Austin artist Bayonne tackles grief with expansive positivity in new album
Far from Austin’s norm of four-piece rock bands with a free garage and an obsession with '80s or alt-country sounds, one local musician has just released a strong batch of sleeker, trancier tracks. It's fitting then, that his name should reflect this distance — although Bayonne is firmly an Austin artist nonetheless.
Temporary Time, out since May 26, 2023, is a neat bundle of 9 songs coming in at just under 45 minutes, and lending itself well to short bursts of focus — or breaks from it. A release calls the genre "alt-pop," although fans of Beach House and Morning Phase-era Beck will likely be charmed enough by the collection to agree this is solidly within the dream pop realm. (And, hey, when there are clouds on the cover art, you know where you'll end up.)
Although this songwriting, which started in seclusion in West Texas, could have veered toward the overly-psychedelic, it stays tethered to Earth with a more classical sensibility, like in the opening moments of the first track, "Must Be True." A resonant piano arpeggio comes about as close to holy minimalism as one can in a pop song, unfurling into a surprisingly hopeful and upbeat album despite its topical influences: terminal illness, the end of a relationship, and the overwhelm of depression.
“In early 2019 my Dad was diagnosed with cancer," said the solo artist, Roger Sellers, in a release. "This record largely explores the emotional journey we went through as a family coming to terms with his declining health, as well as my own mental health and inner self. During much of the recording process I was in a deep state of depression."
The introspection is there, front and center: the reappearance of wandering piano, a constant bed of long-held synths and ambient sounds, the dreamy vocals. But there are countless layers over these, like sparkling chimes, bells, and other flourishes. Melodies overlap in "Words" for more of this effect.
Adding to this layering, the piano evolves through the album to become a driving force rather than something floating through. And the percussion, most important of all, is the lively main player throughout, like in the nearly Bollywood beat of "FK." A music video for "Perfect" combines images of sun glares and clips of architecture and nature — especially the ocean — in an improvisatory dance befitting the meditative but energetic electro-pop.
Just as the album opens up, so, too, did Sellers' creative process, eventually including producer and mixer Danny Reisch (HAIM, Local Natives), bassist Jon Joseph (BØRNS, Gothic Tropic), and Bayonne drummer Matt Toman.
“Eventually I started focusing on my well-being and things became much easier for me, but writing these songs certainly helped push me through a dark period," said Sellers. It's pretty crazy to me that this record is finally going to be released without him around, but he was a big part of it all. If anything, I hope any listeners that have gone through similar experiences will draw some sort of inspiration or healing.”
A limited-edition vinyl and matching T-shirt are available for purchase at merchtable.com. Bayonne's headlining tour kicked off May 30 in Phoenix, Arizona.
Listen to Temporary Time on all streaming platforms.