Hiroshima-born, Montreal-based singer-songwriter Jonah Yano shares his new single and video "portrait of a dog," the title track of his forthcoming sophomore album entirely co-produced with BADBADNOTGOOD, out January 27th. The new offering arrives on the heels of Yano's stint supporting Clairo for the last leg of her North American and the entirety of her European tour dates, which wrapped up last month. He also closed the live run with a headline show of his own at Servant Jazz Quarters in London. "portrait of a dog" is a sweeping arrangement that finds Jonah gliding over keys and guitar with heartfelt vocals before the song swells into a winding guitar solo, and is accompanied by a video co-directed by Erin O'Connor, Matisse A-M and Kostadin Kolev.
Speaking on the continued theme of the visuals he's released so far, Yano says "'portrait of a dog' is a video that, like the most recent video for the song ‘always’, is made up of uninterrupted, continuous, and static shots. The thinking behind the monotonous visual information in these new videos comes from a disinterest in the ever-increasing over-saturation and pace of digital media surrounding musicians that is furthering the divide between musicians-as-artists and musicians-as-commodity."
The collaborators, Erin O’Connor, Matisse A-M, and Kostadin Kolev ('portrait of a dog'), and Nik Arthur and David May ('always'), were the directors and producers of these videos because I feel they understand why it might be interesting (and surprisingly challenging) to try and make a music video that did not grab and attempt to retain the attention of a viewer through brightly colored sets and a large amount of cutting back and forth between an array of visually stimulating shots. In trying to subtract most of the elements that exist in the average music video we found it crucial that the idea for the video at its core had to be strong enough to stand on its own for 5 straight minutes – to get the idea across without making a pointless video."
It’s a focused departure from Yano’s previous recordings – establishing a clear sonic identity throughout the album’s 12 songs to weave together two complementary narrative threads of a family archive and exploration of the family dynamics in the Japanese-Canadian household he grew up in, and a deeply personal recollection of a fading relationship. Beyond the co-production of BADBADNOTGOOD, "portrait of a dog" features additional guest work from Slauson Malone, Sea Oleena, with string arrangements by Eliza Niemi, Leland Whitty, and Yano himself. Yano's forthcoming second album follows his cover of Jessica Pratt’s "This Time Around" and his highly acclaimed 2020 debut LP souvenir, which he spoke about with Lulu Garcia-Navarro on NPR's Weekend Edition.
Hiroshima-born, Montreal-based singer-songwriter Jonah Yano announces his forthcoming second album portrait of a dog on January 27th, 2023. Following a highly acclaimed 2020 which included the release of the debut LP souvenir, and collaborations with BADBADNOTGOOD, Yano quietly released a cover of Jessica Pratt’s "This Time Around" and took some time away from releasing music to write and record his forthcoming album. Yano was recently announced as the opening act for the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Clairo for the last leg of her North American and the entirety of her European tour dates.
Along with the announcement, Yano is also sharing the first offering from the new album in the form of a double single. The first, "always," features simple songwriting, a solid groove, and an excellent piano solo, and "the speed of sound!," a personal favorite of Yano’s, is at the confluence of his love of folk and jazz music. The visual for "always" is a study of the wide-ranging tides in Five Islands, Nova Scotia, where Yano wanders The Bay of Fundy to reveal a sprawling bed of red clay at low tide. Speaking on the song and video, Yano says:
“'always' is a song that appeals to one-half of my sensibilities in music. All the piano on the record was played by my friend Felix Fox. I wrote this song for my younger brother Azusa who, at the time and just like myself, was going through some matters of the heart. Directed by Nik Arthur & David May, the video is essentially 6.5 hours of me walking in super slow motion so it looks like I’m walking regular speed while the environment changes around me.”
portrait of a dog is a 12-track exploration of themes present throughout most of Yano’s catalog – identity as a part of the Japanese-Canadian diaspora, contemplation of different family dynamics, and the intricacies of interpersonal relationships. It’s a clear departure from Yano’s previous recordings – having established a clear sonic identity throughout the album’s 12 tracks to tell a clear and succinct collection of stories guided by clear and intentional instrumentals. The LP is produced entirely in collaboration with BADBADNOTGOOD and features guest work from Slauson Malone, Sea Oleena, with string arrangements by Eliza Niemi, Leland Whitty, and Yano himself.
"The first time I heard "This Time Around" (by Jessica Pratt) I was mostly confused by it. Not because it's a confusing song, but because it made me feel so many things at one time, that I couldn't properly process anything about it. So I sat with it on loop, for what in my memory feels like 3 or 4 days in a row, and tried to grasp my feelings about it more completely with each individual listen.
I got to Berlin in August and I had a couple days in a beautiful studio out there near Gorlitzer Park. After tracking 3 or 4 demos I had the idea to cover "This Time Around" - it just felt like the right time. The recording you hear, as far as the acoustic guitar and vocals go, is all one live take because that's the way it felt best for me, when I got home to Toronto, my friends Kyla Chalmers and Leland Whitty (BADBADNOTGOOD) were kind enough to lend their playing to finish it off.
I'm trying to think of how to describe what it feels like to sing someone else's song and have it feel like something honest and personal to me. I'm starting to think that if I knew how to describe that, I wouldn't have recorded it and I would have just written about it in my journal or something. I think I understand a little better now, why songwriters (and musicians in general) have been playing each other's songs for so long. I think it's because there are just some songs that are better off being replicated in full, to pay full homage to, instead of being imitated partially." - Jonah Yano