On Nico Muhly

In the hype of new music, it is often too easy to forget the small players that make an album great. People do not stay abreast with the most popular producers or the most revolutionary sound engineers. I doubt anyone can name the new-faced composer who has taken over music in the last year. People should be more aware of the faces behind their favorite albums. People should know about Nico Muhly.

Muhly is a Western composer who has been responsible for some of the most interesting music this decade. The proof is in his album Mothertongue, with its highly experimental work on tracks like “Skip Town.”

Muhly has a wonderful style that cannot be replicated, much less described in words. He is one of this decade’s most important musicians, and unfortunately, no one knows about him.

Many people would point to Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimist as one of this year’s better albums, and looking forward, many people are also anticipating The National’s new album, High Violet, to be the rock album of the decade. Muhly has, predictably enough, a distinct presence on both of these albums.

It would be no small exaggeration to say that Muhly is responsible for the compositional brilliance of Veckatimist. In terms of The National, Muhly produced one of the most innovative arrangements ever heard with his work in the song “So Far Around the Bend” on The National’s Dark Was the Night. Looking at High Violet, we can expect much of the same magnificence with the track “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks,” thanks to Muhly’s distinct retooling.

People should be more aware of the faceless composers and musicians behind the greatest albums of the last decade. When thinking of The National and Grizzly Bear, people should think of Muhly. Most great bands I know have been helped along by a brilliant composer at some point or another; it’s time that we look at these composers in their own right.

-Stephen Epple