The War on Drugs' Eliza Hardy Jones' "Pickpocket" LP Due 4/19/25

Article Contributed by Mixtape Media | Published on Saturday, February 24, 2024

Multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, vocal coach and quilter, Eliza Hardy Jones, will release her sophomore solo album, Pickpocket, on April 19th. The ten-song LP explores surviving grief, birth, death, and the innate humanness surrounding a challenging and personal journey to becoming a parent.  It was written, recorded, and produced by Eliza with production assistance from the multitalented producer, engineer and instrumentalist Nick Krill -- who also mixed the record.  Additional musicians recorded their parts in bedrooms across space and time.

With a sonic palette including ethereal folk coupled with indie rock undertones, Pickpocket finds the songwriter calling upon her musical friends, including Charlie Hall, Dave Hartley, and Anthony LaMarca (all of whom are collaborators in The War on Drugs), Daniel Hart (St. Vincent, Dark Rooms), Matt Musty (Grace Potter, Train),  Brandon Beaver (Buried Beds, mewithoutYou), Severin Tucker (Nightlands, Silver Ages), Benny Yurco (Grace Potter), Tim Deaux (The Whigs, Grace Potter, Kings of Leon), Jordan West (Grace Potter, Cam) and Ben Alleman (Dr. John, Grace Potter, Jenny Lewis) to help bring this collection of songs to life.

“This is an album about grief or more accurately, about surviving grief,” says Eliza. “It's about my experience of living in this world and in this body and doing my best to find purpose and joy. I made most of it sitting in my little home studio, surrounded by my quilt projects. I would send tracks off to friends around the country, folks who I played with in Buried Beds, Grace Potter's band and The War on Drugs, and they would send back little pieces of themselves, drums and bass and guitars and violins and synths, all kinds of love to help me fully realize this album.”

The album opens with the gentle indie folk of “This is the Year.” Acting as a thesis for Pickpocket, Eliza sings, “Grief is a pickpocket. Don’t see it coming ‘til it left you broke. Grief is a stranger that steals everything you knew about yourself…”

“I wrote this song at the bottom. I was recovering from the loss of a pregnancy that had come at the end of many years of fertility treatments,” says the songwriter. “I found myself at the end, lost in grief, and trying to find a way forward. I only sang the lyrics to this song once. What you hear on the album is the demo vocal. I couldn’t bring myself to sing it again. It’s also the only song on the album where I stepped foot in a studio. I laid down the guitar, piano and vocals at home, and Dave Hartley (my longtime collaborator in Buried Beds, Nightlands, and now The War on Drugs) sent a killer bass track, and then I went into the studio with Charlie Hall (The War on Drugs) and Nick Krill, who added drums and guitars and some beautiful mellotron shimmers. It was loose and fun - a joyful jaunty little romp through my despair.”

“Long Winter Shadows” highlights Eliza’s deft keyboard playing and layered, Beatles-esque vocals in a tribute to Philadelphia’s John Heinz Wildlife Conservancy -- a paradise of birds and trees, and a place that always brings the songwriter peace. “It’s also a little love song about my husband, who I imagine here as a blue heron in the snow. My dear friend Daniel Hart (St. Vincent, Broken Social Scene, Polyphonic Spree, Dark Rooms, and film composer - A Ghost Story, The Green Knight, Peter Pan and Wendy) sent along some beautiful violin tracks that totally lift this song and turn it into a swirling beauty of winter shadows!”

The soft acoustic guitar of “Ballad for the Barren” buoys Eliza’s heartbroken vocal as she comes to accept that motherhood may not be in the cards for her. “Don’t count the days, ‘cause they’ll never come again, or all the ways that you’ll never be a woman. Don’t be afraid that your purpose is another. Not every maid was born to be a mother…”

“This song was an act of letting go, looking again at love and motherhood,” says the songwriter. “After laying down the basic tracks at home, I sent it to Anthony LaMarca (The Building, The War on Drugs) and asked him to lay down a fairly specific idea I had for drums. But I also said that he could go ‘full Anthony’ and record anything he wanted. He ended up sending me back two totally different versions of a fully realized song with guitars, organ, bass, drums, and percussion. I ended up using both versions, jumping from one to the next after the first chorus. Anthony is such an intuitive player, brilliant producer, and treasured friend!"

Originally beginning as a composition by Eliza’s relative, Ned Bartow, “Sunday Morning” is an ethereal and lush arrangement that introduces Sean Bailey on woodwinds and Joshua Stamper on acoustic bass. “Ned was a composer who died from leukemia in his thirties. My dad was working through some of his old papers and asked me to record a song Ned had written called ‘Sunday Morning,’ so that he could hear it. What my dad didn’t realize was that what he had sent me was just the first line. I thought it would be fun to write the rest of the song, so I took the lyric and composed a new song around it. We later found the whole transcript of Ned’s song. So now there are two ‘Sunday Mornings’ in the family. I had Joshua Stamper write a beautiful arrangement for acoustic bass and woodwinds.  Matt Musty (Grace Potter, Train) sent along drums and some Resynator synth tracks as well.

The only co-written song on the album, “Counterfeit” is a driving indie rocker that highlights Eliza’s atmospheric and layered vocals. “Matt Musty and I played together in Grace Potter’s band a few years back when her album Midnight came out, and we became forever friends. Throughout the recording of Pickpocket, Matt sent me amazing drum parts that really lifted the album and my spirits. On one of these occasions, he said we should just write a song together, and ‘Counterfeit’ was the result. I sent him a quick and dirty version with the vocal and a single synth to pad through the chords, and with the help of his friends Jon Levy on guitar and Solomon Dorsey on bass, we made this big crashing tumble of a song about the existential dread of living in the modern world.”

“Fall to Pieces’ is a stoic anthem that I almost scrapped, because the original version had serious off-broadway vibes due to a wildly ambitious and busy piano arrangement,” explains Eliza. “Then one day I sampled my voice into a synth and replaced the piano with these eerie processed vocal portamentos, and I fell in love with it. I had Brandon Beaver (mewithoutYou), my lifelong friend and longtime musical companion from Buried Beds, send some gorgeous guitars. Severin Tucker (Nightlands, Silver Ages) sent dreamy synths from a modular unit he built himself. Dave Hartley sent a characteristically ripping bass part.  Matt Musty somehow miraculously tracked the drums last, despite the fact that the tempo shifts wildly throughout the song.”

Grooving guitars and an Americana vibe set the tone for “Rosie Lee,” a song for and about an American artist. “When I’m not on tour or recording, I’m quilting, or giving quilt lectures. Quilting is my perfect companion, a meditative space to explore color and rhythm. I have been really inspired by Rosie Lee Tompkins, an American art quilt powerhouse who worked under total anonymity (Rosie Lee Tompkins was a pseudonym). In writing this song for her, I tinkered around with some open guitar tunings until I found something that felt as free and open as her quilts. Benny Yurco (Grace Potter) added shimmering guitars, and Matt Musty and Dave Hartley (having never met each other) provided the perfect remote rhythm section.”

On “I Know How It Ends,” Eliza leans into her love of synth textures, angular guitar riffs, and electronic drums reminiscent of The Postal Service. “This song is about the ecstasy of belonging to a cult,” she explains. “All people desire to find purpose and connection, to know the truth and be righteous. But, this impulse can also turn people in search of peace and community towards violence and death. Some of my good friends from the Grace Potter tours sent along some tracks to take it over the top: Tim Deaux (The Whigs, Grace Potter, Kings of Leon) on bass, Jordan West (Grace Potter, Cam) on drums, and Ben Alleman (Dr. John, Grace Potter, Jenny Lewis) on synths.

Eliza’s voice arranged into an ethereal, reverb-drenched choir kicks off the penultimate track, “In My Room.” “This is a song about violence, about our impulse to conquer, to justify our own violence as righteous and blessed, and to absolve ourselves of violence through small acts of kindness. It’s a song about being a white woman in a violent and racist country.”

Pickpocket closes with Eliza’s delicate soprano alone at the piano evoking a long-ago moment in time. “It’s a reverse love song for the feminist set. I really love all those early 20th century love songs by Cole Porter and George Gershwin. But I often think about what those women had to give up in the name of love. So, I wrote this Porter-esque love song about letting a man leave you because you’ve got better things to do. Let all the wilting flowers bloom!”

Eliza Hardy Jones is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, singer, vocal coach, and quilter. In the early 2000s, Eliza began her professional career in the Philadelphia music scene with her band Buried Beds and in addition to her solo output, worked with a number of notable artists. She has been a touring member of many bands, including Grace Potter and Iron & Wine, before joining The War on Drugs in 2022.  Following the release of her first debut solo album in 2016, Because Become, Eliza focused on a large multidisciplinary art project interviewing women in the U.S. and Russia, in which she recorded folk songs, and then transformed them into a series of ten handcrafted quilts that are now part of the permanent collection of the International Quilt Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. She also co-wrote the musical Lashed but not Leashed (2019) with legendary Philadelphia drag queen Martha Graham Cracker and lent her vocal coaching skills to members of the NFL Philadelphia Eagles aka The Philly Specials, for their Billboard chart topping Christmas albums A Philly Special Christmas (2022) and A Philly Special Christmas Special (2023). She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and infant son.

Eliza will play select dates in celebration of Pickpocket and will continue to perform with The War on Drugs throughout 2024.