On his ANTI- Records debut Beginners, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Christian Lee Hutson embeds every lyric with his most intimate self-dialogue, sharing painful confessions and private jokes, imagined conversations and elaborate daydreams. The album — produced by his friend and collaborator Phoebe Bridgers — spotlights a nuanced songcraft and understated candor that all but erases the distance between feeling and expression. Throughout this collection of songs, Hutson ultimately speaks an illuminating truth about regret and forgiveness and the endless confusion in growing up.
Hutson and Bridgers recorded Beginners at L.A.’s legendary Sound City Studios, but purposely preserved the homespun quality of his cell-phone-recorded demos. It mines its subtle textures from Hutson’s warm vocals and graceful guitar work, and also unfolds flashes of sonic brilliance achieved with the help of its guest musicians—including Bridgers herself, as well as Nathaniel Walcott of Bright Eyes (who created all the string arrangements for the album, in addition to playing trumpet).
Hutson also co-wrote a song on the 2018 debut EP from boygenius and two on the 2019 debut LP from Better Oblivion Community Center (with whom Hutson also toured as both a guitarist and support act). Last year, he toured supporting artists including Julia Jacklin and Okkervil River as well.
(Photo Credit: Gus Black)
How have you been? Thank you for my Spitfire skateboard. I promise I’m gonna learn how to ollie on it soon. I really hate to ask you for another thing but if you’re not too busy, could you please wait to do the Rapture? I love my dad so much and Mrs. Payton says he’s going to hell if he doesn’t get saved. I think he just needs a little more time. Also, please protect me from Slavemaster. I want to live long enough to become an actor/famous skateboarder.
Thank you in advance,
Oh, and say hi to Jesus for me!
You see, over the summer, Aunt Cathy gave me a book that changed my life. I’m a big reader. I love books. Books are like friends that can’t leave you. Aunt Cathy knows all the best books. She has a showroom in Kansas City that sells mostly things that look old but sometimes they sell books too. Like when I was in 3rd grade, she told me about Harry Potter. “Christian, you’ve gotta read this one.”
She was right. It was so good! I didn’t get to finish it because I got in trouble for bringing it to school. Pastor Rob said because it was about witchcraft and that’s what Satan does, so I was gonna go to hell if I kept reading it. That’s why they had to confiscate and burn it in the bonfire at Harvestfest. I didn’t have the heart to tell Aunt Cathy she might go to hell for reading it.
Anyway, this book that changed my life. “It’s called Left Behind. It’s about the Rapture”. What’s that? It’s basically like the end of the world. The Rapture is when God teleports all the real Christians up into heaven. The rest of humanity gets “Left Behind” and has to endure seven years of apocalyptic stuff until God has his final showdown with the devil. After he wins, he turns the earth into a pit of sulfur and everybody that’s not a true Christian by then burns for 10,000 years.
That’s crazy. I don’t remember ever reading that in the Bible but it seems like everybody is talking about it now. Even Pastor Rob. He does an assembly about how the end times are almost here. He quotes Revelation where it says,
“Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird.”
He explains that the word fallen is used twice because of 9/11. One “fallen” for each tower. He explains that the demons and stuff are gay people and Muslims. He says that we’ve all gotta repent before it’s too late.
Mrs. Payton holds a Q&A about it in class after assembly. We all go around the room and confirm that each one of us is saved. Then we talk about the people in our lives who might not be saved. James raises his hand and says his dad is Jewish and does that mean he’s going to hell.
“Only if he doesn’t get saved”, says Mrs. Payton.
What about my dad? He’s never really talked about God. He doesn’t go to church. I know my dad does sins sometimes. I try to count them. Lying. One time, he got mad at Granny and threw a bottle of mustard at her and she started crying. So not honoring your parents. When he’s watching sports and somebody does something he doesn’t like he says, “Jesus F****** Christ.” So taking the Lord’s name. That’s three commandments out of 10.
“Anyone else’s parents need to be saved?”
I raise my hand. Me. My dad. I picture my dad crying. He’s trying to swim in a lake of fire. He’s yelling out for me to help him. Please! And if I had only known! It’s too late though. I can’t help him. I see myself sitting on a cloud in the most beautiful place imaginable and I’m also crying.
The book Left Behind starts with all these people disappearing out of thin air. All that’s “left behind” is a pile of their clothes. I start to get really scared whenever I’m alone. Scared that I’m going to be “left behind.” I need one more day to prove to God that I’m sorry enough to get to go to heaven. Did it just happen? I compulsively check the ground for piles of clothes. Like one weekend, when I come back inside from skateboarding and the house is quiet.
Nothing. I check the driveway. Both of their cars are here. I start praying in my head as I check the rest of the house for piles. Kitchen is clear. And the living room. Pray. Pray. Pray. That’s when I find them. Mom’s clothes on the floor of her bedroom. I have chills. I can feel my skin getting tighter like my blood is dancing. A high-pitched ringing in my ears. Everything is going so slow. I hear something. Water. My mom is just taking a shower. I let go of my breath. This kind of thing starts happening all the time.
Then there’s Slavemaster. My mom heard about him on the news. I did something bad at school and my punishment is to type up Psalm 119. It’s the longest chapter in the Bible. It’s 176 verses. This is going to take me all weekend. Mom says I should just type as much as I can and then she’ll let me log onto AOL and print out pictures of Dragon Ball Z characters (a thing I like to do).
I type up what I can and then I’m surfing the web. I remember that David told me about a chatroom where you can find pictures from Dragon Ball GT, which hasn’t been released in the US yet. It sounded illegal but I wrote down how to find it anyway. Once I’m in there, I’m having the time of my life. Woah. The animation is so crazy!
I feel my mom at my back. What are you doing? I’m in this chat room that Da…”NO!!!!!” She pushes me aside and logs me off quickly. She tells me chat rooms are dangerous and I can never, NEVER, EVER go into a chat room again. If I do, someone named Slavemaster is going to come and kidnap me and then I’ll be dead. She heard on the news about a little boy that talked to Slavemaster in a chat room and he went missing.
It scares me. I start to see Slavemaster every night. A tall, shadowy figure standing outside my window. I can’t even imagine the horrible things he’ll do to me when he gets me. I don’t want to. I lay in bed trying not to move or breathe too loud. Hoping he won’t see me. I try to work up the courage to jump out of bed and run to my parents room. Some nights I make it and my parents get mad at me and call me a baby. Some nights I just lay there and pray my prayer until I eventually fall asleep.
Years pass. I become an adult before Slavemaster can get me. I say things like “there is no god,” and “Christianity was invented to control the population of the Roman empire.” And I believe them. Until I see a pile of clothes.