Tod Lippy is probably best-known as the creator of the award-winning arts journal, ESOPUS (called “a thing of lavish, eccentric beauty” by The New York Times in 2004), where he worked with the likes of Jenny Holzer, Jens Lekman, Karl Ove Knausgaard, and Kerry James Marshall. The multidisciplinary publication attracted 30,000 readers over the course of its 25-issue run and is now in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art and many other museums and libraries around the world. Every issue of ESOPUS included a CD of brand-new music Lippy commissioned from musical acts such as Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, Neko Case, Cloud Nothings, and Kimya Dawson. Lippy, who studied classical guitar for over a decade, was inspired to start making music on his own: “I started playing around with GarageBand whenever I had a spare minute or two.”
Over the course of nearly six years, and in between production on issues of Esopus and other projects, Lippy developed his songwriting practice and honed his home-recording skills, eventually coming up with nearly 30 demos. In the summer of 2019, he sent a selection of these to Luna front man Dean Wareham, who connected him with Kramer, the legendary producer and musician whose iconic work includes all three of Wareham’s first band Galaxie 500’s seminal records.
Kramer and Lippy mixed the record in New York City in July 2019. “It was an amazing experience for me,” Lippy recalls. “I spent the better part of six years hunched over my laptop in my office, in hotel rooms, even on the occasional airplane, never even knowing if these songs would see the light of day. Kramer knew exactly how to take what I’d given him and create a sound in many cases I could only imagine in my head.”
Like its lead single, “Good Start” (which was selected by LA radio station KCRW for a coveted “Today’s Top Tune” slot on September 2, 2019), the other songs on Here We Are took on the subject of human mortality from a particular — and occasionally oblique — angle. “Making Here We Are was like an extension of everything I was involved (and obsessed) with in producing Esopus,” Lippy says. Along those lines, he created a partnership with Prelinger Archives, the esteemed San Francisco–based collection of ephemeral films. “My fascination with archives knows no bounds — archival collections were a major component of nearly every issue of Esopus — and for this collaboration, I created 5 short films — each a music video for a song on the album — that incorporate footage from a number of films in the Prelinger collection.” These can all be found on Lippy’s YouTube channel.
He released the single “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” — a cover of the 1931 Bing Crosby Depression-era classic — in April 2020 as a response to the Covid crisis. For the better part of the spring, he wrote a short song every week — “Hand Sonatizers” — which were meant to serve as a soundtrack of sorts for people’s hand-washing regimens in the age of Covid-19.
On October 16, 2020, “Names,” the lead single from Lippy’s forthcoming album, Yearbook, was released digitally and as a 7” lathe-cut vinyl single by Toronto label We Are Busy Bodies. The track explores Lippy’s obsessions with spelling people’s names correctly, and the accompanying music video features cameos from 87 musicians, artists, filmmakers, writers, and others. In December 2020, Lippy released a live performance of “Entente,” an unreleased track from Yearbook (due out in Spring 2021), performed with cellist Jane Scarpantoni at Dreamland Recording Studios near Woodstock, NY.
On March 26, 2021, Lippy released “Good Start Remixed,” a limited-edition 4-track cassette featuring new takes on the Here We Are lead single from Julian Lynch, Sonic Boom, Kramer, and Carl Stone.
Yearbook will drop on June 25, 2021. The 10-song LP was nearly two years in the making. Lippy recorded a series of songs he’d written in late 2019 with Kramer (who also mixed, mastered, and coproduced this sophomore effort) right before the beginning of the Covid crisis, but several months in isolation inspired him to scrap most of the tracks originally intended for the album. “If there is any silver lining to the horrors of Covid, it’s this: I finally had the time and space not only to dive deep into my music but also to fully comprehend my reasons for making it. Nearly every song I wrote in this period ultimately ended up on the album, and all of them come from this deeper understanding of why I need to express myself through music.”