The Flying Change
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The Flying Change

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"A Record for a Late Night or a Lonely Drive"

“LiPSTIK”? When I first saw that name I thought it was probably another of the legion of bands trying to jump on the already tired glam-rock revival or maybe it was a band that’d be sharing the bill with Limozeen. I was pleasantly surprised to find out otherwise. I spoke to main man Sam Jacobs about the moniker and here’s what he had to say:

“Good question. It was kind of inspired by Greil Marcus’s book ‘Lipstick Traces’ which was a history of the punk/dada movement through the 20th century. But I’m also kind of obsessed with duality and contradiction. Subverting expectations. Painful words over uplifting music. That kind of thing. I liked the idea that peoples’ assumptions about me, about the songs, about all kinds of things, can be undermined. Over time I’ll be happy if people associate the name with what I’m doing instead of the glam rock idea that would normally come to their minds. That the name will become its own association. Like what happens when people think of ‘Wilco’ or ‘Talking Heads’. These phrases and words that have taken on the life of the music itself.”

Not bad, eh? So are we all on board? Good, let’s move on. The new EP is called “There Is Only One Thing” and I’m here to tell you about it, folks.


Sam wastes no time diving into those bittersweet/painful words straight away on the title track, with its rolling and rhythmic undertow. Sam’s vocal style elicits quick flashes of other singers we may be more familiar with (Jacob Dylan, Mark Sandman, Mike Doughty, Kurt Wagner, Philly’s own Craig Elkins), but ultimately reclaims its own distinct sound: the voice of a regular Joe making his way out to the car at 5:30 in the morning, bleary but accepting of his fate – though unmistakably looking forward to the sunrise. This song also re-establishes the rootsy rock instrumental palette from the excellent 2006 full length “Everything Is Good,” but the pace is changed on this new collection. We’re definitely more pensive and brooding.

“This is The Sad Song We Wrote Together” is a tune that sticks with you long after each listen, with a sweetly resigned chorus that sounds exactly like the pictures of forgotten industrial towns and train cars in the Midwestern cold that are pictured in the liner notes of the EP. It’s got a deceptively bouncy if sleepy groove holding it up (with incredibly tasteful and restrained drum fills) that sounds like it could be a Jack Johnson song if he was a bit less like that turtle from Finding Nemo (and put some damn shoes on for a change).

“Yer So Bad” is of course a stab at the Tom Petty staple, but reinvented in a way that too few covers attempt. I confess that I never saw much depth in the original and it mainly floated around behind me with little impact, but after hearing this I’ve got a newfound respect for the song thanks to Sam’s ability to wrench the meaning out of the lyrics. He has a bit of a penchant for this, as we also saw on the dark cover of “Lyin’ Eyes” from the aforementioned full length that brought the song closer to the emotion of “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town” than the yacht-rock extravaganza of the Eagles version.

“There Is Nowhere To Run”” is a curious cliffhanger of a closer with sort of a “Someday Never Comes” sentiment but without the emotional release of a louder, faster passage that lets you off the hook. The sunrise does seem to be slowly peeking over the horizon at the end here, but we may have to wait until the next full length (”Pain Is A Reliable Signal,” currently underway along with additional planned releases) to see where our protagonist winds up next.

This is a record for a late night or a lonely drive, born of “getting broken and knocked around” – a quick yet powerful listen. Very satisfying! - Used Wigs


"An Early Contender for Album of the Year"

Well-connected NYC singer-songwriter Sam Jacobs, recording under the name The Flying Change, has made what I'm willing to go ahead and say is one of the best albums of the year. Forget The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Beirut and whoever else is getting all the rave Pitchfork reviews so far. Sam Jacobs is the one to watch out for. So who is he? Well, good question. I avoided writing anything about his new album Pain is a Reliable Signal (even though it's been in my car stereo for more than a month) because Google turns up pretty much bupkis—though I spent a good day or so thinking he might be this guy. But wouldn't you know, a little more looking around and there he was on Twitter. God bless the Interwebs. Anywho, you can find out pretty much anything about the album here, as well as read Jacobs' well-updated blog.

Pain is a Reliable Signal had some help from some serious heavy hitters, including award-winning producer and composer Paul Brill and master engineer Robert L. Smith. The beautiful production adds layers of synths, strings and horns to Jacobs' clever, heartfelt songs about his wife's debilitating spinal condition. Jacobs and his wife have spent more than four years looking for a manageable treatment—paying for two unsuccessful exploratory surgeries and being told by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, that there was nothing to be done. Pain is a Reliable Signal is a chronicle of these difficult years. With Jacobs narrative story-song lyrics and rough voice I can't help but be reminded of David Bazan, which is nothing but a compliment to Jacobs. Songs range from lighter, poppy tunes ("Dirty White Coat") to some pretty all-out Pavement-inspired guitar thrashing ("St. Marys") - Splice Today


"All Parts Bloody Brilliant"

There’s just not enough mumbling in music nowadays. Bob Dylan has made some of his best work when he’s mumbled – as opposed to whining – and, let’s face it, Lambchop and the late, great John Martyn have made entire careers out of drawling their words. Thankfully we’ve got The Flying Change to step up to that mantle now and my word is it .

I could say their sound is folk rock but that would be doing it a real disservice. Think of any guitar-centric genre of music and you’ll find snippets of it in here. Part folk, part rock, part electronica, all parts bloody brilliant, pain is a reliable signal is the kind of record that defies categorization and is all the better for it. The Flying Change have created an album that’s deceptively complex, deceptive in that it sounds very simple indeed. It’s a gentle, if somewhat melancholy record and the band have thrown their whole hearts into it. There’s a good reason for that. The album’s songs address the health troubles that songwriter Sam Jacobs’ his wife has faced over the past few years. Jacobs deals honestly and unflinchingly with the subject matter, yet manages to hold things on the right side of self pity to keep the songs accessible, which is not an easy thing to accomplish.

There are so many ideas and little flourishes contained in each song that it’s obvious that this is a labour of love but the fact that everything is so expertly put together though is a triumph, as every single little piece feels worthy of inclusion, warranted even. There are a lot of ideas on show here and yet you’ll hardly notice them because everything seems to be put in for a reason, as opposed to showing off. The quality of the tunes is extremely high, the standard of musicianship is really strong and then there’s that voice, that wonderful voice. I’m not sure if Sam Jacobs sings like either like he’s been up for thirty six hours straight and is about to fall asleep or as if he simply can’t be bothered to open his mouth properly, but there’s a beautiful resonance to his vocals that I find delightful to listen to.

It may not have been inspired by the most enjoyable period of his life, but what Sam Jacobs and his associates have created here is fascinating. Well meaning, well intentioned, impassioned and completely worthy of your time and money this is one of the easiest albums I’ve ever had to recommend. It’s a truly powerful and mature piece of work and if ever there was an album worth seeking out, this is it. A true gem. - Incendiary Magazine


"Watch Out - You Just Might Fall In Love"

I do believe that the minimalist roots sound is on its way back in. This is the tenth (or twentieth?) such disc I've heard recently. Maybe that's why the New Yorker did a profile of Wil Oldham. I dunno.

It's so easy to screw up this sound. There's really nothing to save bad songs from themselves. Sparse arrangements and relatively spartan recording techniques don't leave a lot of room for hiding. The Flying Change has the songs to make this sound sing.

And there are just enough brighteners to keep things lively. These guys aren't slavishly devoted to some false "real" sonic ideal. They're trying to make good music. Where the songs demands just a bit more, the Flying Change makes sure to use that little bit.

An album that enchants more and more as it rolls along. I really like the way these folks put together their songs. There's a sweet off-handed feel that lends an immediate intimacy. Watch out--you just might fall in love. - Aiding and Abetting


Discography

Everything Is Good - LP - 2006 (as Lipstik)
There Is Only One Thing - Digital EP - 2008 (as Lipstik)
Pain Is a Reliable Signal - LP - May 16, 2009

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Bio

The Flying Change is the songwriting and performance vehicle for New York-based songwriter Sam Jacobs. The name The Flying Change was inspired by the poetry of family friend and Pulitzer-prize winner, Henry Taylor, the college roommate of Sam’s father.

"An early contender for album of the year" (Splice Today), Pain is a Reliable Signal draws deeply from the endless medical journey into which Jacobs and his family have been thrust. Four years ago, Sam's wife began experiencing severe sciatic nerve pain, leading to the discovery of latent spinal birth defects. A neurosurgeon at Georgetown Hospital performed two experimental surgeries. Not only did neither alleviate her sciatica; in fact, they created new debilitating back pain. Further consultations led the couple to Rochester, Minnesota, hoping for a Hail Mary cure from the Mayo Clinic. Instead, doctors informed them they knew of no remedy nor treatment. His wife continues to suffer from physical pain, her condition interrupting the future they’d intended and the plains they’d laid. Pain relives this story in familiar themes of love, loss and reckoning, spoken in words fluid and incisive.

Jacobs enlisted friend, acclaimed songwriter, producer and award-winning film composer Paul Brill to guide and shape the recording. Together, they assembled a stellar band of accomplished musicians; recorded live in two takes by master engineer Robert L. Smith (David Bowie, Laurie Anderson, etc.), the album features performances by Rob Burger (Iron and Wine, Lucinda Williams) Bill Dobrow (Sean Lennon, The Black Crowes), Amber Rubarth (Paper Raincoat), Antoine Silverman, Anja Wood, Matt Ray, Rob Jost (Imogen Heap, Saturday Night Live Band), Peter, Stan Harrison (Radiohead) Dan Levine (They Might Be Giants) and others.

Brill and Jacobs gathered these musicians to create a sound they've dubbed "landscape pop". Says Jacobs, “during early editing sessions, Paul went through the songs with a red pen and we kept editing and editing until they were as tight as possible. At the same time, we wanted every moment to be incredibly vivid. Small fragments of melody and emotion." These moments are everywhere on the record, from the inverted swells of the pedal steel on the opener "Broken Bow" to the swirling ghostlike sax solo on "Hold My Heartache."

While performing regularly in New York, blogging about his take on the future of the music industry, and adding musicians to the already large ensemble, Jacobs continues to grow as a writer and has been harvesting new songs by the batch.

Since its release, Pain is a Reliable Signal, has been generating widespread acclaim and support. Blurt Online dubbed it "deeply felt, beautifully put together, and life affirming" while Drowned in Sound claimed that "the rest of the world retreats while its playing".

The Flying Change has been featured in Wired, Magnet, Aquarium Drunkard, Largehearted Boy, Blurt, Drowned in Sound, Brooklyn Vegan and a host of other press and music-related publications.