Damon & Naomi, the long-running duo of former Galaxie 500 members Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang, are back to make all your folk-pop dreams melt into the sunset. They recorded A Sky Record with their friend and frequent collaborator Michio Kurihara on electric guitar; it’s out August 6th on their own 20-20-20 label, and in the meantime, you can hear the very pleasant lead single, “Sailing By.”
Damon & Naomi describe “Sailing By” as their tribute to the Shipping Forecast, a nightly BBC Radio program that provides useful information on weather conditions for anyone navigating a boat near the British Isles.
While they live in Massachusetts, they found the Shipping Forecast oddly soothing during last year’s lockdown period, tuning in nearly every night from across the Atlantic. “It comes on just as we’re usually cooking dinner, which is how we stumbled on it,” Krukowski writes in a statement. “And then this marker became important to us, even though (or because?) it’s a report about conditions for places we couldn’t possibly visit.”
They turn the idea of the Shipping Forecast into a typically lovely song, with Krukowski singing softly over Yang’s backing vocals and Kurihara’s liquid guitar lines: “From Viking to Tiree/At 0:00 GMT/All is calm as could be/For you and me…”
Damon & Naomi aren’t the first musicians to find inspiration in the Shipping Forecast’s litany of coastal U.K. place names. Blur famously referenced a few of its highlights on “This Is a Low,” the gently sighing ballad that closes their classic 1994 album Parklife; six years and a couple of British pop epochs later, on Kid A, Radiohead slipped a snippet into “In Limbo.” Neither of those songs had the feeling of utter peace and contentment found in Damon & Naomi’s contribution to the canon, though.
Leave it to their pal Jarvis Cocker to explain the appeal of the Shipping Forecast: “For insomniacs, it’s a mantra that (hopefully) helps them finally drift off to sleep,” Cocker writes in a statement of his own to accompany “Sailing By.” “Is it the mention of obscure places around the British coastline with names like ‘German Bight’ and ‘South Utsire’ that does the trick? Or is it the sheer feeling of relief you get knowing that you’re safely tucked up in bed whilst others are battling it out upon stormy seas? Whatever the reason, it usually works.”