“I was braced for a gut-shot New Year’s Eve” sings Eric Anderson in the opening lyrics of Keepers, “a boat beyond the shipping lanes / trailing wakeless into spring.” But almost immediately, light cracks through the fog of solemnity and Puget Sound imagery. The next line, “That’s when I met you on the street,” sets a heartening course for the Seattle based musician’s unapologetically ambitious new album under the Cataldo moniker.
The mania of romance and domestic bliss sparked the songs of Keepers. However, the scope of the album and depth of its production were fueled by the urgency and empowerment of a songwriter with both everything and nothing to lose. A few trips to Los Angeles to flirt with professional--and potentially more profitable--songwriting opened Anderson’s eyes to some unappreciated benefits of the scrappy economy of indie rock. “I started to realize that I had it better than I knew and way better than lots of folks doing for-hire writing in LA,” he says after a view inside the major label hit-making sausage factory. “I get to write whatever I want, record it with whoever I want, and release it whenever I want. No one I met at any level had that same freedom and it was liberating to realize, for me, giving that freedom up wasn’t worth the dubious financial rewards that folks were chasing.”
And yet the process of recording Keepers was anything but carefree. As he wrote and recorded the songs that would become Keepers, Anderson started to hear the clock tick. “Hand in hand with the realization that I didn’t like the LA songwriter hustle came the acknowledgment that I probably wasn’t going to make my way in the world with music alone. A chance to make a record suddenly seemed precious and finite; I felt some healthy pressure to do good work.” These competing but complementary forces are what makes Keepers the most exciting and dynamic Cataldo record yet.
Anderson would take the same no-stone-unturned approach to recording, putting in days at many of the Northwest’s most storied studios big and small including Chris Walla’s Hall of Justice, Avast, Studio X, Bear Creek, and Tucker Martine’s Flora to name a few. At every turn, Anderson pushed himself further, honing, refining, and re-recording until each song felt self-propelled and effervescent, a process he describes as “embarrassingly persnickety.”
“While Tucker [Martine] was mixing, I was in the room next door tracking and running things over on a thumb drive. We were tinkering down to the last possible second.” Yet cold perfectionism is far from the feeling one gets when listening to Keepers. With smart and earnest lyrics, at every turn the album’s humanity screams out, tackling life’s minor joys and obstacles with an ecstatic assuredness that engenders incredible bliss or serene catharsis depending on the song.
Anderson, grew up in Moscow, ID, moved to Seattle after a stint in the upper midwest. The city’s music scene proved a natural fit for someone who grew up on the catalogs of pacific northwest stalwarts like Sub Pop, K, and Barsuk. “One of my first rock shows was Death Cab For Cutie and Pedro The Lion,” he recalls, “which set me on a musical path of brainy feelings-y music I am arguably still walking down today.” Indeed, Ben Gibbard’s appearance on the aforementioned first track lends that argument more than a little credibility. Keepers continues Anderson’s journey along that path, and proves a worthy addition to the canon.