The Sweet Hereafter
When We Were Young
Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Chris Mills found the right group of musicians to play behind his literate songs for Alexandia, his first album in five years. The Distant Stars, as they’re now known, had serendipitous beginnings. Mills and bassist Ryan Freeland had been playing out-of-the-way places in Europe. One night, three hours south of Oslo, they walked into a bar and heard a distinctive pianist playing with an obvious edge. It turned out to be noted Norwegian producer Christer Knutsen, who'd been following Mills’ career with great interest. They sent demos back and forth and agreed to work together when on the same continent. Recorded in Chicago, New York, and Oslo, Alexandria still features a strong alt-country sound, but it's buffered by musical choices that turn songs like the title track, “Rubicon," and “Helpless Bells” into exercises of pure musical chemistry. Even when stripping the sound down to piano and voice for “The Sweet Hereafter,” the result is sharpened by Knutsen’s knowledge of Mills’ previous work and his determination to see Mills break new emotional and musical ground.