The thing that was so magnetic about Moon Rock, Paul Steel’s second album, was the juxtaposition. He had the pastel colors in place in his grand, highly orchestrated classic pop tunes, but he also had a wicked sense of humor. It came through on the opening cut “In A Coma” where the girl of his dreams is wooed away because, sadly, her rescuing hero is actually in a coma. “I Will Make You Disappear” is a gorgeous, harmony-laden threat of violence. “Hole In Your Heart” is a pitch-perfect kiss off that would make Dylan and Costello proud.
But that was a decade ago. In those twelve years, Steel was/is a part of the duo Cold Crows Dead, released an EP as LL Cosmonaut, and became a producer/songwriter for hire working with groups like Empire of the Sun. But now Steel has returned as himself, and with a sequel to his first album, April & I. This one’s called Carousel Kites, and is a contender for best album of the year. In it, immaculate pop-rock production meets sometimes devious, sometimes melancholic, but always interesting songcraft. It is sugar-infused ear candy that has enough bite in it so it won’t rot your sweet tooth.
Popdose spoke with Steel about the album, where he was, how he got here, and about what “luxury music” really means.
Carousel Kites is your first full-length as Paul Steel in about a decade. Not that you haven’t been working, with Cold Crows Dead and you also had a four-song EP out under a band name/pseudonym, plus you’ve done songwriting work for other artists, but this seems like a very specific statement piece. Why the delay, and why now?
You have tagged your work as “luxury music.” It seems to be a pointed difference from “yacht rock” which is an offhand way of describing ’70s light-rock. Can you give me a clearer definition of what you mean?
The way yacht-rock was originally explained to me is that it’s music made by people who own yachts FOR people who own yachts and I thought that idea was funny and wondered if I could create a kind of music that is so extravagant and excessive that it would have to be more expensive to buy than “normal” music. Maybe it would come in a format that only a £1M hifi system could reproduce. I don’t know exactly how it would work in practice but it’s exactly the kind of preposterous concept I get a kick out of.
Carousel Kites is ambitious, even against Moon Rock which sounded like an enormous production. The song-cycle merges together so that the whole is nearly a continuous track, even though they are clearly distinct songs. What was your thought process when it came to developing the album?
What is the overall goal for the new album and where can people find it?
It is currently a digital release. Do you intend to do a physical release of the full Carousel Kites in the future?I’d love to do a proper run of CDs and vinyl if there’s enough demand and I can scrape together the budget! Watch this space.