NEW YORK – To say that X Ambassadors’ third full-length album has a lot going for it would be an understatement.
It’s a concept album about an emerging superhero, but also a journey into Jungian psychology and a Valentine’s Day to old-fashioned radio dramas. There is so much going on that it inspired a companion podcast.
âAnyone who knows our music at this point knows that we try a lot of different things,â says keyboardist Casey Harris. “So please be indulgent with us and I think you will appreciate it.”
âThe Beautiful Liarâ takes the form of an audiobook and tells the story of a blind teenage girl who struggles with anxiety, discovers her long-dormant superpowers, and ultimately achieves self-acceptance. Her story is told in a series of songs interspersed with a few messy rants and slick chapter narratives.
âWe had a lot more time to create this world and that’s probably why we ended up getting so ambitious and doing a podcast and an album,â says lead singer Sam Nelson Harris, Casey’s brother.
The seed for the project came when the brothers performed in the studio with some of the new songs and started adding little audiobook-like narrative snippets.
It was an inside joke: Growing up in Ithaca, New York, the Harris brothers listened to many books on tape and radio series, getting lost in the various soundscapes. Maybe they could make an equally immersive album?
âThe Beautiful Liarâ would also dig deep into Sam Harris’s lifelong struggle to stay on top of things and keep things together. This sense of responsibility was often too much.
âI’ve started to see him start to crack a bit over the last couple of years. And that scared me. So whenever something scares me, I run towards it.
He was obsessed with the idea of ââa cartoon shadow that follows people, like a shadow inspired by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. “I came up with this just random story of a blind girl whose shadow comes to life and begins to speak to her and describe the world to her and guide her through it.”
They chose a girl to be a superhero because they think girls are underrepresented in the superhero world and made her blind because they know this world intimately: Casey is blind from birth.
At one point during an interview, Sam Harris realized that the shadow may have played a role in the brothers’ relationship as well. Would he be his brother’s shadow?
“The shadow is also a guiding voice, isn’t it?” It helps guide her and helps her move and navigate the world, âSam tells his brother. “And sometimes I ask myself, ‘Have I done too much or too little to help you in your life? “He gets straight to the point:” Am I this authoritarian protective entity? Her brother replies, “I don’t think so. We will get back to you on that. They both laugh.
The album and the skits – Sam Harris improvised everything, including the haughty announcement that the audiobook was written by the fictional “Irving P. Neville” – became the springboard for the podcast.
On the podcast, Emily Hampshire of “Schitt’s Creek” will cast shadow, Rory Anne Dahl will play the little girl, and Harris has a role and produces. The first episode will be available on October 20.
This is a big step for the group, whose formation also includes Adam Levin on drums. Their debut album “VHS” in 2015 resulted in the hits “Unsteady” and “Renegade”, and their follow-up “Orion” in 2019 had “Boom” and “Hey Child”.