|Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles
Hometown: Cambridge, MA
Web site: http://sarahborges.com
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As the great thespian Patrick Swayze once said, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner." The same is true of Sarah Borges. On the basis of her critically-lauded early work, particularly Diamonds in the Dark (2007), some pundits decided they know exactly where the Boston-area rocker and her cohorts, the Broken Singles, belong in the musical spectrum. They were mistaken. Her new record, The Stars Are Out, is about to stun them with a more vibrant, far-reaching display of what Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles are all about. And yes, there will be dancing.
"We always want people to dance," enthuses Borges. "That's the best way to get a show going." After months of touring in support of Diamonds, she knew the character of her third album needed to be more upbeat than its contemplative predecessors. "I was trying to think of songs that would fit really well into our live show." The results include the slinky, '60s stroll of "Me and Your Ghost" ("That's about going out and dancing, all the things you used to do with your loved one"); the flirtatious, guitar-driven kickoff, "Do It For Free"; and "It Comes To Me Naturally," a hip-shaking tale of a girl-about-town, originally recorded by bar band supreme NRBQ.
Diamonds and Borges' 2005 debut, Silver City, often found her work filed under the Americana banner. But the time had come for Borges to explore different terrain, both as a writer and performer. The Stars Are Out is a soundtrack for Saturday nights, not Sunday mornings. "When I say I explored country music as much as possible, that doesn't mean I became perfect at it," she quickly qualifies. Borges just felt ready to take a break, until she had something new to say in that realm. And rock has always been her first love. "This is a style of music I've always listened to, and been really excited about."
The ten selections of The Stars Are Out—five new originals, and five covers—were winnowed down from a list of dozens of candidates. Possible songs were put forth not only by Borges, but also her band mates—guitarist Lyle Brewer, bassist Binky, and drummer Rob Dulaney—and producers Paul Q Kolderie (the Pixies, Lemonheads, Radiohead) and Adam Taylor. "Every day, we'd sit down at the table, drink coffee and listen to records," she explains. "In the end, we had way too many songs, and had to pick the best of the best. We held ourselves up to high standards, so I think we got the cream of the crop."
Among the other selections are tunes attributed to Smokey Robinson (a radically reworked "Being With You"), Stiff Records act Any Trouble ("Yesterday's Love," penned by Clive Gregson), and the Magnetic Fields' "No One Will Ever Love You." "That was the first thing we tracked, and it became the benchmark for the record," admits Borges. "We decided every song had to sound as good as that one did."
Another revealing choice is "Ride With Me," a lesser-known cut from the catalog of Evan Dando. "Boston was in its heyday of indie rock when I arrived here," says the singer. "Bands like Lemonheads and Throwing Muses, they were the first artists where I felt like I was the only person in the world who knew about them. I came upon country and punk later, because of the people I met through loving that other stuff."
Among the new originals Borges wrote for The Stars Are Out, two in particular illuminate the diverse creative impulses that drive her. "Better At the End of the Day" had been simmering in her brain since the Diamonds days. It began life as an elongated, Neil Young-style drone, boasting completely different lyrics. Yet with input from Kolderie and the band, it was meticulously overhauled into an inspirational anthem.
"I was trying to write about how you hope that, no matter what you're going through at a given time, when things are over, it will all be better. And that you'll learn something from it." She chuckles. "I guess that was true for writing that song, too."
At the other end of the spectrum is the romantic closer, "Symphony." Although it incorporates string parts, and draws inspiration from timeless masterpieces and Old World ambience, it was hatched in a last-minute burst of inspiration. "That was done in one sitting. I was still finishing it as we started work on the record," Borges reveals. In lieu of a full orchestra, fiddle player Ian Kennedy was recruited to round out the arrangement.
With The Stars Are Out polished and ready to go, Borges and the Broken Singles are primed to share this exuberant material with audiences nationwide; a recent rave in The New York Times praised their ability to get crowds up and moving. (They dug her "sparkling black minidress," too.) "When I first started playing, I never imagined I could be so free with my body and my banter on stage," she admits.
"Our live shows are the best part of being in a band," she concludes. "There's lots of climbing on things, and we're always looking for that unexpected opening, where you can give somebody else your guitar and go sing in the crowd, or get the whole audience up on stage. That's a liberating feeling. And if you can get it right, people have such a good time." Will there be dancing? Oh hell yes.
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