Craft Recordings announces an expanded, digital edition of John Linnell’s acclaimed cult favorite, State Songs. Out today across all major platforms, this special reissue includes the rarity “Louisiana,” available digitally for the very first time. The jovial track was initially released as a B-side on the 1999 vinyl single of “Montana”—a collectible die-cut record in the shape of the USA.
As one half of They Might Be Giants, Linnell has long been known for his surreal lyricism and absurdist alt-rock. The singer-songwriter brought both of these qualities—plus a myriad of melodic styles—to his solo debut, State Songs. First released in 1994 as a five-song EP, Linnell expanded the collection five years later, turning it into a high-spirited, 16-track tour across America.
In the album’s original press materials, Linnell offered a bit of background about State Songs’ theme: “I decided to start writing songs with the name of the states as a way of avoiding having to come up with song titles. I suddenly had fifty song titles and I could write fifty songs based on that.” He added, “One other reason I was interested in writing state anthems is because I like the style they usually employ…Sort of archaic and kind of square.”
The inventive State Songs is anything but square. In tracks like “New Hampshire,” “Utah,” “Mississippi,” and “The Songs of the 50 States,” Linnell employs a spectrum of instrumentation, including a vintage carousel organ, an accordion, an alto saxophone, and even a DustBuster. In each offbeat anthem, Linnell delivers amusing fictional tales and dubious facts. For instance, did you know that Montana once was a leg and that Iowa is actually a witch?
Upon its release on Zoë/Rounder Records, AllMusic praised that Linnell “masters every stylistic leap he takes; the tunes are all united by the catchy-as-the-clap melodies. You’re guaranteed to be continually amazed by the inventiveness and sheer beauty of his melody lines.”
Linnell (who was born in New York and raised in Massachusetts) continues to enjoy a prolific career with They Might Be Giants, which he formed with John Flansburgh in the early ‘80s. Since then, the duo has released more than 20 albums, including 1990’s platinum-selling Flood, which included hits “Birdhouse in Your Soul” and “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” as well as the longtime fan favorite, “Particle Man.” Two-time Grammy winners, TMBG started with a Dial-A-Song service, powered by a lone phone answering machine out of their Brooklyn apartments. Since then they have made more than 20 albums, released countless Eps and live recordings, and have secretly infiltrated your TV with original themes and incidental music to numerous TV shows, movies, and commercials.
This fall, They Might Be Giants will release their 23rd studio album, BOOK. Available as a 144-page, cloth-bound hardcover book, BOOK will feature full-color photography by Brian Karlsson, paired with lyrics set in the style of poetry concrete by designer Paul Sahre.
Linnell, meanwhile, is readying for his first solo release in two decades, Roman Songs. As the title suggests, the EP is made up of songs written entirely in Latin. The first single from Roman Songs arrives in June via They Might Be Giants’ very own Idlewild Recordings.
State Songs tracklist:
2. The Songs Of The Fifty States
3. West Virginia
4. South Carolina
15. New Hampshire
17. Louisiana (Bonus)