A rooftop overlooking Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. A fleabag motel on the banks of the Susquehanna River. A bus winding through sleepy Chicago suburbs. A book-filled bedroom. A sculpture garden in Washington, D.C.
These are the memories that inhabit Ace Reporter’s debut LP Yearling. They are memories from a single year, one that musician Chris Snyder spent writing and recording one new song every day. In 2010, after the breakup of his longtime band The States, Snyder, a songwriter, composer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist based in Brooklyn, embarked on what he called the threesixfive project. Each day came with a mandate for the musician to start and finish a new track. From this burgeoning collection of songs, four EPs emerged, which Snyder – who began playing violin at age four and landed his first singing gig as the featured boy soprano on the soundtrack for The Crow – eventually transformed into a full-length album culled from the experiences and inspirations that propelled him through that year.
“Suddenly I was a musician without a mission after The States broke up,” Snyder recalls. “I wanted to do something extremely solitary, and overnight the threesixfive project was born. The record feels like an inside-out biography – and the threesixfive project even more so – which is why the lyrics tend to oscillate between diary-like and impressionistic. The songs are snapshots of slippery, fragile moments, which are gone as soon as they come.”
Yearling was recorded in a converted barn in upstate New York in the spring of 2011. The disc, which Snyder self-produced, features performances by drummer Aaron Steele and guitarist Chris Kuklis and was engineered and mixed by Chris Grainger (Wilco, Switchfoot). The idea was to take ten of the best songs from Snyder’s massive collection and imbue them with greater life and augmented instrumentation. “During the threesixfive project, I had two hours every evening to write, record, and mix a new song,” Snyder says. “This meant that I had to give up on premeditation – whatever happened when I sat down to write became the song, period. I generally didn\'t bother to flesh out an idea before pushing the record button because I just didn\'t have time. Recording the album was an opportunity to see where a few of the songs could go beyond that.”
The songs range in style and tone, from the infectious pop-rock melody of “Untouched and Arrived” to the groove-driven keys of “Collected Works” to the lush violins of “If I See You Again.” The album has the effect of a kaleidoscope, where Snyder’s poetic lyricism and evocative imagery draw the songs together to create a collection that tells the story of a year, each song refracting a different memory of a time and place. The disc opens the door to what might come next for Ace Reporter as Snyder leaves behind the strictures of writing every day and allows the project to evolve into a touring band.
“Ace Reporter started as an introverted creative experiment, but right now it’s all about getting the project and these songs out into the world,” Snyder says. “After Yearling, the challenge will be to figure out what writing means for Ace Reporter beyond the threesixfive project. Unless what comes next is another threesixfive project...”