Valley Maker (Austin Crane) has announced the February 19 release of his new album When the Day Leaves via Frenchkiss Records. Today he shares a taste of the album by way of the new single “No One Is Missing.” Of the track, he notes: “the video for ‘No One Is Missing’ was filmed on Edisto Island in South Carolina’s lowcountry by dustoftheground. It’s a lush, isolated place. The beach where we filmed is only accessible at low tide and is full of dead trees. I felt like that tidal flow, combined with the generally surreal and outside-of-time quality of the landscape, provided a spatial and visual connection with where ‘No One Is Missing’ is coming from as a song. I wrote the track as a way of grappling with the partiality and temporality of how we connect with one another, I guess as an attempt to collect and reflect on recent experiences of loss, love, leaving, returning, missing, etc. On that theme, while recent months of social distancing have often felt isolating, I’m continually grateful for how music and the natural world can remind us we’re not alone.”
We have all become experts in the imbalance of uncertainty these days, newly accustomed to canceling plans and tentatively rescheduling them for some future we can only imagine. For Austin Crane—the ruminative songwriter, riveting guitarist, and singular voice —such a sense of uncertainty has emerged as his steadfast companion these last few years, a period of profound transition. This flux is the anchor for the gorgeous and felicitous When the Day Leaves.
Early in 2019, Crane and his wife, Megan, decided it was time to leave Seattle. South Carolina natives, they’d been in Seattle for nearly a decade while he pursued a doctorate in human geography at the University of Washington, and she worked as a midwife. As Summer 2019 ended, they prepared to head east to Columbia, SC, rejoining a deep community of friends and moving into a century-old home in need of big love. Still, major questions loomed: Would they, just then past 30, like it enough to stay, to start a new life? And what did it mean to go home?
Driven as it is by departure, When the Day Leaves marks the arrival of Valley Maker as a trustworthy narrator for these shaky times. Crane synthesizes these complex feelings into today’s single, “No One Is Missing.” All these thoughts are rendered with newfound lyrical richness, balancing intimate tidbits with universal ambiguity.
In the months before recording began, Austin convened with producer Trevor Spencer and longtime harmonizing partner Amy Godwin for sessions in Portland and Seattle, teasing out the album’s interwoven arrangements and meticulous vocal harmonies. Then, in November 2019, Crane decamped from Columbia to the Pacific Northwest for a three-week session in the woods outside of Woodinville, a small town northeast of Seattle at the foot of the Cascades. He stayed in the loft of Spencer’s Way Out Studio, the collaborators sealing themselves off in a horse barn-turned-recording space like kids at summer camp, just as winter’s mist closed in.
The time commitment is a crucial component of When the Day Leaves. For 46 minutes, you feel like you’re sitting with Crane in an intricate, unified sound-world of his design. He offloads his observations about our tangled thicket of hope and fear, aspiration and exasperation.
When the Day Leaves is an uninterrupted sequence of reflections about the generational limbo of being awed by and worried for this world. The anxiety of uncertainty—always part of life but now seemingly omnipresent—can be vexing, a reality these songs acknowledge. Crane, as he sings at one point, is fully “aligned with my blues.” But these songs also affirm that life is an endless opportunity for renewal, for trying again.
Austin Crane has recorded three albums under the name Valley Maker, the most recent being 2018’s Rhododendron which was his first with Frenchkiss Records. He released When I Was A Child in 2015 and his eponymous debut in 2010. He currently lives in Columbia, SC, where he is teaching and writing his PhD dissertation in Human Geography.