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Al Menne

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Al Menne has spent a lot of time driving in cars. Whether taking trips up and down the West Coast, touring in a van, or working as a delivery driver, they’ve become intimate with the possibility, at any moment, of disaster. “At the end of a very long driving shift,” Menne says, “there’s a moment when you realize, I shouldn’t be driving right now. Anything can happen. You really can’t be in control of everything that’s happening around you.” Freak Accident, their debut solo album, probes this feeling as it unfurls with the patient ease of a passing landscape while harboring the kinetic weight of life’s chaos at its core. 

Menne came up in the music scene as the lead singer of Seattle-based rock band Great Grandpa. In this outfit, Menne’s remarkable voice was on full display, despite not being the primary songwriter. When Great Grandpa took a break in 2019 due to various life circumstances, Menne was free to explore new musical pockets and step into their own as a songwriter, which precipitated a move from their lifelong home in Seattle to Los Angeles in 2021. There, they connected with an impressive cast of collaborators and friends that helped bring Freak Accident to life, including producer Christian Lee Hutson, engineer and mixer Melina Duterte (Jay Som), and guitarist Meg Duffy (Hand Habits). 

Menne’s songs are filled with clever melodies and honeyed, homespun rock arrangements that showcase their taut songwriting. They manage to collapse a maze of gnarled emotions into clear, direct, and inviting pathways, often using humor as an access point to something more profound. On lead single “Kill Me,” for instance, Menne turns the sarcastic eye-roll of the phrase “kill me now” into a heartfelt plea for love, while the acerbic refrain of the title track reshapes a faintly ominous admission into a mantra that seems to embrace all of life’s whims: “I’m a freak accident / head-on collision just waiting to happen.”

Embedded in the act of calling themself a “freak” is the underlying feeling of not belonging, which Menne calls “a big theme in the writing. I felt kind of like an outsider in my own family for a little bit. I’d ask myself, why do I feel so weird in all of these situations? And I think it’s because I’m trans, and I didn’t know it then.” This sense of physical and emotional displacement resounds across the album as Menne seeks to be fully seen.

The album’s closing track “Careful Heart,” then, is ultimately a song of redemption. Written about their partner Nico Jodi Levine, whose pedal steel playing provides a backbone of bright musical brushstrokes across the album, it’s a triumphant closer that completes the thematic arc: Menne has found the love and acceptance they were looking for, recognizing that there’s always the risk of collision as two independent bodies come together, but that building “a little life” together is worth it. 

At just under thirty minutes, Freak Accident is an inviting meditation on seeking protection from life’s chaotic thunderbolts in our relationships and connections. These nine songs, like smooth rocks pocketed for self-soothing, serve to shore us up against situations that are ultimately out of our control. On tracks that veer through canyons, careen across highways, and wend through the avenues of memory, Menne offers us a way through.

Jul 17
Mates of State
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