New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
Mishka Shubaly is an interesting character, if hard to pin down. He's an acclaimed author who has released six best-selling Kindle Singles. He attended college at age 15, was awarded the prestigious Dean's Fellowship graduate scholarship from Columbia at 22, and spent this past summer teaching at Yale. At age 24, he was shipwrecked in the Bahamas and decided he would be the one to walk thirty miles to save his crew members (listen to his Moth Radio
Hour story where he tells the tale. Spoiler alert: he drinks his own urine).
Mishka also spent nearly twenty years of his life as an alcoholic and drug addict. In 2009, he got sober and went to the other extreme - becoming an ultrarunner. He's also a songwriter and musician who has shared the stage with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Strokes, and The Decemberists.
On October 2nd, Invisible Hands Music
will release Coward's Path, Mishka Shubaly's third release.
Death and Taxes premiered the album's latest single "New Jersey Valentine's Day Orphan Blues." Listen to the track here:
The album is a document of Shubaly's wasted years, a eulogy for alcoholism and addiction. It's comprised of twelve tracks of drinking songs, snapshots from a life careening out of control — tunes about death and darkness and failure and the cold comfort of oblivion. Somehow, it's also incredibly funny.
"The title refers to a time in my life where I took the path of least resistance to the end of the line," admits Shubaly. "In one of the first copyrighted blues songs from 1912, Lee Roy White says 'the blues ain't nothing but a good man feeling bad.' Coward's Path is the sound of a bad man feeling bad."
In 2008, Shubaly's life imploded. In 2007, he had won a great fan and advocate, the renegade comedian Doug Stanhope. Stanhope flew him all over the country, playing the biggest shows of his life. But his appetite for drugs, alcohol, and chaos alienated even Stanhope. After losing a series of jobs, bands, friends, and girlfriends, Shubaly finally bottomed out. In the spring of 2009, he got sober.
Five years later, he's returned with a vengeance. He recorded the bare bones of Coward's Path on an 8-track reel-to-reel in an unheated, condemned squat in Long Island City in 2008, then sat on those basic tracks for years.
"My life fell apart and it took me a couple of years to put it back together. Once I was no longer out of my head, well, I was sober and I wasn't sure what my relationship was to these songs. So they just sat on tape while my writing took off," says Shubaly of the delay. "After four years sober, I knew that I was proud of the writing and that the songs didn't have the power to derail me."
The result is a record that is less stripped-down rock 'n' roll, like his previous releases, and more ensemble work, featuring accordion, upright bass, mellotron, vibes, weird percussion, maracas, bells, tape hiss, and even the sound of a passing airplane. Shubaly's black-hearted paeans to inebriation and annihilation shimmer with damaged glory.
"With Coward's Path, well, you've drank the bar closed, they've kicked everyone else out and pulled the gate down so it's just the bar staff and their friends. The drugs come out. You're drinking top shelf liquor for free but it's costing you more than if you paid for it because you're tipping so much. Everything
gets better; everything gets worse. The party turns weird. The party turns bad. Shit gets totally out of control. And then you have to stumble out into the daylight and confront what you've done."