discography (2019 - present)
photo by Joan Kelsey, design by Jon Samuels
art by Aaron Goldstein, design by Jon Samuels
photo by Lou Crisitello, design by Jon Samuels
painting by Kath Bloom, design by Jon Samuels
photography (of Natalie) by Carlie Tise
photography (of forest) by Natalie Jane Hill
design by Jon Samuels
artwork and design by Ben Calhoun
artwork and design by Jon Samuels
artwork and design by Erik Savage
artwork and design by Jon Samuels
artwork and design by Matt Van Asselt
cover art by Pat Halper, cover lettering by Ian Bush
cover art by Brenna Murphy
painting by Ben Calhoun, design by Jon Samuels
Photo by Nuna Ulises, design by Jon Samuels
Design by Jon Samuels
Photo by Bow Smith, Design by Jon Samuels
Painting by Hayden Hall, Design by Jon Samuels
Design by Jon Samuels
Painting by Sasha Popovici
Handwriting by Peter Lewis
artwork and design by Meg McCauley
DLR 019- Cassette Tape, CD
May 28, 2021
Fust is the mystifyingly understated project of Durham, NC artist Aaron Dowdy. With 7 four-song EPs in his back catalogue, Evil Joy is the most realized manifestation of Dowdy's methodical approach to songcraft. The ten songs presented here are instantly canonical. With their structural integrity and undeniable familiarity, they feel like the bones of an old house discovered off some well-tread path. This music is respite for weary travelers, a noble reminder of the impressions we leave in the dirt as we walk away. His narrators navigate elation, pain, longing, and belonging. They imagine themselves high in the rafters, looking down on life lived without them. They tie themselves to rusty anchors in futile attempts to disappear. They feel the lasting catharsis of biking down Main St. no-handed, laid bare for all to see. Like all great country music, these struggles and epiphanies become our own. Never has song managed to feel so magnanimous and well lived.
DLR 018 - Cassette Tape
June 18, 2021
Em Boltz and Noah Jacobson-Carroll present the products of their research (their sift through the ever-expanding promenade of saturated data) as a process-as-product experience, readymade for the research needs of the listener. The sound capsules here offer a wide lens into interior speculative architectures, imagining new intersections between the forgotten and the familiar. Sedimentary fragments of audio dangle, suspended and undulating, across their shared tapestry, constantly interrogating and affirming the combinatory vectors weaving them together.
DLR 020/OOF 014 - Vinyl, CD, Cassette
June 25, 2021
Michael's third release under his own name throws open the windows of the quiet house his previous works lived in. Retaining his plainspoken archival tone, it soaks hyper-connected isolation in a neon kaleidoscope of vignettes pulled from the not-too-distant past. Texturized sense memories range from beer bottles on lips at the goodbye party to pant legs yanked into unstoppable escalators, and are held together in such a way to assert that while we can be our own worst enemies, we had better be our best friends. Here, Michael savagely paints a portrait of our ambient anxieties and mounts it carefully in a tightly packed room, one among many precious objects for friends to enjoy at the housewarming party in the not-too-distant future.
The Midwest Book of the Dead
DLR 017- Double Cassette Tape, Double CD, Chapbook
April 30, 2021
Wes Tirey returns with his 10th record and label debut for Dear Life Records. It is a Midwestern Odyssey, borne from Tirey's childhood in Southern Ohio and from the literary traditions of Frank Stanford and Raymond Carver. Over the course of eighteen songs, Tirey explores through his characters themes of social and geographic isolation. He wanders through corn-laden and rust-covered wastelands, seeking refuge and connection in diners and dimly-lit barrooms. Tirey's poetry is elegant and unflinching, painting portraits of an American life that feel uncannily familiar.
Ghost of Your Guitar Solo
DLR 016- Cassette Tape, CD
March 26, 2021
How do you hear the ghost of a guitar solo? There are records that serve as platforms for a guitar solo so ubiquitous, it becomes chief representative for that work. Funkadelic’s MAGGOT BRAIN opens with a wail from deep within the Earth, Bowie’s HEROES features a riff that seems to have torn through spacetime. Herein lies the spirit MJ Lenderman possibly refers to. “Saw it rollin’ across the floor” he whispers, something tunneling through the shag.
MJ’s first record for Dear Life has a low wattage lamp-lit quality, the last takes of the night and you’re all sitting on the floor. Everybody wants their records to be played loud, but this one shudders when spun anywhere but the disc changer of a sedan moving 75 MPH on a freeway. Diaristic but never twee, detailed yet impressionist, each filmic track produces a short scene with two, maybe three beats at most. The nugget lies in their actor’s performances. MJ Lenderman is smoking out of the gates of somewhere, full up with shame and pride and confident love.
DLR 015- Cassette Tape
February 26, 2021
Lucky documents the self-designated first steps of an artist with a comprehensive and mature vision, and betrays a well traveled path with music. This is bedroom pop at its purest and most graduated. A Firefox window open with too many tabs; to synth forums, Youtube bookmarks (for The Knife, Death Cab, Modest Mouse and Hillary Duff) wikipedia pages for fantasy novels and Frank O'Hara. Lindsay describes herself as having spent a life with music before coming to the four songs on this EP. The vast range she is able to casually orchestrate into such a short space; pulsing synths, powerful hooks, spacious leads into intimate fingerpicking, demonstrate that her past lives were worth living.
DLR 014- Cassette Tape
January 29, 2021
Cold Feet finds Philadelphia-based producer Ben Calhoun in full command of his sonic arsenal. Themes of indecision and isolation are at odds with the clear mastery of his craft, resulting in a fourteen track affair that feels dizzying and kaleidoscopic while exuding confidence. Samples are delicately interwoven with his own improvisations, making the old sound new and the new sound permanent. A stunning follow up to 2019's Haste, which is a vital record in of itself.
DLR 013- Cassette Tape, CD
December 4, 2020
Alrighnik might be Nashville songwriter / guitar slinger Josh Halper's debut solo release, but it demonstrates the purposeful dexterity and casual levity of the most mature efforts. Moving between calmly intricate nylon string guitar-led instrumentals and wry lyrical meditations on young adulthood, Alrightnik achieves a broadly literate and balanced space worthy of its explicit influences like The Grateful Dead, and Randy Newman. More implicit though is a record steeped lovingly in Music City's rich lore and current landscape, proving that with the right ideas, you don't have to choose between vulnerability and perfection.
DLR 012 - Cassette Tape, CD
November 20, 2020
Oggetto is an improvisational trio made up of Carmelo Pampillonio, Michael Flanagan, and Frank Meadows. Their self-titled debut is a controlled maelstrom of sound and ideas, a mesmerizing blend of electronics and acoustic instruments. Pampillonio's dynamism and sense of texture on the drum kit lays the groundwork for Flanagan and Meadows to explore the nuances of mood setting. The record offers no easy answers to life's most persistent questions. It occupies the darker corners of our unknowing, the pain and catharsis of rebirth. As such, this record gives regeneratively upon every listen.
House of Mercy
DLR 011 - Cassette Tape
November 6, 2020
Joan Kelsey’s “House of Mercy“ is a dazzling display of compositional range from a defining voice of the New York Capital Region. Joan’s work as Joan Kelsey’s Silver Lining produced ensemble oriented chamber folk that balances measured intentionality and communal bursts of joy. While Joan’s latest operates on a more private scale on the surface, it retains their spirit of measured depth, soaring heights, and open collaboration. Rick Sparato (Florist, Onlyness), produced and contributed many signature performances throughout, and their chemistry demonstrates an inspired phase of a trusting musical relationship that pushes Joan’s dialed-in songwriting across all regions of the stratosphere.
Hand Like God
DLR 010 - Cassette Tape
October 16, 2020
Another trip into the untrammeled creative mind of improvisor JR Samuels, who returns with a stunning sophomore release exploring identity in grief and loss. Over the 10 musings for guitar soli, recorded one afternoon in the enclosed porch of his West Philadelphia home, Samuels continues to sculpt his definitive voice, frenzied and constantly questioning. A JR Samuels piece always feels familiar, but still has you feeling blindly for the wall, praying to turn on a light.
Live From The Void
DLR 009, PD 004 - Cassette Tape
September 25, 2020
Recorded in eastern Pennsylvania on a brisk fall day, Live From The Void is a transitional document for Karl Blau, who has released more than 23 records throughout his rich life in music. A staple of the K Records community, and a vital member the indie folk renaissance in Anacortes, WA, Karl relocated to Germantown, Philadelphia with his family in the winter of 2019. This sparse collection of songs strips back the lush, eclectic production of his past work in favor of voice and acoustic guitar. This shedding of skin reflects an artist reclaiming his craft in its most primordial form. His voice weaves in and out of the sounds of wind and bird songs, his words picking up the pieces of a former home and reconstructing them anew. This special document is magical not only in its ability to look longingly at the past or point optimistically towards the future, but to hover contentedly in suspended animation.
Bye Bye These Are The Days
DLR 008 - Vinyl LP, CD
August 14, 2020
The latest record by legendary folk songwriter Kath Bloom features new compositions and full band reworkings of previously released material. Bloom, who is based in Litchfield, CT, is joined by New Haven's David Shapiro (who performs solo as Alexander, with releases on Garden Portal and C/Site, among others) and Flow Ness. The record is the first to highlight this iteration of the Kath Bloom Band that has been performing together since 2017, and their dynamism and fluidity are on full display. Kath's deft songwriting is as always front and center, balancing a sober acceptance of mortality with a profound sensitivity that can "snap your heart like a twig." But there is a palpable joy that abounds on Bye Bye These Are The Days that reflects the elation felt by its musicians creating and moving as one.
Natalie Jane Hill
DLR 007 - Cassette, CD
May 15, 2020
Azalea, the debut record by Austin, TX-based folk singer/guitarist Natalie Jane Hill emerges like the first days of spring. With incomparable nobility and grace, this collection of songs pairs our struggle to feel meaningfully connected to one another with an intimate knowledge of the natural world and the wonder of its inherent solitude. Hill's guitar playing is prodigious, played in a style all her own, and her voice is both warm and cutting, inviting comparisons to Jean Ritchie and Tamara Lindeman (The Weather Station). A remarkable introduction to an artist with a fully-realized and potent vision of her creative life.
DLR 006 - Cassette
February 14, 2020
Jason Calhoun (paper armies/naps) is a tireless creator, Jedidiah being his 19th record in 10 years (his 20th release would be DLR BTL 002, featuring two live improvised performances from a tour of the Midwest and South in February 2020). The record feels darker than a lot of his earlier releases using the naps monikor, with titles such as 'you die and that's it,' 'ego death,' and 'buried where you live' grappling with the inevitability of decay. He sets his study of degradation in the great outdoors, surrounded by expansive wilderness during a family trip to the Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park in Crescent City California. The inside of the J-card simply reads: "Thanks to Ben and Mom for a very special trip," and the music allows us to feel the sort of self-immolation only felt when faced with the enormity and transcendence of all of things.
Way Haul Away
DLR 005 - Cassette
January 10, 2020
During the summer of 2019, Shane Parish began recording a collection freewheeling improvisations interpreting songs in the Fireside Book of Folk Songs, which his wife found at a Goodwill and gifted him that previous winter. This project quickly snowballed and, wrapping up in December of that year, had grown to 147 distinct recordings of every song featured in the book. Some of these recordings have only the slightest resemblance to their original source material. As a guitarist and improvisor, Parish resembles a martial artist (which in fact he also is), methodically honing his craft through disciplined studies that allow for an unencumbered flow of spontaneous ideas and energy. Way Haul Away highlights 12 of these recordings, loosely connected by origin (many of the featured songs were originally work songs), and is an illuminating glimpse into the work of a fearless artist who never stops reexamining his approach to his instrument.
Late Homework, The Songs of David Berman
DLR 004 - Digital Only
October 18, 2019
27 songs compiled by Francie Medosch (Florry), Aaron Powell (Foglake), and Filip Zemčík (Z Tapes) to honor the life and music of David Berman (Silver Jews). Featuring Greta Kline, Karl Blau, Emperor X, Hello Shark, Rachel Brown and a wide range of mainstays within the global DIY scene, Late Homework captures Berman's despair and hilarity, eschewing aesthetic continuity to give space for the power of his lyricism. There are post-rock odysseys alongside dance-pop interpretations of songs both obscure and quintessential. All money raised from sales of this compilation are donated to Shatterproof, a non-profit organization that strives to release the vice grip that the disease of addiction has on all who are affected. To date, over $600 has been donated.
DLR 003 - Cassette
August 16, 2019
rounded walls lit by candle, so the echos are exactly what were intended.
a melody that meant nothing to you until you heard it again
tape wrapped so tight around the fingers
the fur bursts out the top in tufts
find it at the bottom of a vase you've held up to your eye like a telescope
or on the jersey turnpike just as the cars begin to speed
JR Samuels' debut solo outing features eight improvisations for solo classical guitar informed by Henry Flynt's essay Art or Brend? Both the essay and the record emphasize process, doing for the sake of doing, and the fallibility of art as product. Samuels subverts many of the tropes of guitar soli records, and stylistically resembles restless polymaths such as Daniel Bachman and Jack Rose more than stalwart traditionalists who dedicate themselves to preserving form.
DLR 002 - Digital Only
June 7, 2019
Written within a two week period and recorded over three days, M-F is an experiment in the immediate expression of perception. Described as "ten love songs set within the forty hour work week," Cormier paints the minutiae of daily life shared with his partner as teeming with transcendence, a life where the slight squeeze of a hand can become an earth-shattering expression of the divine. Sonic limitations were placed on the production of the record, centering Cormier's voice and guitar to replicate the intimacy of a shared space with one other person. Released in conjunction with Days Like Pearls, the record is a snapshot of a moment that was in that moment still happening.
Days Like Pearls
DLR 001 - Cassette, CD
June 7, 2019
The first Dear Life release, and Michael Cormier's (Friendship, Hour) debut as a singer/songwriter. Playing nearly every instrument on the record, the album highlights both his abilities as a composer/arranger alongside his unique approach to songcraft. These songs are a collection of childhood memories from his growing up in Fairhaven, a small town in the shadow of New Bedford on the southeastern coast of Massachusetts. The songs capture these memories as they were visible within that moment along with his anxieties of how they are only getting more inaccessible. The images and sensations contained within are growing fuzzier and farther out of reach. They are fleeting snapshots, both flimsy and colorful.