Four years since their last release, Communist Daughter has returned to the music scene to forge a new path with their sophomore LP, “The Cracks That Built the Wall.”
There’s a forward momentum can be felt all over the new album, which the band self-released on October 21 and are supporting during their final tourstop in Minneapolis today, Friday, November 11, at First Avenue’s Mainroom.
Unlike their debut album, “Soundtrack to the End,” which dealt with some dark themes that revolved around frontman Johnny Solomon’s struggle with addiction, this new album makes a point to move on from the past.
The opening track, “Hold Back,” sets things in motion with a strong drum beat that marches forward. As synths and vocal breaks twinkle in and out frame, the drum pattern on “Hold Back” continues, steady on its path and determined to outrun regression.
From his current vantage point, Solomon—now sober and healthy—views this album as a triumph over his past struggles.
“I think when I was writing the last record I definitely was still trying to come to terms with what was happening,” he says. “But this record is about making it out on the other side. It’s more about coming to terms with that and what my past is.”
Releasing this album following the struggles that preceded it has been a big step for the band, Solomon says. Their last official release, the EP titled “Lions & Lambs,” came out back in 2012 while their debut LP came out two years prior to that.
Beyond the time it took to complete “The Cracks That Built the Wall,” Solomon says the decision to release this album independently has been a challenge for the band as a whole.
“We started writing this new record and we didn’t know if it would be an EP or what, and by the time we had a record done we hadn’t lined up any label that we were confident with” he says. “I wasn’t really confident with the songs at that point, so we decided to just keep recording. It stretched on a little bit longer than I think we wanted it to, but in the end we decided to put it out ourselves, which has kind of been a big step.”
With 28 songs recorded, the band set out to pare it down to an 11-song LP that conveyed their story and the transition they have made since the last record. As for the 17 songs left over from the recording sessions, Solomon insists some very well could have landed on this record or even ended up as singles.
“I don’t know if it will come out as an EP or if it’ll come out as bonus material, but they’ll definitely be coming out. I’m pretty proud of a lot of them.”
Solomon describes a songwriting process that often starts with him and wife/bandmate Molly Solomon forming a shell of a song and ends with the band fleshing out ideas as a group. Where the process can get long, he explains, is when the band finally gets into the studio.
“Creating music in the studio is a different art than going and playing live,” he says. “We’re definitely a band that’s based around the studio. And as a band we’ll get together and work on something, record it, take that back and rewrite parts of it, so it comes across as a really long and intricate process.”
With a recording process as thorough as this, it should come as no surprise that Solomon names fellow studio-rat Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys as a major influence for himself as a musician.
The detail in “The Cracks That Built the Wall” is evident, and like any record with depth and layers, it takes multiple listens to take it all in. Whether it’s the chipper slide guitar on “Beach Stalker,” the celestial synth pops on “The Dealer,” or the acoustic delicacy of “Sunday Morning Again,” each of the minor details adds up to compose the album’s vast soundscape.
Solomon explains that the extensive process of creating a record is made easier by surrounding himself with bandmates who help and support him in a way that transcends just writing and recording and applies to his everyday life.
“I think one of the things that’s so great about Communist Daughter is that we are a band that has been through all of this together,” he says. “It’s great to deal with this with a sense of family and understanding. They do their part to kind of protect me.”
That support has been a boon to his recovery, he says, and it’s made this into a redemptive record rather than one that tells a tragic tale.
“I understand [my past] now, and now I have to reckon with it,” he says. “And I think by reckoning with it, this record does end up being a little more hopeful, because I know what the ending is.”