Charlie Burg emerges a captivating storyteller and standout entertainer on his ambitious, genre-bending debut album ‘Infinitely Tall,’ a cinematic and soulful, passionate and provocative roller-coaster ride through the spaces and places that have defined his life so far.
“Dancing Through the Mental Breakdown” – Charlie Burg
My vision was to make the listener feel nostalgia, while also seeing an existential danger to that safety looming in the distance.
Sweetly soaring and softly stunning, Charlie Burg’s debut album is absolutely exhilarating: A true coming-of-age journey commemorating the singer/songwriter’s past while reckoning with his present. Cinematic and soulful, passionate and provocative, the intensely ambitious Infinitely Tall sees Burg emerge as a compelling storyteller and captivating entertainer: A multidimensional, genre-bending artist ready to take audiences on a roller-coaster ride through the spaces and sounds that have defined his life so far.
We think poetry’s pretentious
Yet we scribble down our lyrics
And think it’s so different ’cause we sing ’em
I don’t know
So, don’t say you wanna move to Berlin
When you never heard Autobahn
Front to back
Don’t tell me that you wanna go home
When you’ve hated your hometown since high school
And don’t tell me that you wanna dance
When you know damn well
You got two left feet, baby
Oh, shake your ass
You don’t need feet for that
– “Dancing Through The Mental Breakdown,” Charlie Burg
Released August 19, 2022 via Fader Label, Infinitely Tall stays true to its name as a seismic, skyscraping sonic experience. Charlie Burg’s debut album spans genre and time, seeing the Brooklyn-based, Metro-Detroit-bred artist blending elements of soul, indie pop, rock, folk, electronic, post-punk, and more into a dazzling, dynamic, and impressively cohesive collection. Burg plays nearly ever instrument on the album, and shares production credits with Mike Malchicoff (Bo Burnham, Niall Horan, Kids See Ghosts and King Princess). While he has spent the better part of the past decade establishing his singular voice and soul-stirring sound, and this is without a doubt Burg’s most intimate work to date.
“The album is divided into three chapters, each representing a different house or space in my life in which I came to know myself and the world,” the artist tells Atwood Magazine. “The first five songs represent the nostalgia or innocence of my childhood home; the second five embody the recklessness and fun of the college years and my beloved college house in Syracuse; and the third five songs represent the boundless news and existential questioning of the city. The album contains songs that I’ve written and saved over many years. I worked hard to expand the boundaries of my production and arrangement skills, instrumental skills, lyricism and musical imagery throughout the creation process.”
He continues, “I wanted the record to convey a warmth and comfort that I felt had left me at that time in my life. My vision was to make the listener feel nostalgia, while also seeing an existential danger to that safety looming in the distance. It changed countless times, songs were swapped out, lyrics were altered, outros were added… so much changed, just like me. I am an ever-ambitious producer and writer, and will never stop trying to best myself. I worked really hard to operate on the level I did for this album, because I knew I could not spare any part of me or my vulnerability.”
Genres should not exist but you should also never lose respect for those who created before you, and understand your place in that musical lineage.
The album’s title harkens to its 8-minute finale, and is intended to convey a sense of the vast and unimaginably grand. “Can you imagine something that is infinitely tall? Me neither!” Burg laughs. “I can’t tell if nothing or everything is infinite. A house, a home? Love? What will remain when all you’re left with is the present moment? My friend Rebecca improvised that line while writing the hook of the titular track together, and it felt so wondrous and right.”
Infinitely Tall begins in a space of comfort and warmth, and ends in a blurry haze: A feverish fog of synths and searing guitar, existential wanderings and ponderings like, “The body is the home and the house, change with the house? I don’t know how, but it’s time to go.” In between these two bookends lies a rich and wondrous adventure through Burg’s homes. Sweet folk and smoldering soul open the record on a soft and tender note; the gentle haunts of the past and the coziness of the familiar wrap around the ears and soothe the heart on the standout, cinematic and soaring track “97 Avalon,” the bittersweetly buoyant “Chicago (Take It or Leave It),” the mellow “Summer Moon,” and the aching “The Five-Month Song.”
“How do we break the rhythm we’ve been in lately? I changed cities again, it doesn’t change me,” Burg sings in “Break the Rhythm,” one of Atwood Magazine‘s Editor’s Picks. “Hometowns are for leaving, no, you can’t make me. Oh man down, another bell sounds, you got home spirit and you’re way too loud.”
“The second chapter begins and so does the metaphorical thunderstorm,” Burg says. “I wrote ‘Break The Rhythm’ in a hotel room in a small town in Texas on tour. While I was happy to be on my first tour, I felt a rootlessness that I couldn’t describe. Hadn’t I wanted this my whole career? Shouldn’t I be happy? It was also written amidst some heavy conversations about politics and religion with some close friends who were changing. At that point in life, I wasn’t sure how to cope with change at all. This song kicks off the second “chapter” of the album with a sense of doubt, feeling lost, and a painful ejection from childhood, an entrance into an unfamiliar world. The house (both literal and metaphorical) of childhood has been demolished, and I’m struggling to process it all in this new world.”
“Break the Rhythm” offers a particularly emotional cathartic release, scaled up in both size and strength to meet the moment. It’s an intimate upheaval dressed in stunning indie rock garb, and infused with enough energy to inspire the most wayward souls to dive deep into themselves and make new roots.
That second chapter may have been confusing, arduous, and soul-sucking for Burg, but it proves utterly tantalizing for listeners. The lyrically provocative musical explosion “Dancing Through the Mental Breakdown” is one of the album’s most unique, interesting, and exciting tracks. Burg channels the new wave of Talking Heads and The B-52s alongside the soaring churn of ’80s David Bowie as he rejects a part of himself. He calls this song a “burst of sardonic cultural criticism,” singing:
I had a mental breakdown
At the shoegaze show at Space Camp
You said keep drinkin’ (Well alright)
Her profile said she’s a Communist
Upon asking here in person
She had nothing to say say about it
Fenders lack distortion
As she quotes the Manifesto
And suddenly Docs jus aren’t punk anymore
A few drinks in
She’s playing us her album off of Soundcloud
And says it’s ’bout the system
(Well, the revolution’s gotta start somewhere, right?)
… I said shake your ass
TikTok goes crazy for that
I said shake your ass
I know you wanna but you can’t look back
Infinitely Tall‘s third and final chapter opens with the charm and churn of “Gold Sounds 3am,” a slow-burning and smooth neo-soul celebration. Burg seamlessly captures the uncharacteristic stillness of late night New York City as horns blare and guitars roar around his radiant, glowing voice.
Through the jazzy, lyrically dramatic “A Comet Over Bandemer,” the feel-good “Callback,” and the sweltering “Belarusian Baby,” Burg offers some of the most enchanting and searching lyrical work of his career. He cites a line in “A Comet Over Bandemer” as a particular favorite: “Three years since some divine poison bled from the moon and drenched your perfect form at the riverside ; now here we sit in your room in Minnesota. I could never fathom it then, but the only reason I see good in myself is ’cause you see good in me.”
All of this leads up to the rousing, intriguing concluding title track “Infinitely Tall,” which Burg refers to as his “8-minute sound essay” and the most ambitious piece he’s ever created. The emotions, the sounds, and the experiences of the preceding hour’s music all seem to coalesce in this unapologetically expansive finale.
Dip dive and free fall
Hit my mind
Promise I’m infinitely tall
It’s words or it’s love or it’s hope
Something’s got me feeling the gold
Yeah, something’s got me feelin’ the gold
We ride our bikes to the gas station on the corner
I met my love at the Birmingham fair
Arizonas at the Sunoco and slurpies at the Speedway
We’d play guitar on the corner ’til we had enough for the diner
Back when I was just a Hard Car Kid
Sly and the Family Stone was the soundtrack to our summer
New York is cold and now I’m alone
Searching for the house
“I held back on zero accounts, from arrangement to lyricism to sheer run time,” Burg says of this ending song. “It interpolates the voices of many important people in my life, including my good friend Rebecca Rosen on the hook, a longtime collaborator AJ Bowers, the harmonies of another good friend DJ Shafer, and the track ends perhaps most notably with the voice of my beloved grandmother Sylvia, whom I’ll forever know as Gaga. The song is a mosaic of reflections on childhood, a sense of self, and the idea that a person’s body is both a metaphorical house and a home. All material things (houses, bodies, etc.) are subject to change, and change is a part of life; and hopefully by the end of this album, the protagonist has accepted this reality.”
A fifteen-track album ends up producing much more than one “favorite song,” and Burg candidly shares three personal highlights. “I love “The Five-Month Song” ‘cause that recording is from 2017 and was such a special time for me; and I’m very proud of “97 Avalon,” I think that’s the best song I’ve written. I’m also really proud of “Belarusian Baby,” I think that song will forever be underrated and very sensual and deluxe-feeling.”
Infinitely Tall is, without a doubt, one of 2022’s most colorful and captivating debut album releases: An endlessly interesting, undeniably singular record that instantly sets Charlie Burg apart as one of his generation’s finest songwriters and storytellers. It’s the millennial blues and timeless grooves – the throes of life’s change, manifested in a majestic, cathartic multi-genre triumph. If this record has been the equivalent of him catching us up on his life to date, then we cannot wait to hear where Charlie Burg takes us next.
This island feels nothing like home
And I don’t understand much
But I asked “Are you leaving?”
And niette means no
It’s fun to feign forbidden love
Forget our jobs that make us fret
And we know we ain’t foolin’ the boss
When we sneak past the bistro to the deck
Your touch makes July feel like June
And in the silent language
We spoke by the water
I learned about you
– “Belarusian Baby,” Charlie Burg
“I hope listeners can learn from my mistake of not being kind to oneself or accepting of change, and allow things to come and go in life without being so heavy or ruined by adversity,” Burg shares. “Cherish home and the little moments or observations as trivial as they may seem because those are what make memories so rich. From the creation process I learned to trust my gut and just say yes, say yes. Push forward. From putting it out, I learned that people move on really fast and in the end, you’re the only one who will fight tooth and nail for your art.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Charlie Burg’s Infinitely Tall with Atwood Magazine as he goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his debut album!
Stream: ‘Infinitely Tall’ – Charlie Burg
:: Inside Infinitely Tall ::
The Haus Lives Forever
I wrote this song in the winter of 2019, while improvising chords on an organ. With the subject matter of the lyrics, I didn’t even have to try – upon first improvisation, they were a reflection on my childhood. I’m from Detroit, Michigan, and I grew up right next to my high school. The grass fields, the football stadium, the parking lot, the playgrounds and batting cages – they were all right across the street from me my whole life. I used to play basketball barefoot with my brother in our driveway, kick a soccer ball back and forth across the front lawn, scooter down the sidewalk to the neighbors’ front porch. This feeling of safety and the youthful hunger for exploration is what kicks off the album – a feeling that may be called into question by the end. As the song unfolds, I reference production styles that I’ve explored throughout the years of my musical journey. I want the listener to feel a metaphorical diorama of the album unfolding before their eyes.
This is a song about my old 1997 Toyota Avalon, a car I shared with my twin brother in high school. Receiving my first car was an excitement unlike any other. The car was white with a tan leather interior, a gift from a family friend, and we drove it around town as much as we could. Every verse finds a different person in the passenger’s seat, each one a year later than the last. The car becomes a symbol of fleeting youth, and serves as a lesson of how to let go – of people and of the past. I felt that playing every instrument (minus saxophone) on the recording was an important part of telling the story. I practiced like hell for two years to be able to play all the parts, and I’m really proud of myself for accomplishing that.
Chicago (Take It Or Leave It)
I wrote and recorded this song in my house in Syracuse in Spring 2019, right around the time I graduated college. I had my best friends drive out from Michigan, and we set up recording gear in every room of the house so we could capture the sound of the rooms and walls. Being one of the few songs on the record where I do not play all the instruments, I wanted the feeling of community and friendship I share with my friends to be tangible in the recording. Although it was recorded in Syracuse, I decided to place it in the first 5-song “chapter” of the album, as it reflects the kind of uninhibited freedom of expression and innocence that I feel was lost when I left school and entered the next stage of adulthood.
This song I started writing in Seattle in 2018, when I had a 3-month internship at Sub Pop Records. I wrote the chorus during a rough patch with my partner at the time, and Seattle came to represent a period when things between us were easy and positive. The name “Summer Moon” is a reference to my EP Two, Moonlight, also emblematic of the rosy times of that relationship; thus, the song further demonstrates a yearning for the comfort and innocence of younger days – in essence, the thesis of the album’s first “chapter.”
The Five-Month Song
Wrote this one in autumn 2016, when I first arrived at Syracuse. This was most definitely a breakup song, with another past relationship of mine. I’d see pictures of her with other people and feel a burning jealousy in my stomach. It’s a young song, and I held onto it over the years because it felt special and I hadn’t yet found the right home for it on a project. Then I started concepting the album and it felt like the timing was perfect for it. We all know the desperate desire to speak to a former lover after months of no communication. The song ends with a voicemail from a close friend, expressing their condolences about my childhood house being demolished, but advising that I keep my chin up and press on, because the memories of the house live forever.
Break The Rhythm
The second chapter begins and so does the metaphorical thunderstorm. I wrote Break The Rhythm in a hotel room in a small town in Texas on tour. While I was happy to be on my first tour, I felt a rootlessness that I couldn’t describe. Hadn’t I wanted this my whole career? Shouldn’t I be happy? It was also written amidst some heavy conversations about politics and religion with some close friends who were changing. At that point in life, I wasn’t sure how to cope with change at all. This song kicks off the second “chapter” of the album with a sense of doubt, feeling lost, and a painful ejection from childhood, an entrance into an unfamiliar world. The house (both literal and metaphorical) of childhood has been demolished, and I’m struggling to process it all in this new world.
Dancing Through The Mental Breakdown
A burst of sardonic cultural criticism. The wheels come off and the protagonist (me) sees all their most resented attributes of the world reflected back to them in the mirror. Many of the things I hate about the world could really be things I hate about myself. I denounce the version of myself that shallowly poured over the girl in the bookstore. Existing in a world of putting on a front to others, badmouthing them behind their backs, judging them on unattainable standards…it reminds me of us – even through an identity crisis and a mental breakdown, we are dancing. Send tweet.
Ooh! Sumthin’ New
Another song that simultaneously celebrates and laments the rootlessness of youth. That contradiction is what this chapter is all about. A cheerful spirited instrumental is paired with lyrics of criticism and resentment. The world of social media makes the protagonist feel like a poser and a fraud, mostly because of how much they subscribe to and partake in its evils. The protagonist desperately wants a change of pace, which is ironic in the face of their desire for solid ground to stand on. I dare the listener to allow me to abruptly switch genres throughout the course of the song. By the way, I say “protagonist” because sometimes I cringe when I’m the one saying these things, albeit truthful.
Your Friends Not Mine
This is the oldest song on the record. I wrote it in December 2015, and have been playing it live at shows and open mics for years. It’s about running into my ex’s friends once at a tea house in Detroit and feeling like it could be my way back into her life. It’s certainly a silly, young song, but there’s a reason I saved it for my debut album. It couldn’t be more illustrative of the young “rock n roll” free spirit of my early days as a songwriter. It services the thesis of the second chapter in that it brings out the free and fun-loving attitude of being in college.
Blue Wave Blues
A week after I went on a date two summers ago, I picked up my guitar and banged this one out sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of my space heater (which is how most of my songs are written). I fell in love with the blues earlier that year, finally seeing the glory of that beautiful artform for the first time, after watching videos of guitarists from Lightnin’ Hopkins to Albert Collins. Engaging with the blues through song was the best way I knew how to honor it. At the time, the feeling of rejection or hurt after that date felt like what I needed to sort through as I was writing, so I ran with it. The blues is so gorgeous in that it’s the most timeless vehicle for the rawest of human emotions. It’ll always be there for us. And on the subject of that date…sometimes you feel like you did everything you could to charm the other person, but in reality you can’t force a spark that just isn’t there.
The song ends with a sound byte of me singing with my friend Olivia Davis, a close musical comrade who has shown up on many of my past releases. It is supposed to conjure the aural image of two singers closing out the night on stage at a show, a tender lullaby to end the concert and send the listener out into the night.
Gold Sounds 3am
Chapter 3 begins and the dust from the raucous house show of Chapter 2 settles. It is nighttime in the city, the air is smokey, the atmosphere eerie. I am walking past the apartment of someone I used to know, and there is no end in sight to the dark winding road that leads to my house. A new space, but this time somber and soulless. I’m not sure what home should feel like anymore.
A Comet Over Bandemer
A flashback to a melancholy summer night skinny dipping with someone in a river. The protagonist realizes how much value they derive from what others think of them. Searching for answers in old poems, letters, voicemails – anything to bring back the feeling of belonging or stasis.
This song was really fun to write. The form was sketched out with my Michigan band, and most of the melody came from an improvisatory vocal take, which is usually how I write my best melodies. The lyrics refer to a night during my first visit to Nashville, after having just met a group of new friends. Moving from bars to bowling alleys to someone’s kitchen to a Waffle House at the end of the evening – although I’m in a new unfamiliar town, I’m finding a glimpse of comfort and fun. I also deliver a rare rap verse in this song, being that the verse literally depicts a drunken freestyle session that took place in someone’s kitchen that night. Freestyling and hip hop have been huge parts of my musical identity for years and I wanted that to shine through.
This one I wrote in LA a couple years ago. During several summers I played a residency gig at a bistro on Mackinac Island, a small tourist island north of Michigan, with my old band. The lyrics tell the story of a fling with someone who worked at a nearby bar during one of those summers, and would come watch my band play. It references the challenge of navigating a language barrier between her and me while living on the island, with all its strange social dynamics. It clues the listener into yet another strange world that is far from home. The chord progression makes use of both diminished and augmented chord voicings to convey eeriness and uncertainty.
The final track of my debut album, my 8-minute sound essay! Without a doubt the most ambitious piece I’ve ever created. Held back on zero accounts, from arrangement to lyricism to sheer run time. It interpolates the voices of many important people in my life, including my good friend Rebecca Rosen on the hook (with whom I wrote the seed of the song years ago); a longtime collaborator AJ Bowers; the harmonies of another good friend DJ Shafer; and the track ends perhaps most notably with the voice of my beloved grandmother Sylvia whom I’ll forever know as Gaga. The song is a mosaic of reflections on childhood, a sense of self, and the idea that a person’s body is both a metaphorical house and a home. All material things (houses, bodies, etc.) are subject to change, and change is a part of life; and hopefully by the end of this album, the protagonist (me? The listener?) has accepted this reality. Whether or not they do, I’m leaving that to the listener to decide.
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? © Angela Ricciardi
:: Stream Charlie Burg ::