Published Mar 11, 2020Music is subjective, yet it's often overlooked how our experience changes in different environments. Exploring the nature of those differences is at the heart of Washington, DC artist Bartees Strange's debut EP, Say Goodbye to Pretty Boy.
Like many of his generation, Strange, a Black man raised in Mustang, OK, is a big fan of the National; when he attended one of their shows in the DC area in 2019, he was struck by a lack of Black folks in his midst.
Say Goodbye to Pretty Boy is Bartees Strange's response and critique of that experience, an EP largely made up of covers of the National, but that also includes several original songs that showcase his capability and talent as a songwriter.
The symbolism of the cover art drives Strange's point home as well, featuring the tri-colours of pan-Africanism (questioning what it is to be "national"), as well as a peeling and torn "sticker" that contains the album title and works as an allusion to Bad Brains' 1979 album Black Dots. As Strange explains on his bandcamp page, "Battling erasure has been a big part of my journey as an artist. This black dot represents attempts to undersell the contributions Black people have made to genres like indie rock music. Despite the lack of credit, we're still here and we're adding to these scenes every day."
To create a beautiful, radical, and poignant political album as a debut is a truly remarkable feat, and to pair that with soaring and emotional original releases is an incredible introduction to the world of a hugely talented individual. (Brassland)