This is not what fans of The Wrens had planned, but some of the music written for the group’s long-awaited album is finally seeing light — albeit as part of a new solo record from the band’s bassist/vocalist Kevin Whelan.
According to a new profile published in The New York Times, Whelan is taking five song he originally wrote for The Wrens’ follow-up to The Meadowlands, and releasing them alongside five new ones as a solo album called Observatory under the name Aeon Station.
The Wrens had promised to release a new album, the follow-up to 2003’s The Meadowlands, as far back as 2006. In 2013, they signed a deal with Sub Pop Records and submitted the album, with plans to release it the following years. But vocalist/guitarist Charles Bissell ultimately decided the songs were not finished and went back to work. Finally in 2019, Bissell declared the album was fit for release, but said the band first needed to work out some “internal band stuff.” Per the Times, Bissell wanted a new business arrangement that reflected the work he put into the music in addition to the band’s website he built and social media he managed.
Whelan eventually got tired of waiting and decided to make a solo album. The end result is titled Observatory and will be released on December 10th through Sub Pop. Whelan’s brother and Wrens bandmate, Greg, appears on the album, as does the band’s drummer, Jerry MacDonald. Bissell does not.
According to the Times, Whelan has not spoken to Bissell since informing him of his plans to release a solo album containing Wrens material. In a separate interview with the publication, Bissell said he’s working under the assumption that The Wrens have broken up, and is now planning his own solo album containing his own Wrens material.
As such, as the Times notes, we could finally get a new Wrens album, albeit delivered in two separate parts.
Update: Stream the first single from Aeon Station’s Observatory, “Queens.”