Jun 09, 2021
By Caleb Campbell
Photography by Janice Chung
Later this week NYC-based musician Andrew Choi will share his fourth album under the St. Lenox moniker, Ten Songs of Worship and Praise for Our Tumultuous Times. Billed as a “progressive, queer, spiritual record tracking the great American religious drift of the 21st century,” Choi explores the angst, pain, and adoration of those who have left the church through engrossing storytelling and electrifying instrumentals. Today he shares one final taste of the record, “Teenage Eyes,” premiering with Under the Radar.
“Teenage Eyes” opens with a clip of a Dwight Eisenhower speech before launching into a full-force keyboard riff, backed by relentless driving percussion. Choi’s voice is the expressive centerpiece, wrapping breathless storytelling in a rapturous howl. He cries out for lost youth and traces the abandoned dreams of aging barflies. Choi tells of the other patrons’ teenage garage bands and “torch songs for west coast girls” along with his own forgotten passion for writing and his dream to “turn the world on its head with a turn of phrase.”
Choi says of the track, “At open mics, I’ll oftentimes run into older gentlemen who lament their decision to forgo music in favor of becoming businessmen, doctors or attorneys. This song is an amalgamation of some of those experiences, and some reflections on my own younger years starting out as a musician. I took some artistic license, because I’m singing the song as someone who also maybe has moved on from music, and in real life I’ve ended up taking my own path at navigating that dichotomy. Really though, in the context of the album, the song is about the loss of youth, which means that the song is really about death and the fear of dying.”
He continues, saying of the video, “The video takes the fear of death and ties it into metaphysical questions about persistence. In the video, I talk about what happened to my real-life Dungeons & Dragons character, Alvin Plantinga, whose adventures were cut short when COVID ended our in-person gaming sessions. If our gaming session ended, does that mean that Alvin Plantinga died? I propose in the video that maybe if I played a new game with a character named Alvin, then maybe Alvin Plantinga didn’t die and he persists in the new game.”
“Obviously, I’m not solving or even intending to solve any heady philosophical problems about death, metaphysics or persistence. The real Alvin Plantinga would probably have a lot more to say about that than I do. What I just wanted to do was tell a story about my genuine hope that my D&D character has survived his death, incidentally caused by COVID. And maybe that tells me something about the very religious hope that some people feel, when they think about religion, death and the afterlife. Really, the video is about just trying to understand people who are religious, by telling a story about Dungeons & Dragons and COVID, if that makes sense.”
Check out the song and video below and watch for Ten Songs of Worship and Praise for Our Tumultuous Times, out June 11 on Don Giovanni / Anyway Records.