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Like a Bird: An Alex Schaaf Anthology (2010-2021) coming out on March 26th.  

The Mistress Deluxe Edition out now, get the vinyl here
Yellow Ostrich

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Like a Bird: An Alex Schaaf Anthology (2010-2021) coming out on March 26th.  

The Mistress Deluxe Edition out now, get the vinyl here
Cover art for Soft

SOFT


release date: April 23, 2021
as: Yellow Ostrich
on: Barsuk Records
format: digital

PURCHASE // LISTEN









BIO


What’s a man? I’m just as soft as I can be.
   - “Timothy”

Soft is the gorgeous new LP from Yellow Ostrich. It takes its name from the lyric that stands as a thesis for the entire album, a beautiful and haunting rumination on the pitfalls and pressures of traditional masculinity and on band founder Alex Schaaf’s drive toward vulnerability and tenderness as core tenets of his being.

The album’s ten tracks represent the first new music in seven years to be released by Schaaf under the Yellow Ostrich moniker, since he paused the project to explore new musical identities on a handful of excellent self-released albums (from which much of the best music is included on the stellar compilation Like A Bird: An Alex Schaaf Anthology 2010-2021).

Identities—whether externally-defined or those we manufacture for ourselves—are central preoccupations for Schaaf, who elegantly examines desire, the search for connection, and the sometimes blurry boundaries between platonic and romantic closeness and distance. He meditates on the emotional aches and physical bruises that we all carry and long to heal, and tries to find ways to communicate things that are hard to say to ourselves and to those closest to us.

He notes, “When you’re translating an experience into a song, it can sometimes get at something more accurate and universal than trying to express that feeling in a face-to-face conversation… at least for introverts like me.”

Birds just want what they want
Clouds just want what they want
And I just want what I want, oh Elliott
   - “Birds”

Born and raised in small-town Wisconsin and recently returned to his midwestern roots in Minneapolis after a half-decade in New York City and on the road, Schaaf’s path has led to both clarity of purpose as a writer and musician, and to the acceptance that there will always be truths between people and within ourselves that lie just out of reach. Prodding the structures that he and we have grown comfortable with, he worries that he’s actually shackled by them, and wonders why freeing himself can be difficult. Whereas he used to focus on romanticized heartbreak and conflict to fuel his more personal songs, now he wants to put an end to our obsessions with the conventional emotional trappings of masculinity, friendship, and love and writes about trying to be better – both to himself and to others.

Binary ideas of attraction and sexuality are frequent thematic targets, embodied in ambiguous relationships like those with the subjects of lead single “Julia” or the warm manifestos “Timothy” and “John,” and in the blunt analysis of desire in “Birds.” And on album closer “Too Much Love,” he celebrates the presence of internalized emotional extremes while also lamenting the habitual urge to suppress them: “Warm blood spills / from my eyes / ‘cause I’ve got love / too much love to hide.”

Why’s it so hard to say what lives in our heart?
It’s a trait I share, quiet everywhere.
   - “John”

The task of opening up and building bonds with other people instead of building more emotional armor over time takes work, and it requires like-minded collaborators, trusted friends, and love. Schaaf has long been a consummate assembler of outstanding supporting players to help realize his musical vision, and for the recording of Soft he enlisted the help of a few friends, including drummer Marian Li-Pino (La Luz, Donna Missal), bassist Megan Mahoney (Lissie), guitarist Mike Noyce (Bon Iver, Tallest Man on Earth), and studio and mix engineer Zach Hanson (Bon Iver, Gordi, Whitney, Waxahatchee, Hand Habits), with a guest appearance on album standout “Los Angeles” by the returning Yellow Ostrich member and great multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez (David Byrne, The War on Drugs).

The result is a sound that feels warm and effortless, but packs a real sonic weight. Pitch-shifted vocals, subtle electronic treatments, and drum machines skirt the edges of an otherwise traditional guitar-band setup, adding more varied textures while hinting at wilder emotional currents underneath a placid surface.

On Soft, despite all the potential volatility of life lived with other people and the challenges of navigating our own self-inflicted limitations, Schaaf is beginning to feel content with the person he is… while remaining eager to keep growing. “I’m proud of the way I am,” he says, before adding, “even if my definition of that changes every day.”


LYRICS


Body of Mine
Julia
Timothy
Birds
John
Yr Flaws
Last Summer
Unlikely Skies
Los Angeles
Too Much Love

Body of Mine

i get up early
bruise on my thigh
internet tells me
i’m lucky to be alive
doctor’s office
was the only one there
i could read any magazine i wanted
but all i did was stare
at the deep shade of green
with little hints of blue
i don’t know what this body of mine is coming to

i get up early
to catch the 5
go downtown to the library
i’m anxious to survive
i look up answers
then i read the news
get so distracted by the world
that i forget the bruise
with its deep shade of blue
and little hints of green
i don’t know what this body of ours is gonna mean

i’m on my side now
and i’m giving up
i don’t know when this body of mine has had enough

oh i want to feel alright
it seems this will take some time
can you fix it with just a line
oh i would like you to drive

Julia

Julia
the note you left, it means a lot
but i’m not ready
to mean a lot
though times i thought i was

and if you wanna be gentle (separator)
and if you tend to be careful (separator)
i can’t see eye to eye (separator)
cause we’re in different times

Julia
you’re taking off, I’m turning on
the six am flight - i didn’t mind
if it means I get my space

and if you care about the feeling (separator)
and if you wanna be leaving (separator)
i can’t see eye to eye (separator)
cause we’re in different times

i don’t feel right
the separator strikes again
so come on, let’s fight
lets not let it win again
creeps in, repeating
over and over yet again
but julia, i’m helpless

and if you wanna be gentle (separator)
and if you tend to be careful (separator)
i can’t see eye to eye (separator)
cause we’re in different times

Timothy

There’s a line i could cross
i could amble right past it
since the guards by the wall
they are no longer standing
i’m looking for a change
i’m alive for the options
see me walk patiently
see me stumble right past it

Can’t you see what i am?
i’m a man with a question
how to be who i am
when it don’t go without saying
there’s a word for it all
i’m just trying to find it
there’s a place for us all
just need someone to build it

i’m tired out from everything i lack
so timothy put your arms round my back
forgot the question, sink into the scene
cause what’s a man, i’m just as soft as i can be

grab your coat, grab your keys
i will drive, need the power
vibrating through my knees
we’ll be there in an hour
timothy, read the news
tell me what i’ve been missing
while i’ve been tied to you
i would so love to listen

i’m tired out from everything i lack
so timothy put your arms round my back
forgot the question, sink into the scene
cause what’s a man, i’m just as soft as i can be

just as soft as i can be
just as soft as i can be

Birds

I thought you heard it
I thought you knew
all of a sudden out of the blue
obvious, it seemed to me
trying to choose, trying to be
one or the other so carefully
elliot, you don’t have to choose

birds just want what they want
clouds just want what they want
and i just want what i want, oh elliot

I thought it was all understood
20 to 80, I would be good
You can change, I'll be over here
But now I am older, I am surprised
All of the options, slow to realize
everyday i’m a little more clear

birds just want what they want
clouds just want what they want
i just want what i want, oh elliot
birds just want what they want
clouds just want what they want
and i just want what i want, oh elliot

John

John you were right
i should have listened to you that night, darlin
you’re a friend of mine
you’re a friend of mine
but how does that go
you don’t enunciate when you’re stoned, darlin
little light of mine
little light of mine

just give me some sort of substance

given that we
have friended up since we were 13, darlin
shouldn’t i know
where your mind goes
it blows in the wind, debating
how much to share with
what’s the other choice?
trying to save your voice?

just give me some sort of substance

john you were right
one hundred days i’d trade for that night, darlin
not that i would say a word of it today
why’s it so hard to say what
lives in in our heart?
it’s a trait i share
quiet everywhere

Yr Flaws

Restless, as you know i’ve been up late
restless and imagining
even just a dream can tie me down
i shudder at the thought of it

i only wish
that there had been time to see your flaws
then maybe it’d be
a little easier for me now

Not long enough to make it
but long enough to make it hurt
when you exited
Not knowing makes it harder
than proving wrong
this dream I have invented

yeah I only wish
that there had been time to see your flaws
then maybe it’d be
a little easier for me now

Nothing but the best for you and yours
i wouldn’t lose any of it
but i fear i will be seeing you more and more
i stay awake resisting it

yeah i only wish
that there had been time to see your flaws
then maybe it’d be
a little easier for me now
yeah I only wish
that there had been time to see your flaws
then maybe it’d be
a little easier for me now

Last Summer

Last summer i was older
my legs were sore
twice monthly with a counselor
was all i could afford
last summer it was darker
you called me up
you took me to the north shore
it was a gentle touch

so come out to the show
you need some fresh air
i know how you feel because
last summer i was there

Last summer you were brighter
you shared the light
let me take you to the same place
camp for the night
last summer you were younger
you bought me a beer
you let me talk about it slowly, vaguely
without trying to steer

so come out to the show
you need some fresh air
i know how you feel because
last summer i was there

Unlikely Skies

Is it romantic anymore
or is it past eight?
to build a cabin
the forest floor
what would critics say?
i don’t want to escape
want to embrace and be embraced by it
it’s just that i remain
sure that what i need is some quiet

i’m burning leaves
up to my knees
as the smoke it clears my lungs
yeah i’ll take my
unlikely skies
over wherever i belong

driftless i am
always been
feeling wilder now
threat of violence
still lurking
feeling calmer now
i run out to the trees
looking for some protection, some embrace
but their arms are holding back
and they protest, ‘we don’t even know your name’

i’m burning leaves
up to my knees
as the smoke it clears my lungs
yeah i’ll take my
wisconsin skies
over wherever i belong

can you right my life?
can you write my lines?
can you feel
my heart
my tongue
my tears
my blood
can you free my time?
can you make me write?
can you feel
my heart
my tongue
my tears
my blood

Los Angeles

made you a key on monday night
by thursday we’d
had our last fight
friday you called
from your sister’s house
i ran out of time
to figure it out

but come on
los angeles
a couple kids
where does that go?
but come on
is this all i get
can’t we try out west
don’t you wanna know

when i trip and fall
you feel assured
that your glacial pace
is not so absurd
you said for weeks
it might be too soon
but i pushed us to
our premature doom

but come on
los angeles
it’s so winterless
and thats what we need
yeah come on
is this all we get
couple months of it
until the freeze

well i’ve got my dog
and i’ve got my friends
and i’ll be alright
once winter ends
i was dreaming of
the beaches there
spending half my time
with the ocean air

but come on
los angeles
i’ll leave you this
til another time
yeah come on
this is all i get
and i’m embracing it
like something thats mine

Too Much Love

Warm blood spills
from my eyes
cause i’ve got love
too much love to hide
milkweed grows
out my side
cause i’ve got love
too much love to hide

is this how some men
bring us down
with the tightness of chest
from questions not said aloud?
it warps the liver
and it bruises the spleen
when another quiet man won’t
say what he means

brother can you hear it now
the echo is fading but it’s
still pretty loud
will you take your silence down and
slide it over to me
won’t you say it out loud
even quietly?

cause warm blood spills
from my eyes
do you have love too much love to hide
milkweed grows out my side
do you have love too much love to hide
do you have love too much love to hide
do you have love too much love to hide


CREDITS


album recorded in January 2020
at Lemay Shoals in Minneapolis, MN
engineered by Zach Hanson
mixed by Zach Hanson
mastered by Huntley Miller
cover art by Leah Monson

Marian Li-Pino - drums and vocals
Megan Mahoney - bass
Mike Noyce - guitar, vocals, textures
Jon Natchez - saxophone
Leah Monson - vocals


Thanks to Leah Monson, Dave & Dennie Scott, Marian, Megan, Mikey, Zach, Kevin Scott, Josh Rosenfeld, Grant McCallum and everyone else at Barsuk Records, Jonah Lorsung, The Corona Boys (Play the Hits) - Marc, DJ and Dave, Jon Natchez, and all my friends and family that I forgot to mention.

VIDEOS