"In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."
It's a quote from Albert Camus and one that k.d. lang credits as the point of departure and source of inspiration for Invincible Summer, her bright and balmy new Warner Bros. Records release, and the quintessential summer soundtrack of all time.
Equal parts surf and samba, capris and cotton candy, Beach Boys and bossa nova, Invincible Summer is more than the Grammy-winning vocalist/songwriter's evocation of everyone's favorite season. Listening to the eleven tracks that comprise this salt-kissed and sundrenched collection is nothing less than taking a mini-musical vacation - complete with that unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime summer fling.
Produced by k.d. lang and Damian leGassick (of William Orbit renown), Invincible Summer features her latest single, the deliriously romantic "Summerfling," amidst a lush and lavish soundscape of songs written by the artist with able assistance from several sympatico compadres. The album highlights a lineup of A-list musicians that includes ace drummer/ bassist/guitarist (and co-writer) Abe Laboriel Jr., guitarists Wendy Melvoin and Greg Leisz, multi-instrumentalist (and co-writer) David Piltch, and Teddy Borowiecki and Damian leGassick on keyboards. Recorded last year at a leisurely pace in and around Los Angeles, Invincible Summer reveals new and fascinating facets of k.d. lang's multi-layered musical talent, surprising even to the artist herself.
"I was listening to The Mamas & The Papas, surf punk and a lot of Brazilian music," remarks k.d. on the inception and inspiration for Invincible Summer. "It all put me into a super positive mood. I really zoned in on the everyday blessings of life and, in the process, reacquired the fuel of my soul. It was like rediscovering the happy, optimistic side of myself that I lost touch with in the stress and confusion of maintaining a career."
It's been a career that has, by any measure, set new standards of achievement and excellence. As founder and frontwoman for her groundbreaking ensemble The Reclines, and through her own extraordinary solo career, k.d. has served up some of the best music of our time. In the process, she has earned a mantel-full of awards, including multiple Grammys.
Shadowland, Absolute Torch and Twang, Ingenue - each release has revealed new dimensions of her singing and songwriting gift. Add to that a reputation as a world-class concert performer and a burgeoning career as an actor in both film and television, it's no small wonder k.d. felt the need to reconnect with her essential energies.
The point of departure for the artist's lingering summer sojourn-in-sound can be traced to late 1998, following an extensive round of U.S. and Canadian tour dates in support of that year's critically-acclaimed album Drag. It was at that point that k.d. herself was experiencing something of a drag on her creative and career drive after what amounted to five straight years of writing, recording and performing. "I felt like I was on a treadmill," she admits. "I needed to recharge my batteries, to take a break. I wanted to evaluate what I'd accomplished so far and maybe take the opportunity to enjoy some of the rewards."
As part of her program of relaxation and restoration, k.d. relocated from her farm country home in the Canadian hinterlands to sunny Southern California - a move that set in motion what can only be described as a musical quest for endless summer. "I fell in love with California," she continues, "with the warm sun and being by the ocean and picking up on the legendary summer vibe that is so much a part of the place. When I started writing songs for this album, I actually took paper and a pencil with me to the beach."
Another key element in k.d.'s new perspective occurred when she bought a house and began an extensive course of renovation. "From 7:30 in the morning to 7:30 at night I was working with carpenters, plumbers and contractors. It was a time of real physical effort that I found completely invigorating. I also gained a real appreciation for everyday life and for people who take pride in what they do. At the same time, it helped me to understand my own place in music better. I'm a singer. It's like being a craftsman. It's what I do."
An outgrowth of this new connection with life's simple pleasures came in her desire to "connect with the mainstream." "Before, I considered myself part of a musical elite," she explains. "Now, I'm more interested in reaching people where they live. I've really gained an appreciation of the mainstream. And I think this music reflects that. Summer is one of the great pleasures we all enjoy. It's something everyone can relate to."
Helping bring this musical vision to fruition was Damian leGassick, who'd been introduced to k.d. at a party by Madonna and her Ray Of Light producer, William Orbit. "Damian understood exactly what I was after," she enthuses. "And because he has such an extensive knowledge of music, including three years of teaching courses in London, he was able to bring a lot of experience to bear. The truth is, I couldn't have done it without him, especially when it came to producing. He took care of the technical aspects, including all the keyboards and programming, as well as string arrangements, which gave me the freedom to maintain close communication with my co-writers and oversee the project in a more cinematic manner, looking at the big picture."
Recorded over five months at a pace k.d. describes as "easy-going," Invincible Summer took shape around songs that used the season as a rich metaphor to explore a wide range of themes in a full palette of musical textures. From the rich insights of "Consequences Of Falling" and the shimmering spirituality of "Love's Great Ocean" to the delirious danger of "Curiosity" and the bittersweet beauty of "Only Love," k.d. lang has delivered an album as warm and inviting as the summer sun on sparkling waves.
"I used to want my music to be like a gourmet dining experience," k.d. concludes. "Now, I want it to be like water - a necessity." On Invincible Summer the invitation to dive in is, quite simply, irresistible.