Vermont-based avant-folk songwriter Ruth Garbus returns today with news of her first full-length since 2019’s Kleinmeister: the spacious dual singles “Mono No Aware” and “Healthy Gamer” serve as the first taste of Alive People, scheduled to arrive August 25 on Orindal Records. Both tracks see minimal accompaniment behind Garbus’ lyrical meditations on angst and video games, respectively, the former a warm acoustic number featuring lower-octave harmonies from collaborator Julia Tadlock, the latter furnished only by warm, gentle keyboard and a minimal electronic drum beat.
“Sometimes I go to my studio with the intention of doing something, writing something, practicing, any kind of music or art, and I just get pissed off,” Garbus shares of “Mono No Aware,” which she views as “a meditation, a healing, an acceptance.” “‘Mono no aware’ is a Japanese phrase that, to me, identifies a particular, painful beauty of things as they pass in time, never to return. Not quite nostalgia, but perhaps related. To be able to take my angsty mess and frame it with that phrase is a gift—to see the folly of the suffering and appreciate simply being able to experience it, in this life which will end, makes all my small pains seem like petals on a flower.”
Of the other new track, she references the website from which it takes its name: “Healthy Gamer is the creation of Dr. K, this awesome guy who uses his skills as a psychologist, plus his knowledge of meditation, and his experience as a former long lost gamer boy to help young people through their toughest challenges in this world. Elie [McAfee-Hahn], who plays keyboard on this song, is the one who introduced me to Healthy Gamer. It was during the seriously quarantined and isolated part of the pandemic, and watching these long-form interviews Dr. K does with, like, 19-year-old gamers who were struggling with making meaning in their lives and focusing on anything besides video games was so helpful for me.”
Garbus originally began releasing solo material in 2006 following a brief stint in the band Feathers alongside King Tuff’s Kyle Thomas (with whom she went on to play in the short-lived bubblegum-pop outfit Happy Birthday) shortly before her sibling Merrill Garbus gained traction fronting Tune-Yards. Check out the latest tracks below, and pre-order Alive People here.