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Lionlimb's 'Tape Recorder' Is a Good-Ass Minimalist Album for Introspection and Shit

The six-song sophomore project from Angel Olsen collaborators Stewart Bronaugh and Joshua Jaeger is a harrowing listen. Stream it now via Bayonet Records.
Credit: Justine Orrall

There’s an unrestrained spontaneity woven through Lionlimb’s lilting six-track album, Tape Recorder. It’s the second project from the psych-inflected folk rock outfit made up of of Stewart Bronaugh and Joshua Jaeger, who have also played as bandmates alongside Angel Olsen outside of their work together for Lionlimb (Bronaugh no longer plays with Angel, but Jaeger does).

Bronaugh wrote most of Tape Recorder in a secluded basement practice space on the Columbia University campus last winter, endeavoring to find new ways to articulate his sound. Speaking from Los Angeles, he talks about the collective energy that permeates the album's ambience and how music can reflect the human experience.


“I had spent a lot of time writing it alone and sort of in isolation,” Bronaugh says, reflecting on the process of writing Tape Recorder. “You can drive yourself crazy doing anything by yourself. I was trying to record just like we did the first record—overdubbing and stuff—but there was a loss of energy there, like a dog chasing its own tail.”

Tape Recorder does feel more raw and stripped-down than Lionlimb’s 2016 album Shoo. It seems to hang delicately in some balance between wistful and euphoric, which is something Bronaugh said he strove for while he was composing it. “That’s good that you got the triumphant-ness,” he says. “I’m aware that it sounds really sad, but I also did set out to make something a little more hopeful than the last record.” He laughs, sounding slightly self-conscious. “Maybe it was a hopefulness that I wanted.”

Bronaugh intentionally waited to hear the album played full until it was ultimately recorded live. He explains that he wanted the dynamic parts of the music to come from the musicians who were bringing it to life. “I didn’t want to overthink it. I just sort of wanted it to exist in that one moment, ” he says. “It’s just a document of the song. There’s a lot of mistakes on the record, but those are my favorite parts now. If I were sitting there over-dubbing with all the time in the world, the mistakes wouldn’t be there. So doing it live, accidents happen and then you end up falling in love with them.”

The first single off the album is a melodic track called “Maria.” It was inspired by the story of Maria Goretti who is one of the youngest canonized saints in the Catholic Church. Maria was stabbed to death by her next door neighbor after refusing to submit his sexual advances. As the story goes, she died forgiving him for it. Bronaugh says he was taken aback when he first learned about her tragic story. “The song is sort of about someone feeling what somebody else has gone through, or is going through, even though you can’t fully understand it,” he explains. “It’s like a ripple effect; it has impact on you.”

Tape Recorder feels like it’s striving toward articulating universalities of the human experience. “A great song is there to make you feel like it was made just for you,” Bronaugh says. “I think everybody goes through similar experiences, more or less. So I think the more universal a song is, the more powerful it can be and the more useful it is.”

Stream Tape Recorder below before its release on Friday, February 23 via Bayonet Records.