(2015 Stone After Stone)
Esperanto will be officially released December 18, 2015. The EP can be pre-ordered here.
There will be a CD Release Show Sunday, December 20th at the Frequency with Minneapolis trio American Scarecrows .
Read our feature story on Erik Kjelland here.
The Mascot Theory has risen to become one of Madison’s more popular groups and one of the most prolific in the city’s music history. As a songwriter, Erik Kjelland is a nearly unstoppable force. Along with some solo outings, Esperanto is the sixteenth recording for his own Stone After Stone label. 2014 saw the band embark to Nashville to record Hand Me Down Miracles (read the review here). He also recorded a fantastic seasonal album with Beth Kille entitled North Star Sessions (read that review here).
The band is at work on a new, full-length album, this time keeping it all local with Brian Liston at Clutch Sound Studios. Esperanto is a five-song EP that serves as a stopover as the new full-length is expected early in 2016. Four songs that have been featured in live performances over the last year or so were given studio recording treatment. The EP also features a recording of the Mascot Theory’s performance of “Monterey,” one of Kjelland’s best songs, at the 2015 Madison Area Music Association Awards. That performance included support from members of the Madison Youth Choirs and the Black Star Drum Line.
“First Summer Breeze” opens the EP, a song that was written for 105.5 Triple M’s Project M, a grueling, six-week songwriting competition that Kjelland won earlier this year (Kjelland talks about it here). The song, which is receiving airplay on Triple M, is a good indication that the new album may wield a bit more heft without sacrificing the Mascot Theory’s trademark sound: acoustic guitar-driven folk-rock with multiple vocal harmonies and highly descriptive, poetic lyrics. “Esperanto,” in addition to holding an intriguing linguistic meaning, means “one who hopes” and the lyrics here certainly transmit those sentiments. “Every chain / Can be broken / Every door / Can be opened” Kjelland sings in response to the ever-present chaos of a world where “There is corruption on the streets / and distrust between the sheets.”
“Over the Horizon” is a reprise of the same song recorded for North Star Sessions, another song that lyrically connects longing of the soul-searching type with reflective count-your-blessings gratitude.
“One Last Serenade gives another glimpse into the slightly more electrified direction the new album may be going in. It’s got a Gin Blossoms vibe with a great line: “How far we’ve come is a relative equation.” Like “First Summer Breeze,” this one’s a smorgasbord of major-key hooks worthy of heavy rotation.
“End of the End” electrifies country-waltz rhythms and features more clever wordplay: “We’ve seen what we’ve seen / And we’ve been where we’ve been / Let’s call it what it is / the end of the end.”
Esperanto is a well-timed and worthy addition to Kjelland’s catalog. It will please and keep his fans engaged, falling in right at the end of a year which makes it MAMA-award eligible as well. It’s become quite clear that from numerous standpoints – songwriting, wordsmith, production, graphics and yes, marketing and promotion – Kjelland knows what the hell he is doing.