Listening to Max Bien Kahn's music is like partying to someone's diary. Bien Kahn brings depth, humor, and honesty to personal songwriting, which he sets to arrangements that get in your body and make you want to move. Blending elements of swamp pop, 60s rock, folk, and modern indie rock - - with influences ranging from The Kinks to The Silver Jews -- Bien Kahn adds his own personality and a dancefloor vibe to a long legacy of classic sounds. His third album, When I Cross it Off is out July 07, 2023 on Mashed Potato Records and Perpetual Doom.
When I Cross it Off is an album about big things and little things - - grief, heartbreak, new love, sex, making coffee, walking dogs, and getting through your day, one task at a time. Bien Kahn approaches universal themes like processing loss and falling in love with a sense of levity that reveals an underlying wisdom: in the wake of grief, ultimately it's the embracing of the little, everyday pleasures that brings happiness back into your life. As such, this album was made more so for dancing than quiet contemplation - - with shakers, tambourines, and bongos featuring heavily alongside lap steel, organ, vocal harmonies, and the occasional horn section. Enlisting frequent collaborator Duff Thompson to co-produce alongside him, Bien Kahn employed minimal gear to create a live sound peppered with experimental tones, designed to bring some levity and rhythm into the listener's life, too.
Bien Kahn was raised in San Francisco and for over a decade has been based in New Orleans, where he started out playing traditional jazz and classic country on the street as a guitarist and upright bass player. He has been a member of Tuba Skinny since 2012, and started his own songwriting project in 2015 under the name Max and the Martians. He has since been a staple of New Orleans' downtown country/folk-songwriter scene, known for regularly playing shows that get people out on the dancefloor. Bien Kahn has put out seven releases to date, LPs Max & the Martians (2016) and All the Same (2021, Perpetual Doom), EPs Curtains (2019), On the Floor (Perpetual Doom, 2021), and Dauphine Street Sessions (Perpetual Doom, 2021), 7" Please Hold On/Love on Vacation (Mashed Potato Records, 2019), and 2020's Stay at Home demos. He is as multi-faceted a musician as he is prolific a songwriter, collaborating as a supporting musician with numerous other artists over the years including Duff Thompson, Steph Green, and Esther Rose.
photo by Noe Cugny
"If you are in search of a little bit of an introspective singer-songwriter, with just a hint of humor and self-deprecation, then try on New Orleans artist Max Bien Kahn. You can easily here where Kahn might slide into bed next to Silver Jews or the like, but there’s a touch more twang in the songwriting."
Austin Town Hall
The Offbeat review of "Please Hold On"
"It’s gloriously, beautifully sad in a way not usually found outside Brian Wilson’s sandbox or Gram Parsons’ desert hell."
Post to Wire review of "Please Hold On"
"I love the laziness of this song. The way it gently unfurls and spreads itself across the speakers. It has that jangly 90s slacker aesthetic, wrapped up in a late afternoon, sunburnt afternoon kind of country vibe."