Here to remind us that there are small moments of magic in the everyday, Albany’s Blue Ranger create subtle, melodious stories that ruminate on universal introspection. Saving a Beauty – their follow-up to 2016’s Actual Food – is a collection of soft-focused folk that celebrates the beauty in our uncertainties with an existential flair.
Written while on the road in the summer of 2017, there’s an ever-evolving, thoughtful prose that is akin to frontman Joshua F. Marré’s insatiable appetite for stories bigger than himself. A keen reader and record collector, Marré will often be found elbow deep in a used book store or flipping through the racks of a local music shop, no matter what unfamiliar town he finds himself in. This obsession with fictitious prose seeps through to Saving a Beauty, where candid, autobiographical tales dance among a wealth of imaginary characters.
This generous exploration of what makes us human is the centerpoint of Marré’s artistic output. Unafraid to highlight his flaws, Saving a Beauty is able to transcend specific moments and instead, lends itself to celebrating the inner-chaos of figuring out who we are and why the hell we’re here in the first place. Citing Carl Sagan, George Saunders and Zadie Smith as inspirations for the narrative on the new record, Marre says that producing ‘story songs’ was a way to stretch his lyrical-limbs. “Those authors helped me solidify the type of world-building of some of the more fictitious songs on the record,” he explains. “Telling a completely fictitious story in the middle of a largely auto biographical album is sort of a deep sigh of relief for me.”
Saving a Beauty was recorded in upstate New York, with Kenna Hynes on vocals, fiddle, and piano; Matt Griffin on drums and guitar; Mike Doherty on vocals and Joshua’s twin brother, Evan Marré on percussion bass and vocals. The record was also recorded and mixed by Evan and later, co-produced by the brothers. Joshua says that it was the first time he’d let himself trust other musicians to be a part of the creative process – “our goal was to have as natural of a sound as possible and to be off the cuff… letting the process reveal itself along the way” – describing it as “super collaborative.”
“Saving a Beauty is a big step up for us and a way more honest representation of where we’re going,” he adds. “Vocally, I think I’m leaning more into how I actually sound, not some fantastical idea of how I SHOULD sound on an album. We wanted it be natural. I think we nailed that.” Communication is the cornerstone of the album’s narrative and its perhaps through this collaborative, live recording process that it achieves that not just in its lyrical content but in its dynamic energy.
As well as his bandmates, Marré also welcomed in field recordings of his family and friends. On “Spots” – his personal favourite on the album – they added in a recording of Marré playing pinball with his folks. “It turns out the pinball machine was relatively in tune with the song,” he explains. “You can actually hear my dad drop the name of the album in the middle of the song if you listen closely enough.”
Explaining his intentions with Saving a Beauty, Marré says: “I wanted to achieve personal meditation. If i got there, I was hoping that would transfer to the listener and put them at ease. a lofty goal, but I think an honest one.”
The album has a way of welcoming people in, with a truthful essence that can be hard to come by in a world often veers away from sincerity. “I realize this will be the first thing people hear by the band Blue Ranger,” Marré explains. “I want people to lean in and hear something relatable while flowing with the sound. A lot of times you hear about people getting "lost" in albums. I kind of wanted people to go looking for something, and hopefully they would find it without getting lost on the way.”