Randall Hamlin - Local News

Release Date: to be announced

Artist Information

Label: Self Released

Genre: Indie rock, Alternative, Chamber pop, Britpop, Acoustic, psychedelic folk

Influences: Beatles, Kinks, Pink Floyd, Beck, Robyn Hitchcock

Sounds like: Beatles, Kinks, Robyn Hitchcock

Biography

Randall Hamlin has a wild imagination. He anchors it in solid songwriting craft, polished instrumental skills and a sure grasp of recording essentials. There's no denying his credentials as an artist - but it's his ability to find the extraordinary in the everyday world that truly sets him apart.

Hamlin's unique musical vision runs through every track on Local News, his new collection of self-penned songs. Its key track "(Here Come) The Breaker Boys" is a rousing rock anthem that pays homage to the struggles of Pennsylvania's coal mining country. Tunes like "Flowers and Rainbows" and "Yardsale" explore life's difficult choices, while "She Could Outrun Lightning" and "Who Killed Gary Miller" are character sketches with darkly poignant shadings. By turns thoughtful, defiant and bittersweet, these tracks reflect an artist who doesn't settle for the ordinary lyrically or musically.

Based in Berks County PA, Hamlin has been working towards releasing Local News for over a decade. "This is my first attempt at putting together all these years of learning and experimenting," he says. "I'd say that my music has evolved along with my ability to capture it in the studio." What's remained constant is his creative method as a songwriter: "I don't tend to write lyrics that reveal my feelings directly. I'd rather tell a story. I'm probably not the main character in the story, but I may be lurking somewhere in the background..."

Hamlin's own story begins with childhood experiments creating mix tapes with a Panasonic cassette recorder. At 15, he started learning guitar and putting songs down on tape. Listening to everyone from Led Zeppelin and Donovan to Pink Floyd and Robyn Hitchcock, he developed a versatile touch as a guitarist and a fondness for surreal lyric expression.

After honing his chops in a cover band, Hamlin recruited a bassist and drummer to launch The Paisley Gray in 1989. Working up a batch of original tunes, the trio released a low-fi album on cassette that reflected their collective love for British Invasion pop and Pink Floyd-style psychedelia. The tape was discovered by DJ Dr. Tom of WFMU (a legendary New Jersey alternative station), who invited the band to perform live on a 1991 New Years Eve broadcast. Though The Paisley Gray unraveled not long after this, Hamlin remained committed to creating music on his own.

Frustrated with conventional songwriting, Hamlin created a series of experimental sound collages by banging on guitars and keyboards, screaming into a tape echo machine and layering on assorted studio effects. With titles like "Total Confusion," "Anger" and "Depression," these tracks resembled musique concrete rather than typical pop music. Hamlin released them in 1991 on Mood Swings, his first solo project. A work of deep emotional release, the album was hailed by the Bethlehem PA-based magazine MAPP as "the most clever piece of original composition ever heard from an unsigned band."

Hamlin kept his hand in music while devoting time to work and family life in 1990s. He opened a record shop, performed original music at his church and released an EP with local combo The Funner Hoag. He also ventured out as a solo act, winning compliments for his versatile guitar style and unusual choice in covers. Everything from glam-rock (T. Rex) to bossa nova jazz (Stan Getz) might turn up in his sets as he built up a following across eastern Pennsylvania. "I'm always looking for a musical challenge," he says of his club gigs. "I like it when someone comes up to me and says, 'I've never heard anyone do that song before." His way with a live audience has earned him engagements at Musikfest and Art Quest in Bethlehem and at the Sherman Theatre in Stroudsburg, PA, among other high-profile appearances.

For years, Hamlin has been working on songs while improving his recording technique. 2016 saw the release of "My Glass Head" and "Your Double Helix" on 7-inch vinyl, a pair of strikingly original tunes that drew upon his fascination with physics, space and time. His trademark blend of well-shaped melodies, quirky lyric narrative and inventive production have been developed further on Local News. Fans of everything from the '60s rock sounds of the Beatles, Kinks and Beach Boys to the latter-day chamber pop of Belle & Sebastian will find a lot to fall in love with here - but most of all, a wit, tenderness and tunefulness very much Hamlin's own comes through in these tracks.

In his song "I Always Wanted to Be an Astronaut," Randall Hamlin longs to discover a wider universe beyond the confines of the commonplace. From his studio work to his live performances, he's shown this kind of commitment to going beyond the familiar and the expected. Wherever his imagination takes him next, it will no doubt be amazing to hear.

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