mike Shiflet.