Over the last eight years, the Goodbye Party has remained a hidden gem to devoted fans. The music of Michael Cantor, the Philadelphia-based musician behind the project, has been a well-kept secret that holds the sacredness of loss close to the heart through classic pop ballads, atmospheric soundscapes, cassette tape noise, swirling guitars, and an affinity for staying present in the dark corners of our minds. On October 9, 2020, the Goodbye Party will release their sophomore album, Beautiful Motors, on Double Double Whammy, with which Cantor is ready to be fully unearthed.
Beautiful Motors is a culmination of Cantor’s previous releases, showcasing a full bloom of profound and haunted narrative songwriting. He’s always had a knack for vividly portraying the auditory flight of specters and feelings of loss and surrender, except this time he’s leaned into the grief of growing older while also looking back on the rock sounds of his youth. The songs inhabit you as the appearance of a ghost does; they remain long after the encounter, running through your brain like an omnipotent refrain.
Cantor has been releasing music as the Goodbye Party since 2012, the same year his DIY rock outfit, the Ambulars, released their debut album, Dreamers Asleep at the Wheel. When the Ambulars disbanded in 2014, Cantor hurled himself into the Goodbye Party, releasing the EPs Bless All Debris (2012) and Funeral Season (2013), a split EP with Spoonboy (2014), and debut album Silver Blues (Salinas Records, 2014). From there, Cantor took a break from his solo endeavor to form the Afterglows with friend and musician Sam Cook-Parrott (Radiator Hospital). Following the release of their self-titled debut in 2016, Cantor focused all his attention on writing Beautiful Motors.
Written between 2016 and 2018, Beautiful Motors is more of a rock record than Cantor’s earlier releases, clearly drawing from his work in the Ambulars—but he doesn’t rely solely on the formulaic guitar-bass-drums performance. Beautiful Motors is an ambrosia of heartening pop songs blended with distorted tape loops and heavenly sounds of organ and pedal steel. The solemnity of each song is carried by Cantor’s exquisite instrumentation, his fluid vocals and detailed lyrics, and a penchant for writing energetic pop hooks that hold up feelings of grief. “That was very intentional,” says Cantor. “I could’ve made a record of long, droning, sad songs, but I challenged myself to keep things more energetic.” This collision of bereavement and sanguine sound is exactly what we all need right now, as we continue to navigate our way through an unprecedented global crisis. “People want to have fun when they see live music, back when there was live music,” says Cantor, adding that he hopes Beautiful Motors offer space for listeners to deal with grief in a way that feels upbeat yet genuine.
Beautiful Motors remains loyal to the Goodbye Party’s mournful motif, depicting scenes of longing, loss, and reckoning. Thematically, Cantor describes the album as “no longer being young, and feeling myself drifting away from things I thought would be more consistent across life as a whole.” In the six year space between Silver Blues and Beautiful Motors, Cantor has bowed down to maturing, figuring out who and what still ignites his fire, and all that he must release. And while he is no stranger to writing about depression, anxiety, and isolation, Beautiful Motors eloquently illustrates these emotions through a cinematic portrayal we’ve yet to see from the Goodbye Party. The songs of Silver Blues can be heard as vignettes—fleeting little worlds the listener pops in and out of—while Beautiful Motors has more of a foundation, grounding the listener in Cantor’s world through scene-setting lyrics. “On Silver Blues, everything is really celestial, emotional, and cosmic,” he says. “I wanted to keep those sensibilities, but also put a pin in places to draw listeners into a specific time and place.”
Recorded in Philadelphia with Kyle Gilbride (Swearin’) at Wherever Audio, Beautiful Motors was engineered between December 2018 and November 2019. The year-long timeline resulted in plenty of opportunities for refining, rewriting and arranging at home and during studio sessions. Cantor is joined by friends and musicians new and old to the Goodbye Party lineup, including Gilbride, Cook-Parrott, Maryn Jones (Yowler), Joey Doubek (Pinkwash, Speedy Ortiz), Emi Knight (Strawberry Runners), and pedal steel guitarist Zena Kay.
Cantor’s main goal with Beautiful Motors is to create a connection with listeners by putting his usual tricks aside and creating more tangible spaces. He cites the off-the-wall metaphors of Richard Brautigan, poetry of Dylan Thomas, natural observations of Mary Oliver, and writing exercises of Lynda Barry as lyrical inspirations. Musically, Frank Ocean’s Blonde and Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot served as main recording references: “Both of those records have strong pop songwriting, but also have a layer of decay, distortion… Things are kind of falling apart on all sides.” Cantor reimagines this corrosion through an undercurrent of tape hiss, bowed guitar strings, and other experimental sounds of brokenness.
Beautiful Motors is released on October 9th.