Pocket Sounds' Instant “Radio Song”

AM pop stunner highlights Mr. Pink cassingle series

Pocket Sounder: Mike St. Clair
Pocket Sounder: Mike St. Clair (Photo by Felicia Graham)

Behind “Radio Song,” Mike St. Clair – the Austin composer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist you’ve likely seen perform with Okkervil River, White Denim, Polyphonic Spree, Montopolis, or even the Glenn Miller Orchestra – states his prowess as a baroque pop tunesmith.

Catchier than anything on his excellent 2018 EP You Are Not Alone, St. Clair records as Pocket Sounds and here evokes Burt Bacharach with an uncanny balance of hook and complexity on “Radio Song.” Over some bouncy piano and a crafty vocal melody, he seemingly questions his ability to write a song for the airwaves:

“My path might not be so smooth,
But I hope I’m on my way.
Trying my best to write songs that are true,
But I may not know... how to get on that radio.”

“It’s not really about wanting to be played on the radio,” admits St. Clair. “It’s about the desire to prioritize your writing and getting your music to a place where it can get heard.”

“Radio Song,” along with B-side “Wynona,” arrives this week on a cassette single issued by Mr. Pink, a boutique tape label helmed by local multi-instrumentalist and producer Jonas Wilson, best known for his guitar genius and ATX acts the Midnight Stroll and Lomita. The operation works like this: Wilson records material by his favorite contemporaries – often performing with them – then begins cranking out handmade hard copies using three cassette decks in his Bastrop studio. St. Clair relishes the fast turnaround of Mr. Pink releases.

“A lot of times you write a song that’s about something that’s happening now and you want to put it out before it doesn’t make sense to you anymore,” he offers.

Mr. Pink’s producer echoes that sentiment.

“There’s an immediacy to these releases that feels more in-the-moment and less overthought,” muses Wilson, a lifelong raider of record stores cassette racks who points to Thurston Moore, Daniel Johnston, and Jay Reatard as DIY tape-making inspirations. “Not all releases need a six-month marketing ploy. All that build-up can seem unnecessary. I finished mixing the new Lovely Sparrows songs and 20 minutes later had them up on Bandcamp and started making tapes to sell.”

Since December, when the label launched with a recording by Austin psych-blues duo Cold Jackets, Wilson’s shipped cassettes to tape heads in Japan, Canada, and England. Mr. Pink’s February release of darkwave artist Alexis Ramirez, formerly of Austin indie stalwarts A Tiger Named Lovesick, swiftly sold out its first run of 50 and has been repressed. That same month, the homegrown micro label issued the two-song Create New File cassingle from Union Specific, featuring the Tyler Wallace’s incredible personal growth confessional “Reformed Creep.”

Saturday night, Mr. Pink holds a triple release show at Mohawk, featuring Sean Jones’ cerebral indie outfit Lovely Sparrows, Pocket Sounds, and a rare solo performance from Wilson, who’ll issue a experimental pop/trip-hop single called “The Bleeder,” part of a forthcoming 40-song odds-and-ends collection aptly titled I Don’t Put Out.

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More Pocket Sounds
Texas Platters
Pocket Sounds
You Are Not Alone (Record Review)

Rachel Rascoe, Aug. 24, 2018

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Pocket Sounds, Mike St. Clair, Jonas Wilson, Tyler Wallace, Mr. Pink, Lovely Sparrows, Alexis Ramirez, Union Specific, Cold Jackets, Midnight Stroll, Lomita

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