The Corner Laughers ‘Temescal Telegraph,’ Track by Track

California indie-pop band The Corner Laughers return this Friday with their long-awaited new album Temescal Telegraph on the Big Stir Records imprint. 

Five years following their critically acclaimed Matilda Effect, the band reconvened in their hometown of Oakland, where members Karla Kane (vocals, ukulele and most songwriting), Charlie Crabtree (drums) and multi-instrumentalists KC Bowman and Khoi Huynh, cut the album in the intimacy of Bowman’s Timber Trout studio. 

At root, this song cycle takes place in the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland. But for Kane, who is coming off the laudatory acclaim of her 2017 solo debut, the  LP also speaks to deeper, more globalized themes of climate change and its impact on youth. It bursts with an indie pop jubilance not heard since the heyday of The Cuts and early Rogue Wave, with a measure of pastoral beauty that bows to the beauty of Belle & Sebastian.

Temescal Telegraph,” said Karla “weaves together a lot of themes that have long been of interest and importance to me as a writer – things like ecology, seasons, motherhood, folklore, literature, and sense of place – in a way that actually surprised and continues to surprise me.”

“Our last album as a full band was in 2015,” she said, “and after I released my solo album in 2017, I really wasn’t sure what the future held for The Corner Laughers as a group, with life factors (children, geographic distance, health and more) keeping some of us more apart than we’d like. But it turned out that getting the four of us together at KC’s home studio led us to creating something special rather quickly. When I hear Temescal Telegraph, even on songs that may be sad lyrically, I feel a joyful, organic sense of togetherness, which means even more to me now, given the current strange world circumstances.”

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Karla Kane of The Corner Laughers

Karla took the time out to discuss each song on Temescal Telegraph with us ahead of its Friday release date.

“The Calculating Boy.” 
A slightly sinister opening track involving witch hunts, time travel, mathematical prodigies, seances, and feeling like a misfit or out of touch with one’s place or time. 

This was written in a very “me” way — while sitting on a creek bank in a local redwood forest watching my daughter splash, the incredible tree novel The Overstory by my side. It evolved into a song partly about the environment and climate change (We’re all climate changelings, after all), with me narrating in the form of some kind of primordial water goddess/naiad/river daughter. It also takes inspiration from the legends of fairy changelings and the children’s novel “The Changeling.”

“The Accepted Time.” 
“The Accepted Time” was written on the walk home from my daughter’s kindergarten. We passed a sign announcing “Now is the accepted time,” and that struck me as not only a call to action but also a reminder to try and appreciate the current moment, as it’s all we have. To me it’s a song that’s both joyful and sad at once, wistful innocence meets wizened realization of how quickly time slips by. I guess the term is bittersweet. Each moment is its own world as well as a connected strand to the larger web of life. 

“The Lilac Line.”
The actual Lilac Line is a bus route in Nottingham, UK. In the song, it is emblematic of clinging to hope and optimism despite uncertainty and anxiety. “Little Apple” refers not only to a literal bookshop (owned by a friend/fellow musician) in England, but also to motherhood (“little apple I could live forever in you”). The bridge of the song deals with the overwhelming feeling that time is going by too quickly (another recurring theme).

“Loma Alta.” 
To me there is no better scent than that of redwoods mixed with bay trees. This is a melancholy love letter to my beautiful little hometown of Fairfax in Marin County (where my father still lives), including a lament of the loss of the train system that once, long ago, served it, replaced by — ugh! — a parking lot. There’s nostalgia for childhood, love of the wilderness, and the feeling of being a ghost. 

“Sisters of the Pollen.”
An anthem for the bees! A celebration of those industrious, essential pollinators, sung from their point of view. 

“Wren in the Rain.”
There is a literal wren family that nests in our backyard, which served as the first inspiration for this song. This is another song that explores the changing of the seasons and looking for hope in dark times.

“Goodguy Sun.”
This autumnal tune was written and offered to me by my songwriting idol Martin Newell. This track is the outlier, as it features Bradley Skaught, rather than Charlie Crabtree, on drums, but it was the fun, successful (and somewhat surprising) recording of this at KC’s Timber Trout studio that ended up inspiring further recordings and our relationship with Big Stir Records. 

“Skylarks of Britain.”
The long-awaited full band version of a song that appeared in an acoustic folk form on my solo album King’s Daughters Home for Incurables (but always intended to be a Corner Laughers track). It’s partially a tribute, in the style of an English folk song, to friends. Though the words sound whimsical, they’re sometimes literal. 

“Lord Richard.”
This rather epic track was inspired by Lord Richard, the gender-bending, senior-citizen turkey vulture at a wildlife rescue center. It turned out all about the cycle of life, death, decomposition and rebirth, the importance of a healthy ecosystem and how humans are screwing it up, and asks if redemption is possible. And yes, I really was voted “Most Likely to Hug a Tree” in high school! 

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