IMAGES: To download, click above. Photo credit to Michael Stasiak


Woodsist Records

John Andrews & The Yawns


John Andrews is something of an open secret in a certain corner of the music scene: a versatile musician & animator. A film school drop out whose work hat-tips tradition as much as outsider anti-aesthetics. He’s spent over a decade on the DIY circuit, playing early house shows alongside then up-and-coming peers Weyes Blood and Daniel Bachman. Today he is still out there projecting his sketchy hand drawn animations during his performances in coffee shops, small galleries and non-traditional venues. Andrews’ painterly approach now introduces us to his version of New York City, the place he was bound to end up after years of dwelling in Pennsylvania farm towns and New Hampshire barns. There is handmade vibrancy to the world he’s imagined for us here: intimate moments seen from the interior, looking outward from hole-in-the-wall restaurants, theaters and the fragments of peace found within the restless and dirty street corners.

Love For The Underdog, his aptly titled fourth release with the Woodsist label, was tracked live to tape in various studios and apartments across the Empire State with help from his bandmates in Cut Worms’ touring outfit, Max Clarke, Keven Lareau & Noah Bond. Buoyant melodies are supported by timeless string arrangements, translated from Andrews’ head to page with the help of friend Simon Hanes. The string quartet follows the tradition of Francoise Hardy, Harry Nilsson, Margo Guryan & Belle and Sebastian, giving the whole thing a cinematic ambience with stark shadows of an Edward Hopper painting.

The lyrics tie together narratives of cynical heroes & troubled lovers. In song titles like “Walking Under My Love’s Ladders” and “Checks in the Mail” he delivers clever one liners and wry observations in a comforting voice. “Like a movie star but the movies are closed / Living like a celebrity that nobody knows / Trying hard every day to make ends meet / Somethings you can’t get back, even with your saved receipts” he sings in the Beatles-esque Art Deco pop ballad “Starving Artist”. He knows from experience.

But as the album cover suggests (not John’s own work, but a drawing by artist and friend Christian Peslak), Love For The Underdog also sees Andrews as both the reliable narrator and a character himself: an unlikely omniscient presence, snacking on popcorn at a midnight screening of a slice-of-life movie, surrounded by heroes both unlikely and not.

Love For The Underdog has the feeling of sinking into well-worn red velvet theater seats, when the lights go down and the flickering of projectors run the title: Love for the Underdog, indeed. The glow of New York Movie. By the end, like the comforting smell of buttered popcorn and the whispers of a first date tucked into the back rows, you step out into the bright lights of a city street, the lines of the characters echoing in your head like the advice of an old, wise friend whose comfortable with the passage of time. Just like Andrews sings in 7 minute long mini opera “Fourth Wall”: “Some things take years to know / No one is the same they were years ago”. He looks at the camera and winks.