Bartees Cox Jr., also known as Bartees Strange, begins a ripping slide-guitar solo precisely one minute into the most current track, Hold the Line. It is not covered with slacker sleaze nor a clever critique of rock masculinity; instead, this is a lava-hot, sad blues lament. This song, which can be found on George Floyd’s latest album titled Farm the Table, is dedicated to George Floyd’s daughter Gianna and has a nursing-like intimacy with its subject matter.
Cox’s emotional closeness would be startling in any style, but within the context of indie rock, it is unashamedly off-the-cuff, which is precisely how the singer-songwriter wants it. He is come to rewrite the rules in a scene that often shies away from making huge gestures.
Cox comes out as incredibly laid back, which is surprising given his conviction. He is not the first musician to make a splash in the independent music scene, but he may be the first to do it while wearing casual attire such as denim shorts and a summer shirt with a floral pattern. He gives campaign speeches while perched on the edge of a hotel mattress, yet he never seems too passionate or sincere in his delivery. At one time, he acknowledges, showing an equal amount of amusement at both extremes, “Some times I feel like Heaven; other times I feel like such a snail.” “And it’s all going to be OK! I can’t believe I’m even able to say it!”
Cox, 33, rose to attention in 2020 with just a diverse EP of Nacional cover songs. He replaced the Ohio band’s ennui with wide-eyed bombast in his renditions of the National’s songs. He quickly signed with 4AD and released his first album, Live Forever, which channels anthemic thunder, punk recklessness, low-fi rap nihilism, and ambient dislocation throughout the record. He is a real bundle of inconsistencies: a tireless do-it-yourself worker who can blast venue hooks; an ego with fragile self-esteem; a biz pragmatist with half a mind to pull down the industry.