Mike Pace and the Child Actors
Picture a studio stuffed with synth whizzes, session bassists, forty or fifty world-class audio engineers. Picture some label accountant rubbing his temples, grilling a Child Actor over some outrageous line item (“ten thousand dollars for ‘vibe maintenance??’). Picture, of course, the man himself, Mike Pace: stomping around in a speedo and bathrobe, refusing sleep, verbally abusing children, sinking periodically into morose funks, instantaneously emerging from those funks with gnomic yet emotionally lucid songwriting.
The reality is, in its way, even more outlandish. In the years since Pace adopted his Child Actors moniker, he’s had no fewer than two children, acquired a mortgage, and settled fully into a consuming job in production music. And yet in terms of scope and lushness of sound, and in the way Pace’s new music updates and personalizes a whole slew of classic rock reference points, it stands with the best of War on Drugs or Father John Misty. Like those guys, Pace is first and foremost a nerd, the good kind: someone who cares passionately and unpretentiously about something most people never think about, specifically progressive rock and big-tent singer-songwriter stuff from the 1970s, and puts that care to productive artistic use.
If you’ve ever listened to Pace’s music you know this already, but just to be clear: this is no kind of bloodless genre exercise. As always with Pace, the cherished albums are all mixed up with the memories of those cherished albums, and with the memories those albums soundtracked, so that the result—filtered through Pace’s well-established interest in nostalgia, time’s passing, etc.—is on the one hand new and idiosyncratically Pace-imprinted and, on the other, familiar and comforting and kind of pleasantly sad—pop sad.
This stuff might not sound much like Mike’s last band, Oxford Collapse—possibly New York’s last great indie rock band, before the whole operation shipped over to Philadelphia—but it definitely feels like Oxford Collapse, because all of Pace’s songs yearn in this totally unique way. And as ever his songs are set in places built for yearning: beach towns, high school hallways, commuter trains. The yearning has something to do with growing up, with putting away childish things.