On Cut Worms, Clarke leaves behind the legendary studio and sought after producers for a more homegrown approach, working with a cast of gifted friends and collaborators. As opposed to recording the entire album in one chunk at one studio, Clarke varied his methods. Three of the songs were cut from start to finish in his shared rehearsal space; two others were recorded in Brooklyn by Brian and Michael D’Addorio of the Lemon Twigs, who also played piano and bass, respectively, on these two songs. Further basic tracking was done by Rick Spataro (of Florist) at his Hudson Valley studio, Onlyness Analog, with contributions from the long-standing Cut Worms live band: keyboardist John Andrews, bassist Keven Louis Lareau, and drummer Noah Bond.
Clarke went about overdubbing in his signature fashion, and found himself leaning toward arrangements that translate more easily to a live performance. The instrumentation is subtle and the harmonies often delicate. Clarke’s tenor sits front and center amid an ensemble of celestial guitar leads, stacked horns, and strolling piano lines. The success of last year’s self-recorded single, “Dream Most Wild,” gave him the confidence to take on the roles of mixer and producer for the first time on a full-length release.
A youthful spirit breathes through Cut Worms’ nine songs as Clarke wrestles with a paradox — the joys of experience cannot be won without the loss of experience. On “Ballad of a Texas King” Clarke sings, “Hey kid come along… something is wrong… I believe you know… All this to say, only one way that this can go…” It’s as if he’s reaching out to his younger self, letting him know the changes are inevitable. How do we hang on to a dream? How do we not lose ourselves in a world that is lost? The only way out of a nightmare is to keep going. Clarke’s answer lies in his art, where the search for love and the perfect pop song coalesce and transcend him to that other plane.