Reverting back to childhood memories as he wandered around Los Angeles during the pandemic, Peter Matthew Bauer finished writing the song that embraced the overarching theme of his third album Flowers, on Christmas Day, 2021.
Visually past memories and ripping through the sadder nostalgia of lost times, “Miracles” captures the reluctance of finally letting go of those moments, imploring If you could do it all again, would you change your mind and leave it all behind / Would you watch the clock until the end of time and somber refrain Life as it was is like it never was … I don’t believe now / It’s like it never was, all lifted by The Westerlies brass ensemble on the horns.
“‘Miracles’ is a big piece of this record and probably the most straightforward, folk-style song I’ve ever written,” Bauer tells American Songwriter. “It covers a lot of themes from the record all at once. It’s both looking back at the strangeness of growing up, wandering an old railroad bridge with your friends, and then jumping time to the present, wandering around downtown Los Angeles during the pandemic. For me, I guess it’s expressing a lot of the fear and decay of the present time.”
Following Bauer’s second solo effort, Mount Qaf in 2017, Flowers (Fortune Tellers Music), out Sept. 23, needed five years to brew. Co-produced and mixed by former Walkmen bandmate Matt Barrick, who also plays drums on the album, Flowers bridges Bauer’s own personal memories and other people’s stories told through more folk-rock-driven stories.
Initially writing out of his Laurel Canyon office, the songs of Flowers were later finished and mixed between Los Angeles and Philadelphia at Barrick’s Silent Partner studio, which he opened with Interpol’s Paul Banks and producer Quentin Stoltzfus.
Throughout Flowers, Bauer explores loss and the difficulty of shaking off memories and moments still living in his head from acoustic-led lead single “Knife Fighter” and steady thump “Skulls,” featuring dancing human skulls in the accompanying video and a guitar solo by Bauer, a first for the Walkmen bassist and organist.“It’s filled with a kind of dread but also I think a little joy remains,” shares Bauer of the album. “It’s this weird continuum of losing people from your past, some close and some just characters I knew who were somehow important.”
He adds, “[It’s] that and this feeling of a kind of terror that we are all experiencing together, this cult-like feeling I have from my own childhood [Bauer grew up in ashrams in Upstate New York and Ganeshpuri, India], chasing down specific images and moments that feel alive within that kind of feeling, and then chasing that childhood feeling itself—that sense of home that feels lost sometimes, those are the things that make up this record. It’s like searching for an undercurrent hidden in everything, like an electric charge.”
Flowers Track Listing
1. Knife Fighter
5. 21st Century Station
6. Mountains on Mountains
9. Chiyoda, Arkansas, Manila
Photo: Charlie Anastasis