Ezra Furman has shared his new video for “Love You So Bad”. Directed by frequent collaborator Joseph Brett, it comes on the heels of his new album announcement. Ezra’s second album for Bella Union, Transangelic Exodus, will be released February 9th 2018. The album is a new landmark for the American singer-songwriter: “not a concept record, but almost a novel, or a cluster of stories on a theme, a combination of fiction and a half-true memoir,” according to its author. “A personal companion for a paranoid road trip. A queer outlaw saga.”
“The narrative thread,” Furman declares, “is I’m in love with an angel, and a government is after us, and we have to leave home because angels are illegal, as is harbouring angels. The term ‘transangelic’ refers to the fact people become angels because they grow wings. They have an operation, and they’re transformed. And it causes panic because some people think it’s contagious, or it should just be outlawed.
“The album still works without the back story, though,” he vouches. “What’s essential is the mood – paranoid, authoritarian, the way certain people are stigmatized. It’s a theme in American life right now, and other so-called democracies.”
After Perpetual Motion People was released in July 2015, Furman had moved back from California (Oakland) to his home town of Chicago. But after a year, he returned to the west coast (Berkeley this time). “I just seem to keep moving,” he sighs. Still, Transangelic Exodus was mostly recorded – as all Furman’s records have been since 2011 – at his bandmate (saxophonist/producer) Tim Sandusky’s Ballistico Studios in Chicago, and with the other Visions – Jorgen Jorgensen (bass, and on this album, cello), Ben Joseph (keyboards, guitar) and Sam Durkes (drums/percussion).
Furman cites Vampire Weekend’s “Modern Vampires Of The City”, Beck’s “Odelay”, Sparklehorse’s “It’s A Wonderful Life”, Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly”, Kayne West’s “Yeezus”, Angel Olsen’s “Burn Your Fire For No Witness” and Tune-Yards’ “Who Kill” – “artists making the most interesting music with the available resources” – as influences on Transangelic Exodus, plus Brian Wilson, Bruce Springsteen and James Baldwin’s ground-breaking, gay-themed 1956 novel Giovanni’s Room.
Checking Furman’s successive album covers will show his personal journey, coming out as queer and gender-fluid, which the jagged, agitated ‘Maraschino-Red Dress $8.99 at Goodwill’ meets head on, namely “the painful experience of being a closeted gender-non-conforming person. Having ‘trans’ in the album title has a lot to do with being queer, like [album finale] ‘I Lost My Innocence’ [“…to a boy named Vincent”). That early experience marks the narrator for life. From a young age, because of issues surrounding gender and sexuality, I felt fated to have an outsider perspective. It radicalizes you.”
Transangelic Exodus addresses another kind of coming out, as Furman addresses his Jewish faith on record much more openly than before, from the shivery ballad ‘God Lifts Up the Lowly’ (which includes a verse in Hebrew) to the exquisite ‘Psalm 151’ and the line “I believe in God but I don’t believe we’re getting out of this one” in ‘Come Here Get Away From Me’, a heady blend of rock’n’roll rumble and ghostly clarinet.
“There is a lot of longing and anger in those songs,” Furman reckons. “A longing for God, and God’s help, wondering how long this can go on. It feels like we’re in exile – the innocent, persecuted, oppressed and threatened. But it’s hard in pop culture to make explicitly religious statements, as many people – including myself – have been hurt by religion.”
1. Suck the Blood From My Wound
2. Driving Down to L.A.
3. God Lifts Up The Lonely
4. No Place
5. The Great Unknown
6. Compulsive Liar
7.Maraschino-Red Dress $8.99 at Goodwill
8. From A Beach House
9. Love You So Bad
10. Come Here Get Away From Me
11. Peel My Orange Every Morning
12. Psalm 151
13. I Lost My Innocence
Ezra Furman Live
Feb 25 – St. Louis, MO – Blueberry Hill Duck Room
Feb 26 – Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall
Feb 27 – Indianapolis, IL – HI Fi
Feb 28 – Columbus, OH – Ace of Cups
Mar 3- Toronto, ON – Horseshoe Tavern
Mar 4 – Montreal, QC – Bar Le Ritz
Mar 5 – Allston, MA – Great Scott
Mar 7 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom
Mar 8 – Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts
Mar 10 – Washington, DC – Rock & Roll Hotel
Mar 11 – Asheville, NC – Grey Eagle Tavern & Music Hall
May 6 – Seattle, WA – Tractor Tavern
May 8 – Vancouver, BC – The Fox Cabaret
May 9 – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
May 10 – Arcata, CA – The Miniplex
May 13 – San Francisco, CA – Independent
May 15 – San Diego, CA – The Casbah
May 16 – Los Angeles, CA – Teragram Ballroom