Photo by Ray Di Pietro
Elvis Costello will deliver his 31st album this fall, a 14-song collection called Hey Clockface that was recorded in Helskini, Paris and New York with multiple musical combos featuring players that include longtime sideman Steve Nieve, guitarist Bill Frisell and Wilco’s Nels Cline.
Costello this week released the third track off the album, “We Are All Cowards Now,” which, like predecessors “No Flag” and “Hetty O’Hara Confidential,” was recorded by Costello alone at Suomenlinnan Studio in Helsinki in February. You can hear all three of those songs below.
After that session, Costello traveled to Les Studios Saint Germain in Paris, where he spent a weekend recording with Attractions/Imposters keyboardist Nieve, trumpet and flugel horn player Mickaél Gasche, cellist Pierre-François ‘Titi’ Dufou, drummer Ajuq and reed player Renaud-Gabriel Pion.
“I sang live on the studio floor, directing from the vocal booth,” Costello writes. “We cut nine songs in two days. We spoke very little. Almost everything the musicians played was a spontaneous response to the song I was singing. I’d had a dream of recording in Paris like this, one day.”
In New York, composer, arranger and trumpet player Michael Leonhart produced the session in collaboration with guitarists Cline and Frissell, with Costello finishing the material “via electrical wire.”
“I wanted to write ‘Helsinki-Paris-???’ on the record jacket like this was a perfume or an advertising agency,” Costello writes. “‘London’ was a possibility for the third city but London is forever. We’ll be there again. Michael sent this music to me from New York at the perfect time. It connected to elements in both of the previous sessions and completed the picture.”
“I wanted the record to be vivid, whether the songs demanded playing that was loud and jagged or intimate and beautiful.”
The new album is Costello’s first since the release of Look Now in 2018.
Below, see the album’s full tracklist, and hear the three songs recorded in Helsinki.
Elvis Costello, Hey Clockface
1. “Revolution #49”
2, “No Flag”
3, “They’re Not Laughing at Me Now”
4. “Newspaper Pane”
5. “I Do (Zula’s Song)”
6. “We Are All Cowards Now”
7. “Hey Clockface/How Can You Face Me?”
8. “The Whirlwind”
9. “Hetty O’Hara Confidential”
10. “The Last Confession of Vivian Whip”
11. “What Is It That I Need That I Don’t Already Have?”
12. “Radio Is Everything”
13. “I Can’t Say Her Name”
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