Eighteen years after releasing his first solo album Navigating By The Stars, winter has come, and New Model Army’s Justin Sullivan is setting sail for a follow-up release: Surrounded, a collection of sixteen new tracks, written in the first weeks of the 2020 lockdown.
Sullivan’s last solo album was written in the aftermath of 9/11. With this effort, he wanted to create “a landscape of the imagination” rather than a record of pure social commentary. (Recorded at home, the album was mixed by Lee Smith at Greenmount Studios in Leeds, who has also recently worked with New Model Army.)
“Under the circumstances, it wasn’t particularly surprising that this was the moment to make another solo record and the songs came thick and fast in the first few weeks of the lockdown,” says Sullivan. “There is not so much about what’s happening in the World’.
Sullivan has long been fascinated by the stories of Antarctic adventurers at the beginning of the 20th century, writing the story of Ernest Shackleton in Ocean Rising from Navigating By The Stars. Channeling the lyrical stylings of folk-rock hero Gordon Lightfoot with the quavering drama of Leonard Cohen, Sullivan continues the theme of courageous seafarers with the modern sea chanty-infused single, Amundsen.
“The final race to reach the South Pole between Robert Scott and Roald Amundsen is another fascinating tale,” says Sullivan. “Being raised in England, Scott and his ‘noble, tragic’ failure is a story written large in national mythology – but the other man, a truly remarkable explorer, is rarely acknowledged. The battle over who gets to tell which version of a story is very relevant in these times of ‘culture wars,’ but the song is more a simple study of the man himself. I hope I have done him justice.”
Watch the video for “Amundsen” below:
On Surrounded, Sullivan is joined by fellow New Model Army alums, with additional contributions from bassist Jon Thorne (Lamb), harpist Tom Moth (Florence and the Machine), and string arrangements from Tobias Unterberg, Henning Nügel, and Shir-Ran Yinon.
“I’m grateful for all the many musical contributions I received from friends that help create all the different atmospheres and places; it’s a long album, but it seems that all the songs belonged together in one collection. I hope people enjoy it,” Sullivan concludes.
Surrounded is set for release on CD, a hardcover media book, heavyweight double vinyl gatefold, and digital. It is currently available for pre-order here.
*Photo by Thomas Huntke