Longtime Dallasite John Congleton continues to have a prolific career as a producer, engineer and mixer. Congleton now lives in Los Angeles, and he's adding the Decemberists to the list of hundreds of artists he's worked with.
The Portland, Oregon-based quintet dropped a new song, “Severed," this week. It's the first song from its forthcoming eighth album, I’ll Be Your Girl, due for a March release via Capitol Records.
“I love this record,” Congleton tweeted Wednesday.
The first single suggests the Decemberists — who have delved into everything from folky pop to stage musical tunes and progressive rock — are cultivating a more desolate, new-wave sound. With synths and a sparse guitar lead, "Severed" is a departure from the open-sounding material on their previous albums, The Crane Wife, The King is Dead and Picaresque.
Congleton is skilled at bringing out the darker, idiosyncratic side to a band's music. Artists approach him because they want to do something different, and he's worked with bands as diverse as Polyphonic Spree, Explosions in the Sky, Murder by Death and the Roots.
"I don't have any desire to have a 'sound,'" he told the Observer in 2016. "If people want to decide I have a sound or decide what a sound is, then that's fine, but that's up to them. But the last thing I want to do is superimpose an aesthetic that is unwelcome on a record. I'd rather figure out what the band's aesthetic is and discover that together."
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Last year, Congleton produced albums by Nelly Furtado, Future Islands, Blondie, Xiu Xiu, Alvvays, Kimbra and Goldfrapp. He also did production work for three tracks on St. Vincent’s Masseduction. (Congleton won a Grammy in 2015 for best alternative music album for his work on St. Vincent’s self-titled fourth album.)
March is the month to see Congleton’s name on various albums’ credits. In addition to the Decemberists’ I’ll Be Your Girl, you’ll hear his work on Suuns’ Felt LP and his mixing on Lucy Dacus’ Historian LP.
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Congleton last released his own album, Until the Horror Goes, in 2016. And people still rave about the work he did as the singer-guitarist of the Paper Chase from 2000-09. These days, he's comfortable and carefully selects the projects he wants to do.
"At this point, I don't really have to work for a paycheck like I have in the past," Congleton told the Dallas Observer in 2016. "I'm extremely lucky."