Michael Baker weaves stirring wonders in his third album ‘How Come You Sleep,’ a cathartic release of tension and visceral self-reflection made with love, light, and hope in the midst of a pandemic.
for fans of Dustin Tebbutt, Sufjan Stevens, Gregory Alan Isakov, Blind Pilot
Stream: “Caught in the Crossfire” – Michael Baker
English singer/songwriter Michael Baker has now given us not one, but two wondrous full-length albums to soundtrack life in lockdown – those days and nights we spend, anxiously awaiting the end to this global pandemic. Last April, the Brighton-born, London-based artist released his stunning sophomore album Salt, which Atwood praised as “an achingly honest and heartfelt reckoning full of striking vulnerability and intensely intimate, beautiful songwriting.” This year, he’s followed up with the stirring How Come You Sleep, a cathartic release of tension and visceral self-reflection made with love, light, and hope.
Self-released February 26, 2021 via his own Keys to the Kingdom label, How Do You Sleep is a breath of fresh indie folk warmth that finds a rejuvenated, locked-down Baker sounding stronger and more inspired than ever.
Recorded with Andrew Stuart-Buttle during the UK’s first lockdown in March 2020, How Do You Sleep resonates with soaring melodies and glistening string arrangements that add depth and color to an already vibrant array of soothing vocals, guitars, piano, and drums. It’s an eight-song immersion that highlights Baker’s lyrical talents alongside the pure strength of his expressive golden vocals.
In premiering the album’s second single “Caught in the Crossfire” last August, Atwood Magazine hailed Baker’s work as a soothing, intimate moment of humbling, haunting folk reflection: “The track shimmers with delicate acoustic guitars and pianos – some in the forefront, others making up an ambient background. Baker spills emotion through vocals laden with longing and earnest curiosity – a wide-eyed sense of wonder, marred by deeper introspection. Dazzling poetry makes this song one to accompany us in our dreams and waking stages alike; its words lift off the page, dancing circles in our minds as we interpret them at will.”
Sweet saviour sail me to the dream
& whisper to me sweet nothings
until the break of dawn
And I can paint it red
And you can say it’s blue
These colours change the view
Baker has, on numerous occasions, called How Come You Sleep his best work to date, and further considers “Caught in the Crossfire” his favorite of his own released oeuvre, and for good reason. “It’s about being caught up in it all obviously and about how one moment of kindness spreads like the roots of a tree… and that colour can change your view and make you look out differently,” Baker says. “‘You can paint it red, i can paint it blue, these colours change the view.’”
“My favourite two tracks are ‘Caught in The Crossfire’ and ‘Houses’, both for very different reasons. ‘Caught in The Crossfire’ I think is my favourite track I’ve released so far: I wrote and recorded it so quickly, I feel that it just fell out of me. ‘Houses’ is a track that I had a rough picture of, and Andy took it under his wing and made it what it is, and I love it.”
But “Caught in the Crossfire” and “Houses” are just two in a special eight-track collection that feels like a warm, enveloping hug. From the wide-eyed hope and wonder in the album’s opener “Yellow Little Moon” to its heavy, impassioned closer “Lightly Looms,” How Come You Sleep serenades us through our own inner reckonings; it’s an oasis from the doldrums, a light in the dark.
If it’s an inspiration to listen to, it was equally exciting to make. “Let me just say I wrote this record with my close friend Andrew Stuart-Buttle who I was living with over the first lockdown,” Baker shares. “Lockdown hit – and with tours canceled and a recent diagnosis of chronic fatigue, I thought it was a great time to focus on recording music. It was such a surreal time full of ping pong, vegan Percy pigs, garden parties, beer, hair bleach, live streams, dinners on the doorstep and more music than I could have dreamed of. Having worked with Andy so much in the past, it was a dream to be able to make a whole record with him from the comfort of our front room. It’s a memory I will not forget, with this record being a wonderful reminder.”
I wanted to keep it as live and demo-ey as possible. Everything came from working on rough demos and building them up without losing their centre.
Whereas its predecessor Salt was recorded with a live band, How Come You Sleep is a much more intimate affair.
“This album is built up from demos – just acoustic and voice,” Baker says. Despite the proximity in time between the two records, he sees the two as distinctly different beings. “It’s been an incredibly odd year full of so many change in sounds, I can’t quite remember. This album is made of all the tracks that have been a favorite of my live set that I’ve never managed to record!”
“I really don’t think I reinvented the wheel with this album,” he adds. “It’s an album that is the closest that I’ve sounded to how I sound when I’m given a guitar round a campfire.”
As a lyrically forward songwriter, Baker highlights his album’s closer as containing some of his favorite lines:
“Lightly looms, those Lovely lines
Tall the moon, tie the sky
For June is youth, violet skies
Tooth for tooth, eye for eye”
Yet ultimately, How Come You Sleep is a journey made to be listened to in full, from start to finish. “For me this album is a real moment in time,” Baker tells Atwood Magazine. “It captures some very raw emotion recorded in a very intimate and honest way, during one of the strangest times that we have collectively been through. I was able to record this album with one of my best friends, and it really means a lot being able to release it.”
Released alongside a live set recorded at Lindley Lindenberg in Frankfurt, Germany, and four alternative 7″ versions of its songs, How Come You Sleep‘s digital deluxe edition offers a solid hour of enchanting entertainment. It’s music made with intent – songs of healing, of self-awareness, of understanding, and of growth. As we now observe a full year of “life in lockdown,” Michael Baker’s album could not have come at a better juncture. Whether we look to music for mere entertainment, emotional sustenance, or something more, How Come You Sleep speaks to the moment at hand. Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Michael Baker’s How Come You Sleep with Atwood Magazine as the singer/songwriter goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his third LP!
For me this album is a real moment in time. It captures some very raw emotion recorded in a very intimate and honest way, during one of the strangest times that we have collectively been through.
Stream: ‘How Come You Sleep’ – Michael Baker
:: Inside How Come You Sleep ::
Yellow Little Moon
I’m not sure exactly when I wrote this song, but I do remember the first time I ever played it in front of people. It was during Andrew (who I recorded the album with) & Lois’s post wedding celebration in Portugal. I was surrounded by the most beautiful of friends, round a fire and under one of the starriest of night Skies I’ve had the pleasure of sitting beneath. It was one of the most wonderful times I’ve had filled with so much music and feeling full to the top.
I’ve been thinking a lot about life and death recently and just how fleeting it all can be… an A – B with all the trimmings… and the more I think about it, the more beautiful it becomes, even if it is scary from time to time. My favourite line in this song is: ‘And I could write a song about the dying, but I just deal in dreams if I can’
Caught in the Crossfire
I had been noodling around the chords to this track for some time without so much as a melody or single lyric. Then one night just before as I was about to fall asleep the whole thing kind of made sense and kind of fell into my mind. I got up there and then, and recorded it pretty much as you hear it on the record. To this day it is my favourite song I have put out.
How Come You Sleep
As someone who struggles to not be both a night owl and someone who wakes up at the break of dawn… this is a question to those who are able to sleep. It’s a song for the minds that stay ticking through most of the days. ‘How come you sleep when you’re tired?’
Fold Your Hands
With the rise of social media, the world is more connected than ever, and parallel to that so many find themselves in downward spirals of insecurities and doubt when we constantly compare ourselves to others. I wrote Fold Your Hands for a friend in one of these moments of self-sabotage that we’ve all found ourselves in before so often.’
Punch Drunk Fist
It’s really just a love song. It’s about timeless love and how big and scary that can feel. Life can be rough you as move through it. As you grow, It can be hard not to close up like a clam in an attempt to protect yourself and avoid being vulnerable. The song is about finding the strength to love someone and to be brave enough to open yourself up to let that person love you.
Houses started with a dusty old synth loop, a vocoder, a guitar and a poem I had knocking around for a while. During lockdown I collaborated with with multi-instrumentalist Andrew Stuart-Buttle, he took the track and threw sounds of whistling strings, plucked Mandocello and ethereal sounds collected together. I wanted to vocals to sound like a whisper in an ear.
Here are some thoughts on where the lyrics came from. ‘So as life continued the silence grew… conversations developed from pastimes in playgrounds, to houses with dinner parties. maybe i need to be more political… maybe i need to start reading the newspaper… are we all them same? should i be doing what they are doing? life is so different to how i thought it was gonna be… what is this beauty? what is this depression? Mantra… repeat after me… “It’s always worth the wait hoping light can stay.”
Another song that came together quite easily after the initial idea. I had written it on piano but when it came to recording I let Andrew take control with the playing and arranging to make it as it sounds on the record. Oli Baldwin actually nailed this track on his very first mix with no changes at all. When I wrote the track I was missing people and really understanding the importance of letting myself feel sad and cry.
‘’Lightly Looms started as a poem written at a small retreat in the south of France. and was quickly transformed into a song with co-writer Edy smith who also plays the keys on the track with producer Andrew Stuart-Buttle providing whistling strings that to me almost sound like distant vocals calling out. With Mixer Oliver Baldwin giving the track that M.Ward Lo-Fi Folk feel. Lyrically its more abstract than most of my other songs, It’s about walking down the street & feeling good about yourself. It’s about just how big the universe is… and about the importance of being able to let go.’’
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📸 © Michael Baker 2020
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