With All Those Relays, the band’s first album since 2003, Ashen Keilyn has deconstructed her band and put it back together piece-by-piece — new players, new producers and, most importantly, the best songs of Keilyn’s career. Scout’s new chapter finds Keilyn simultaneously at her most emotionally raw and her toughest yet, creating an album both empowering and vulnerable — and catchy as hell.
It all adds up to mean the breathless praise piled on her music from Billboard, SPIN, The New York Times and others rings true today. As the Village Voice wrote, “Ashen Keilyn is a star.”
Scout dropped its debut EP, Someplace Would Be Nice, in 1998 on Chrysalis; its breakthrough album, It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, followed just two years later. On the strength of huge buzz from the album, Scout appeared on NBC’s “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” became an Editor’s Choice pick at Amazon.com, had tracks featured in films and TV and toured with rock icons Sunny Day Real Estate.
After 2003 follow-up “The Soft Life,” though, it was time to take a break. Keilyn began working with other musicians and recording with new producers, but one thing was apparent: Ashen Keilyn was the beating heart of Scout, no matter who rounded out the lineup.
With that freedom, Keilyn set out to create All Those Relays, inspired by music, film and the idiosyncrasies of everyday life. Scout’s new music was created organically, each song born exactly when it was ready. Some ache with the melancholy of Cat Power. Some float like the folk of Azure Ray. But each track is anchored by her hushed voice. Keilyn took her time with this music, and her careful, relaxed writing makes for gorgeous, free-flowing songs.
“I feel like a big sponge. I take my experiences in life and turn them into music,” she says. “That requires a lot of living. I have to put a lot in to get a little tune out.”
To create the 10 tracks of All Those Relays, then, Keilyn could’ve lived 10 lifetimes — each song is a world unto itself, a new driving rhythm, an endlessly melodic hook and lyrics that navigate the soaring highs and devastating lows of love. Keilyn has created an album for sleepless nights, but also for the morning when you realize that everything is going to be fine. No, everything is going to be great.
Working with such a talented crew didn’t hurt, either. Drummer/producer Jim Eno from Spoon recorded three songs; Hurricane Bells mastermind and former Longwave frontman Steve Schiltz co-produced the rest of the album, recording with Ashen in their Queens studio. With the band rounded out by old friends Jason Molina and Shannon Ferguson from Longwave, the album is loaded with talent — and sound.
One song, “Under Attack,” began as a sparse demo. In the studio, the band laid down 128 different tracks, including three drum sets, three basses and layers of vocals. The result? One of All Those Relays’ most powerful songs, four and a half minutes of propulsive percussion, haunting piano and Keilyn’s catchiest chorus yet.
First to drop will be an EP, PI, featuring three songs from All Those Relays, a Guided By Voices cover and one unreleased track, “Songs to Strangers.”
With a new record completed and an EP ready to go, what happens now? “I’m allowing thing to happen at their own pace.” says Keilyn. But on the strength of All Those Relays, that pace is going to be quick.