photo credit: Ashley Schaffert
New Dog | Classic Ballroom Dances (June 2015) | Kill Rock Stars (Worldwide) | Local Rekorc (Czech Republic)
Live: Two-piece band. Vocals, Guitar, Keyboard, Effects, Drummer.
The only thing better than teaching an old dog new tricks is having a new dog. Anar Badalov (of Metal Hearts and Travels) is New Dog, but “Classic Ballroom Dances” is no trick; this intimate and enthralling album is the next installment in the career of this promising young songwriter. Born in Baku, Azerbaijan in the 80s, Anar’s family immigrated to Baltimore, MD during the breakup of the Soviet Union. Anar grew up in Baltimore, starting his first band (Metal Hearts) there as a teenager in 2004 with schoolmate Flora Wolpert-Checknoff. Metal Hearts won fans in the press who saw possibilities for the future:
“….emotionally wrought electric guitar duos and twinned vocals that deflect off one another and swirl into ghostly harmonies…. meanders through such beautifully forlorn terrain with a stately grace” – Baltimore City Paper “unexpected, intriguing touches.” – Pitchfork “multifaceted, assured debut” – All Music “a record worth exploring for the character study of these two fascinating individuals alone.” – Exclaim
In early 2007 Anar left Baltimore to live in Somerville, MA and start a new band with Mona Elliott (formerly of Victory at Sea) called Travels. Their recordings together generated more praise:
“Travels is an unpolished but compassionate gem of a pop album” – Tiny Mix Tapes. “Warm, firm and reassuring, the song has all the qualities of a good hug”– Spin.com
With the dissolution of Travels, Anar began working on his own for the first time. “Classic Ballroom Dances,” like the first New Dog album “Lost Weekend,” was recorded alone in his apartment. Anar describes the process: “Not having someone to lean on, musically, is both terrifying and doubly rewarding. You work at your own pace, and set your own rules. My pace can be frantic sometimes, and I know that can annoy others, which is why I’ve learned to bring people in after the recordings are finished.”
The title was inspired by the poem of the same name by Yugoslavian poet Charles Simic. Simic has said that list poems like Classic Ballroom Dances are “the poetic equivalent of quilt-making.” Long before Anar read this poem or heard of the poet, this was the way he approached songwriting. “I’d like to think that at least a handful of songs on this album capture something like what Simic is talking about,” he says. Simic is one of Anar’s biggest influences. Others include Lee Hazlewood, Frank O’Hara, Mark Linkous, John Berryman, Raymond Carver, Anton Chekhov, Townes Van Zandt and guitarist Mick Turner.
Anar now also has a fine body of work to rely on. “Classic Ballroom Dances,” with its strong songwriting and mature arrangements, has fulfilled the promise he showed in those early recordings in Baltimore.