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R.M. Hendrix is in ‘Magazines’
Out January 14, the musician and co-author of ‘Two Beats Ahead’ explores the ephemeral nature of digital celebrity through a literary lens
Illustration Credit: Travis Knight
Boston, MA [January 14, 2022] — In the streaming era pop music can be measured in seconds instead of minutes, directed at short-attention spans, Spotify playlists, and TikTok videos. But R.M. Hendrix is having none of this. If today’s new norm is writing haikus, he’s writing a novel.
The Massachusetts songwriter and multi-instrumentalist returns January 14 with the new alt-pop single “Magazines,” clocking in at nearly 9 minutes and deftly weaving mediaeval chorale arrangements with indie rock, electronica and ambient washes of sound.
The single is a proper follow-up to his 2020 experimental pop album War Is on Its Way, a companion piece in its fidgety, paranoid nature, but also arrives after a busy 2021 that saw Hendrix release shoegaze compendium album Shamblegloss in March, and co-author the critically acclaimed book, Two Beats Ahead: What Musical Minds Teach Us About Innovation, with Recording Academy (GRAMMYs) Co-President Panos A. Panay.
Published in the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, and Japan, Two Beats Ahead boasted interviews with heavyweights including Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, T Bone Burnett, Gloria Estefan, Imogen Heap, Hank Shocklee, and others, diving deep into their creative mindsets. It hit a nerve and was featured on BBC and Bloomberg radio; podcast by Harvard Business School and Google; and named Financial Times’ business book of the month.
In turn Hendrix’s new track, “Magazines,” is a full embrace of the innovative mindsets in his book, resulting in an experimental pop epic with spontaneity and emotion, much of it recorded with first takes then later rearranged. Lyrically, it explores the ephemeral nature of digital celebrity through a literary lens, warping time by contrasting the biblical story of the Annunciation with a jealous, unnamed Hollywood character shoved to the side. The persona moves through stages of anger (“You can’t take this away from me!“), despair (“Nothing breaks except me”) and ultimately finds resolution through a declaration of revenge (“I’m coming for ya!”).
It’s another herculean effort of pop music distortion made with Hendrix’s uncanny knack for capturing the walls of the zeitgeist forever closing in. “Magazines” looks back and claps back without sounding retro, rejecting rejection and the fickle nature of social media’s 15 seconds of fame. Here, there are 505 seconds at play.
“I wrote an unfolding story with different voices, from distant choruses to a rambling unhinged diatribe of mixed metaphors,” says Hendrix. “Each section sings over a mixtape of ‘90s inspired arrangements that nod to alt-music celebs of that era who have also had their day.” Hendrix won’t name names, but any indie rock aficionado worth their salt should be able to find these musical Easter eggs.
“Magazines” also extends some of the themes prevalent in Two Beats Ahead. Most notably, its second chapter, titled “Experimenting,” which covers concepts like happy accidents, free exploration, risk taking, and discipline.
“‘Magazines’ embraces these ideas we put forward in the book,” Hendrix says. “It was created similarly to the process I used for the songs on War Is on Its Way. It’s the same kind of cut/paste/assemble process of other epic songs like Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ or Radiohead’s ‘Paranoid Android’. I’m not claiming this song sits alongside those songs, but I am claiming the process is the same. Musical ideas come at different times and then are collaged into something whole. Recognizing that an idea may not be relevant in the moment, but will gain relevance in a different context is a skill.”
He continued: “‘Magazines’ began with what is now the middle of the song. I had an idea for the chord progression on piano last February. I later asked my son, Solomon Hendrix (The Antarctic Sun), to jam on it for a while and recorded that session. In September I began chopping up those takes. At the same time I started taking a music theory class. I wrote a melody in natural minor, or the Aeolian mode, that was used mostly by monks for choral music in the 16th century. That became the intro to the song. The ambient noise section came later as I searched for a dramatic transition that could represent a spiritual enlightenment gone awry.”
The lyrics to “Magazines” materialized in a similar fashion, with Hendrix starting with an initial vision of a long rambling rant that began with him singing lines from his phone notes. He wrote the Magnifcat section realizing that the middle was a complaint and it needed a foil. The ending was written spontaneously as he worked out the final rock outro, understanding that the character needed some kind of resolve.
“If I had to try and compose this song from the beginning it would not have ended up like this,” Hendrix admits. “Embracing the process created the result. That’s a theme throughout the chapter of my book too. It’s about being open and present to what is happening in front of you, recognizing its relevance is contextual, and then using that to create at the right time. It’s about discovery and sense-making more than it is about planning.”
And will a song that is 8 minutes and 25 seconds get its 15 seconds of fame? “Well, that would be ironic, wouldn’t it?” says Hendrix.
RM Hendrix press photo
‘Magazines’ fact sheet
R.M. Hendrix’s new single, ‘Magazines’, drops on streaming services January 14;
‘Magazines’ is eight minutes and 25 seconds long, devised of four distinct parts;
The Massachusetts musician co-authored the 2020 award-winning book ‘Two Beats Ahead: What Musical Minds Teach Us About Innovation’ with Recording Academy Co-President Panos A. Panay;
‘Magazines’ is the follow-up to R.M. Hendrix’s 2021 shoegaze/dream-pop compendium album Shamblegloss and his 2020 experimental-pop record War Is on Its Way.
File under: whatever you want it to be.
‘Magazines’ single artwork
Media praise for RM Hendrix
“There is an experimental vibe to the music that is really interesting as the melody vibrates while drawing you further into the soundscape. There are layers to the music that all seem to be doing their own thing making for a very eclectic listening experience.” _Other Side Reviews
“Thundering drums open the release before melodic and layered guitars enter. They are instantly enticing and draw the listener in. The upbeat nature of ‘Summer Dresses’ is wonderful and demands the audience’s attention. _FV Music Blog
“A little weird, not quite on the beat and a bit mixed up, but that’s exactly what we love about this track. What is introduced quite melodically develops into a cool mix of fresh alternative rock and shoegaze with an emphasis on electric guitars. A straight track with pure harmonies would be boring, but this song breaks some ‘harmonic rules’ and that’s what makes it really interesting. _Berlin On Air
“The perfect blend of power-pop and shoegaze, that so many acts get so wrong, but Hendrix has made his own. I have recently opined all power-pop becoming so very middle-aged. Hendrix drags it kicking and screaming back into today!!!” _Jangle Pop Hub
“Incorporating elements of psychedelic rock and noise-pop, Hendrix delivers his trademark shoegaze sound through melancholic lyricism, dictating social issues and injustices, yet maintaining constant melody and tuneful exuberance.” _Middle Eight (UK)