Today Dean Wareham has shared a new single, the kaleidoscopic baroque-pop stunner, “As Much As It Was Worth It.” The track is off his upcoming album, I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of L.A which is out next Friday, October 15. The video for the song was directed by German artist Judith Berndsen and edited by Britta Phillips. Dean shares “The song is about youth and the loss of someone you loved. I wrote it after reading an essay by Zadie Smith, about joy and suffering, but one line stuck with me, it was something Julian Barnes said to her about the death of his wife: ‘it hurts, just as much as it was worth.’” Listen/share “As Much As It Was Worth It” here
Since the release of his last solo album, 2014’s Dean Wareham, Dean scored a film — Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America — with his wife, Britta Phillips, released an album and toured with his recently reunited group Luna. With Phillips he has also been doing regular livestreams from their home in Los Angeles (a collection largely culled from those sets, Quarantine Tapes, was released in 2020). Yet I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of L.A. marks the first new songs Wareham has written in almost seven years. Considering a possible reason for the delay in original material, Wareham jokes “maybe it’s just too sunny in L.A.”
When it came down to it though it was really all just a matter of putting an album into the calendar and committing. A week of studio time opened up at Panoramic House in Stinson Beach, so he kicked it into high gear and got to work. “The hard thing is just to start,” he says. “When I sat down and did it, the songs came pretty quickly.”
Armed with a batch of these inspired songs, and ready with a couple of choice covers — “Under Skys” by Lazy Smoke and “Duchess” by Scott Walker — Wareham decamped to the studio with producer Jason Quever (Beach House, Cass McCombs) and a tried and true duo of collaborators: Phillips on bass, vocals, and keys, and Roger Brogan on drums. Quever, an accomplished performer in his own right via his band Papercuts, also plays considerably on the album across a variety of instruments.
I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of L.A. is Wareham’s first singer/songwriter-style material in a long time, but it’s also some of the strongest of his career, which stretches back to the late 1980s, when his group Galaxie 500 changed the face of what we now know as indie rock. You can feel the lineage of that period on the album, particularly in Wareham’s inimitable vocals — “I feel like I really sang out more than I have in a while.”
The studio’s setting is reflected on the album which moves like an easy breeze, the reverbed guitars pulsing pleasantly in conversation throughout. But with the pandemic raging on while they had to safely put it all together, there’s tension and anxiety in there too. “We were all inundated in politics, all swimming in that,” Wareham remembers. Of course, if you want to talk politics, the mayor of Los Angeles is mentioned right there in the title of the album, which is itself the first line on today’s single “The Past Is Our Plaything.” Wareham knows people are going to ask him about that — what would he have to say to the mayor, if given the chance? “It’s gonna happen,” he shrugs. “But the answer is right there too — I have nothing to say.”