Tim Noyes, the front-man for the indie-folk band Aunt Martha, will be releasing his debut solo album on February 19th.
With the new album, In Hands, Noyes jumps out from under the veil of the aforementioned band setting out on his own with a fresh lineup of musicians and a revamped sound. What were once primarily acoustic guitar and violin driven songs give way to a denser, more dynamic style characterized by layers of synth, electric guitars and defined drums. Against this fresh backdrop, Noyes’ writing takes on brand new life while remaining anchored to its defining elements: his signature, melancholy croon and a knack for simple, profound melodies.
Multi-instrumentalist and arranger Grant Zubritsky is the impetus behind the elevated new arrangements. The two met while attending college together in upstate New York. Noyes, not yet a performer and barely a musician, attended Zubritsky’s shows in bars and basements on campus. After graduation, they each found themselves working as teachers in New York City: Noyes in The Bronx and Zubritsky in Brooklyn. Noyes soon formed Aunt Martha, and years later left the city to tour full time. When the songs that would eventually make up In Hands began to take shape, it was a phone call to Zubritsky that set the wheels in motion.
The two met between tours to rehearse and arrange songs that Noyes had written on the road. Sparse demos, recorded over the course of a year in motel rooms, friends’ apartments and backseats of cars, soon gave way to the richness that makes upIn Hands. After months in New York, the duo, plus some of the city’s finest players, headed south to record in Charlottesville, Virginia. Over the next ten days in a remote studio converted from a barn, the album took on a shape fitting of its surroundings: carefully orchestrated yet innately organic, at the intersection of traditional and modern.
Of the album’s eight tracks, “Saturday” perhaps best represents Noyes’ sonic shift. Written before an Aunt Martha show at a New York City dive bar, the song was first recorded modestly at home, comprised of hushed, falsetto vocals over piano and acoustic guitar. Over ten days in Charlottesville, “Saturday” transformed into the album’s rock track, defined by its driving backbeat and Zubritsky’s infectious guitar line. Noyes’ opens the song boldly with the words, “I was born to give it up,” a theme that resonates through much of In Hands. Lyrically, “Saturday” wades through the struggle of wanting so much in the world, constantly fighting the urge to accept the sum of the parts that you’ve been given. In the end, Noyes accepts his fate, this time in the form of a lost relationship, repeating “but you don’t want my love around” spitefully over synth pads and ambient guitar.
“Patterns”, a song closer to what those familiar with Aunt Martha might expect from a solo effort, is raw and heartfelt. But again, what was once likely to be primarily acoustic gets full arrangement treatment. Over piano chords and synth tones, Noyes sings about past sacrifices, people and places that have faded into the past in the name of the future. Like most of In Hands, “Patterns” was composed on the road, this time in a motel room in the midwest. Noyes sings on the bridge: “Drive home late/ Count all my great mistakes/ Patterns they pile up/ And when I’ve had enough,” before launching into a final, dramatic chorus.