Cult soul singer Swamp Dogg recruited Bon Iver‘s Justin Vernon for the ghostly “I’ll Pretend,” the first preview of the singer’s upcoming LP Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune, out September 7th via Joyful Noise Recordings.
The track merges Swamp Dogg and Vernon’s voices into one eerie vocoder mass, as they croon heartbroken lyrics over a shifting landscape of billowing synth and distant, bluesy electric guitar riffs. “I pretend when we visit our old friends that you’re sitting there by my side,” they sing. “And when our old friends ask how I’m doing, I’ll pretend I’m not losing my mind.”
In the song’s minimalist video, a dazed Swamp Dogg drifts like a phantom through numerous lonely scenes – from hanging out on his pool’s diving board to eating a plate of fruit at a restaurant to sitting alone at a party as friends celebrate around him.
Swamp Dogg began his career in the 1960s as a traditional soul singer and producer, working under his real name, Jerry Williams Jr. But he rebranded – and reinvented – himself in 1970, adopting the new moniker for his experimental, genre-defying debut LP, Total Destruction to Your Mind.
For Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune, which follows 2014’s The White Man Made Me Do It, Swamp Dogg worked with both Vernon and producer Ryan Olson of synth-pop act Poliça. After struggling to master the Auto-Tune software himself, he recruited the Bon Iver mastermind to rework the digital effects and sent the tracks to Olson in another remote collaboration.
“The first thing I thought was this white boy must be crazier than a motherfucker,” Swamp Dogg said in a statement, describing Olson’s heavy use of synths and drum machines on the final product. “But I listened to how deep he’d go experimenting with the music and I liked what he was doing … I was knocked out by what I heard. I couldn’t believe it was me. It’s some of the greatest and outrageous music I’ve ever heard come out of the Swamp Dogg.”
In a statement, the soul renegade described the album as a collection of songs “about being lonely,” calling “I’ll Pretend” a character portrait of “a guy sitting in a restaurant by himself losing his fucking mind because he’s hoping his woman is gonna walk by, but she’s at a Ramada Inn somewhere fucking somebody else to death.”
Swamp Dogg – Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune Track List
1. “Answer Me, My Love”
3. “I’ll Pretend”
4. “I’m Coming With Lovin’ On My Mind”
5. “$$$ Huntin'”
6. “I Love Me More”
7. “Sex With Your Ex”
8. “She’s All Mind All Mind”
9. “Star Dust”