Eau Claire, Wisconsin, mostly known for its amazing breweries, cheese, and Bon Iver, was also the birthplace of one of 2023’s best albums, Ruthless by indie rock band Waldemar. Singer-songwriter Gabe Larson, the creative force behind Waldemar, channels the spirit of The War on Drugs, The National, and My Morning Jacket.
Waldemar's latest album, Ruthless, stands as a testament to Larson's artistic gravity, blending soaring vocals and confessional lyrics against a rich tapestry of guitars and synths, creating a sonic journey that mirrors the soul of a blue-collar poet with a plethora pallet of paints for his canvas.
The genesis of Ruthless spans five years, reflecting Larson's unwavering patience and commitment. Two of those years were dedicated to transforming a weathered century-old horse barn into a professional recording studio, a laborious undertaking shared with his brother and bandmate, Nick Larson. Nestled in Eau Claire's North Side Hill, the studio became a cocoon of creativity, surrounded by the sounds of an elementary school and the industrious echoes of laborers preserving the neighborhood's workaday heritage.
Waldemar is the resonant echo of a craftsman and a worker in the heart of middle-class America
The recording process was an arduous chase, with Larson tirelessly working alone during late nights turned mornings. Songs like "Limbo," "Ruthless," "Patience," "Ultimatum," and "Trust" underwent multiple transformations, deleted and re-recorded until they found their true form. Other tracks, like the highway-worthy "Longing" and the slow-burn standout "Summer Rain," emerged with surprising immediacy. Larson's meticulous approach involved individualized sessions, bringing in his bandmates one at a time to build the songs layer by layer, like bricks in a wall.
Larson's blue-collar life and 9 to 5 existence, owning and operating a wood floor business alongside his musical pursuits, deeply influences his songwriting. Many songs on Ruthless were conceived during his time as a school bus driver, where melodies and lyric fragments formed in his mind during daily drives with kids.
In a groundbreaking moment for Waldemar, the soul-stirring band, took center stage on CBS Saturday Morning, captivating a national audience with their mesmerizing performance. The band's ethereal sound, characterized by soaring vocals and intricate instrumentals, resonated across the airwaves as they skillfully played their acclaimed tracks "Ruthless," "Summer Rain," and "Limbo."
Ruthless not only embodies Larson's relentless pursuit of musical perfection but also symbolizes the birth of his daughter, Ruth. In this poetic convergence of artistic craftsmanship and familial joy, the album becomes a testament to the transformative power of struggle, illustrating that we are shaped by the very things we create. This is not just the music of Waldemar; it is the resonant echo of a craftsman and a worker in the heart of middle-class America.