left off the tracks.

Obsession of the Week: Alvvays s/t

alvvays-alvvaysNothing feels better than listening to a record that feels like a perfect discourse  between the present and past.  Alvvays’ self-titled release on Polyvinyl is this sort of record that instantly feels like a familiar friend returning to say hi.  Molly Rankin’s vocals spin a sweet and dreamy quality over tracks that recount feelings of heartache, frustration, uncertainty, and confrontation. Sometimes we tell stories to either understand or dispel our thoughts, Alvvays’ song fill like a little of both — relishing in the general satisfaction of shared tragedies (of the daily variety, though no less agonizing at times).  For those looking to get a sonic equivalent, the Toronto quintet evokes the sort of lo-fi quirky pop quality of the short-lived, though much beloved Heavenly or the northwest’s Velocity Girl mixed with the dream-pop composition of Veronica Falls or Dear Nora.

Listen here:  Alvvays – Alvvays

If you live in Chicago, they are playing at Beat Kitchen later tonight. It should be a lovely evening.

a.a.

PitchforkFest 2014: A Primer (Un-Abridged)

A tradition unlike any other… the Pitchfork Music Festival (Chicago) Primer

Pitchfork-Festival

It has been awhile since my last musical missive. Why? Did I stop listening? Turn away from the sound?  Find my way into some ostensibly more mature passion, like wine or crotchet? No. Nothing of the sort. If anything, 2014 has been the year most filled with juvenilia and regression to adolescence than ever before. Perhaps attending too many rock shows (62 to date) combined with needing to maintain some semblance of a sensible work/life balance and sleep has cut into my writing.  Scratch that… it most definitely has. The nerdy music obsessive gene has not left the body; it’s just strolling around the venues rather than on the interwebs. Hopefully this will mark a return to form. But, let’s cut to the core.

Pitchfork Music Festival begins today (tomorrow as of this writing but when you read…) and the lineup is filled with an exciting array of acts from legends of my youth (e.g., Beck and Neutral Milk Hotel) to the next generation of musical visionaries (e.g., St. Vincent and Tune-Yards). Pitchfork’s annual festival has always been one of my summer highlights. In three music-and-sun-drenched days, you can legitimately see almost every performer on a bill that spans a wide range of upcoming musicians and heroes of yesteryear from almost every genre (indie to hip hop to electronic to experimental/indie electronic/[fill-in-the-genre) and there will always be at least a couple of killer dance party worthy moments (e.g., LCD, Robyn, Major Lazer, Cut Copy, B&S, MIA, to name a few…). Okay enough with the extended-LP intro… here is what I’m excited about by day, hour, and (stage). (For a condensed/abridged version of this go here.) (For the full lineup go here.)

But, while you read listen to this playlist as prep: PitchforkFest 2014 (Playlist)

Friday, July 18th

3:30 – Hundred Water (Red) (Indie-Experimental Electronic)

I saw HW open for Julia Holter a couple of years back at Schubas and they blew me away.  And, their newest record. The Moon Rang Like a Bell, is easily one of my ten favorite records of 2014. It is a sensual embrace of angelic vocals and lush electronic compositions. This should be a moment of afternoon beauty.

4:15 – Factory Floor (Blue) (Electronic-Downtempo)

After one listen, I was totally entranced.

5:30 – Sharon Van Etten (Red) (Indie)

Sharon Van Etten’s music will to the attentive ear cut you to the quick. She speaks the emotional truths and questions we all contemplate in our search for understanding and meaningfulness. Her voice has the haunting beauty that will lull you to a euphoric reverie. And, she’s got an amazingly endearing stage presence. Don’t Miss!

6:25 – Sun Kil Moon (Green) (Lo-Fi Folk-Rock)

…aka Mark Kozelek. His music I’ll admit is an acquired taste. It is a mix of storytelling and/or speak singing monologues over Lo-Fi folk-rock (think Neil Young but more poignant). SKM tell darkly comedic and disarmingly heartfelt stories from Mark’s personal life and observations of the world.

8:30 – Beck (Green) (Genre-Potpourri)

El Perdidor!  To be honest, I want to hear Beck play Morning Phase, his new record, from start to finish.  It is just that amazing and gorgeous of a record.  But, he won’t do that because many folks will want to hear the songs from Odelay and Midnight Vultures, admittedly not my favorite albums, and he should because life-long fans deserve that.  Regardless of what he plays, he is such a brilliantly talented musician and I’ll just sit or perhaps lay and revel in awe at the quirky and odd mix of mellow and psych folk mixed with soul and disco that he has cobbled together over the years.

Also worth checking out: Haxan Cloak @ 5:14 (Blue) – Meditative and introspective downtempo; Giorgio Moroder @ 7:20 (Red) – the 70s Dance/Disco avant-garde composer that inspired the Daft Punk song of same name  (and arguably a lot of what they did/do).

Saturday, July 19th

2:50 – Empress Of (Blue) (Electronic/Dance)

I saw her at the Moog Showcase at SXSW and was pleasantly surprised. She combines a Grimes experimental groove vibe with an M.I.A. like presence.

3:20 – Cloud Nothings (Red) (Punk/Indie Rock)

Get ready for some fist pumping and adrenaline churning punk infused indie rock! If there is any band that has found the way to channel and replicate the unique sub/urban-ennui punk and indie-rock/pop sensibilities of the Replacements, Cloud Nothings is my pick. There are angsty dirges, anthemic epiphanies, and heart-on-sleeve proclamations throughout, which is basically what growing up feels like.

4:45 – The Range (Blue) (Electronic/Dance)

The Range’s Nonfiction was one of the most exciting revelations of 2013. His music is a throwback to the early days of electronic dance music that is filled with rich, intricately layered grooves and samples.  Another performer I saw at SXSW, who totally captivated me.  Plus, post set, we chatted and he is a really smart and genuine dude.  Check him out!

5:15 – Tune-Yards (Red) (Dance/Indie-Folk)

Dance party alert!!! Merrill Garbus writes with a keen, critical, and comical vibrancy. Her music exudes life and energy and will infect even the dourest of listener.  While you groove to the beats listen to her keen wit.

6:15 – Danny Brown (Green) (Rap/Hip-Hop)

The mirthful and quirky maestro of Detroit descends on the Chi. XXX was the first rap record in years that completely captivated me. His rhymes float and flutter with a lyrical ease and his beat will keep you grinding.

7:25 – St. Vincent (Red) (Baroque Indie)

There are talented artists and their next level visionaries. Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) is the latter. Perhaps her art and commentary fly over the heads of many (see post SNL internet comments), but her self-titled 2014 album is on another level of genius (which is not to say her previous records weren’t great, which they were, see Strange Mercy).  But does her “art-rock” translate?  Hell, yeah.  I saw her perform earlier this year and it was a truly brilliant orchestrated piece of stage craft that blended authentic and carefully styled thematic tableaux.  In St. Vincent you will trust.

(beat)

8:30 – Neutral Milk Hotel (Green) (Psych-Folk-Indie)

For a generation of kids, NMH was “the band that got away”. We heard them as they were hitting their stride and then they disappeared.  It was young geek love lost. In the Aeroplane Over Sea is a masterpiece of dream-like hallucinatory imagery and heart-wrenching emotional brutalism. Jeff Mangum is a mystical poet and his return is a delight to all us geeks and weirdos that believe life is filled with every day magic.

(bed)

Also worth checking out: The Field @ 615 (Blue) (Chill-Downtempo-Electronic)

Sunday, July 20th (aka marathon day)

1:00 – Mutual Benefit (Green) (Folk) or Speedy Ortiz (Blue) (Indie-Punk)

Ahh… such a struggle!  I’m going to see MB because they sport a multi-member band of exceptional musicians with angelic vocals that play mesmerizing melodies. Prepare to be seduced by sirens…  But if you want to start your day with an adrenaline kick, Speedy Ortiz are just the musical hair-of-the-dog your mind/body ordered.

1:45 – DIIV (Red) (Indie-Shoegazer)

DIIV (pronounced “Dive”) blend the melodic Brit-Pop of the Stone Roses with the sprawling expansive Shoegazer rock of Slowdive (see below).  Although on record they sound precise and composed, their live set is dynamic.

1:55 – Perfect Pussy (Punk/Hardcore)

I saw maybe three minutes of these guys at SXSW and found that aural amuse-bouche electrifying. They are loud, brash, aggressive, and captivating.  Yes please!  Don’t get there late or you’ll miss their set.

3:45 – Dum Dum Girls (Blue) (Dream Pop)

These ladies spin dark-black seductive dreams with hints of new wave, 60s girl group pop, and Smiths-like ecstatic dreariness. For those with a penchant for (David)Lynch-esque moments of devilish anachronism, check out the Dum Dums and their spellbinding sounds. I will swoon if they play “Trouble Is My Name.”  Is it your name too?

4:45 – Jon Hopkins (Blue) (Dance-Electronic)

JH is a phenomenal electronic composer that produces pieces that go from folk-tinged meditations to floor thumping bangers.

5:15 – Real Estate (Red) (Jangle Pop)

Their sound is evocative of a West Coast surfer/slacker rock with the pleasant and mirth inducing whirl-in-the-grass jangle pop perfect for a summer festival.

6:15 – Slowdive (Green) (Ur-Shoegazer)

Yes!!! The band that to me epitomizes Shoegazer…. extended jams of ethereal and distortion-laced soundscapes. Sit back and take in the sprawling “wall of sound” that Slowdive weave… The Return of the Shoegazer Kings! Reclaiming the sound that has bred so many disciples.

7:25 – Grimes (Red) (Experimental Electronic)

Another… Dance Party Alert. Finally!!! I’ve been dying to see Claire Boucher for way too long and keep missing her when she passes through Chicago. Her blend of experimental upbeat electronic jams and performance art –like compositions get the body grooving and the mind wandering. #theperfectblend

8:30 – Kendrick Lamar (Green) (Rap/Hip-Hop)

The good kid brings his backseat freestyle to the W.I.N.D.Y. city.  Start up that Maserati…   End of the fest/night smooth beat and grooves to relish and remember three days of musical brilliance. #dontkillmyvibe

Also worth checking out: Earl Sweathshirt at 3:20 at Red Stage or Schoolboy Q at 4:15 at Green Stage or Majical Cloudz @5:45 at Blue Stage.

…can’t believe how strange it is to be anything at all. – Jeff Mangum

Over and out,

a.a.

p.s. Aftershows?  Seriously?  Okay…

  • Friday Bottom Lounge – Deafhaven, Perfect Pussy, Pink Frost;
  • Saturday Bottom Lounge – Dum Dum Girls, Ex Hex, and Speedy Ortiz
  • Sunday Lincoln Hall – Majical Cloudz and Hundred Waters
  • If you can get in… DIIV at Empty Bottle Friday (currently sold out) or Cloud Nothings at Schubas, Friday (also sold out).

PitchforkFest 2014: A Primer (Abridged)

…for those with a short attention span or who prefer not to read extensive ruminations, an abridged version of the bands/performers to catch at Pitchfork 2014. (Or, if you need to find me this is where I’ll be…)

And a playlist: PitchforkFest 2014

Pitchfork-Festival

Friday, July 18th

3:30 – Hundred Water (Red) (Indie-Experimental Electronic)

4:15 – Factory Floor (Blue) (Electronic-Downtempo)

5:30 – Sharon Van Etten (Red) (Indie)

6:25 – Sun Kil Moon (Green) (Lo-Fi Folk-Rock)

8:30 – Beck (Green) (Genre-Potpourri)

Also worth checking out: Haxan Cloak @ 5:14 (Blue) – Meditative and introspective downtempo; Giorgio Moroder @ 7:20 (Red) – the 70s Dance/Disco avant-garde composer that inspired the Daft Punk of same name.

Saturday, July 19th

2:50 – Empress Of (Blue) (Electronic/Dance)

3:20 – Cloud Nothings (Red) (Punk/Indie Rock)

4:45 – The Range (Blue) (Electronic/Dance)

5:15 – Tune-Yards (Red) (Dance/Indie-Folk)

6:15 – Danny Brown (Green) (Rap/Hip-Hop)

7:25 – St. Vincent (Red) (Baroque Indie)

8:30 – Neutral Milk Hotel (Green) (Psych-Folk-Indie)

Also worth checking out: The Field @ 6:15 (Blue) (Chill-Downtempo-Electronic)

Sunday, July 20th (aka marathon day)

1:00 – Mutual Benefit (Green) (Folk) or Speedy Ortiz (Blue) (Indie-Punk)

1:45 – DIIV (Red) (Indie-Shoegazer)

1:55 – Perfect Pussy (Punk/Hardcore)

3:45 – Dum Dum Girls (Blue) (Dream Pop)

4:45 – Jon Hopkins (Blue) (Dance-Electronic)

5:15 – Real Estate (Red) (Jangle Pop)

6:15 – Slowdive (Green) (Ur-Shoegazer)

7:25 – Grimes (Red) (Experimental Electronic)

8:30 – Kendrick Lamar (Green) (Rap/Hip-Hop)

Also worth checking out: Earl Sweathshirt at 3:20 at Red Stage or Schoolboy Q at 4:15 at Green Stage.

…can’t believe how strange it is to be anything at all. – Jeff Mangum

Over and out,

a.a.

2014 in Quarter Time (a playlist) + Obsession(s) of the Week – Heart-On-Sleeve Rock

One more post before I go… to Austin.

This week’s listening has waxed nostalgic (see below), but, before showing my age, here is a playlist of tracks from the first quarter of 2014  (ok, not quite there yet but i make the rules here)  that have totally captured my heart, mind, and ears. There are multiple tracks from certain artists because, well, they’ve released amazing tracks and records. Pass the playlist along and/or dig through the full albums (there are some true gems).

2014 in Quarter Time – A Winter ’14 Mix

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The past week has been a heavy dose of digging back through old projects by new favorites like P.S. Eliot’s Introverted Romance in Our Troubled Minds (prior project of Katie Crutchfield (of Waxahatchee) and Allison Crutchfield (of Swearin‘) note, both currently touring!) and Tancred’s s/t record (side project of Jess Abbott of Now, Now) and falling in love all over again with emo-tinged releases like The Hotelier’s Home, Like Noplace Is There.  

tancred

All three records harken back to the mid to late 90s, which brings this boy extreme amounts of joy, and feature a mix of biting, pensive, sincere, and passionate lyrics — which is refreshing in a landscape of often banal and trite sentiments. All of the records have elements of lo-fi, stripped down production and a punk and indie-pop sensibility. P.S. Eliot, aside from having one of the best band names ever (says the bibliophile and English Lit major, full disclosure), plays an aggressively infectious style of pop punk that is sinfully sweet and painfully bitter. Tancred’s self titled album has the feel of unabashed confessional that recalls those feelings of longing and isolation we all feel and felt throughout growing up.

the hotelier

And, The Hotelier, well, this is just pure pensive adrenaline rock — fist pumping, conscience stirring, and gut wrenching (think Piebald meets Taking Back Sunday).  What more do you want?

a.a.

p.s. if you can’t access Spotify from the links above, each band has a bandcamp page too, simply use your favorite search engine or that newfangled google.

Weekly Obsessions: on the edge of (spring’s?) awakening

The rising temperatures (multiple days in the 20s and 30s!!!*) and the realization that next week I will be in Austin running around listening to many bands (in shorts no less) brought a decided cheer to my weekly listening. Or, at least, maybe the decidedly melancholic inclination of my recent listening has started to wane… Not really, though, the real difference is in the ostensible emotional quality of the sound — a lot more high tones and power chords.  But, a clever songwriter ensconces deep, dark truthful tidbits in the most upbeat sounding compositions; The Smiths and Belle & Sebastian were always deft at this art. The challenge for the listener is as always to listen carefully….

* a relative heatwave when compared with the 0s and negative temperatures

lovesitLoves It! – All We Are – A duo from Austin, Texas, that create gorgeous classic country songs tinged with elements of bluegrass and folk.  The dueling and intertwining vocals wooed me instantly.  They are melodic, yet soulfully idiosyncratic at the same time; emotions and meaning seeping out with each note.  Their music will strike the ear as familiar at times serenading you to a peaceful reverie and at times leading to foot stomping enthusiasm.  Whatever your inclination these two musicians will likely as their name suggest win your heart and please share the it.

Get their music here: http://lovesit.bandcamp.com/

asafAsaf Avidan – Different Pulses – From Austin to Jerusalem, a logical transition… A discovery courtesy of the finely curated taste of NPR’s Bob and Robin, Asaf Avidan makes bone-chilling electronic soul music. His music reminds me of the pre-Play work Moby did in the 90s, epic soundscapes with old school R&B or soul saturated vocalists spliced into the mix, which was really a trend borrowed from the early days of dance, house, and trip-hop music. The vocals lie somewhere between a falsetto-like Nina Simone and Macy Gray or the earthen grit of Skylar Grey.  It will totally arrest you.

More info: http://www.asafavidanmusic.com/

the brinkThe Jezabels – The Brink – From the moment I saw Hayley Mary belt “Disco Biscuit Love” at Schuba’s a couple of years back, I fell unabashedly in love with these Aussies. They make baroque, lush pop-rock music for the kids (like me) that believe music should literally move you. And to see them perform live is to remember why pop and rock music captured the hearts of many – it is an immediate and emotional connection with people (many strangers) in a shared space. There is the truth (for many of us) that the rock shows and the dance floor is the one place where the world seems to make sense and inspire hope and belief. The Jezabels music though not superficial in content (see “Disco Biscuit Love” and “Electric Lover”) inspires the euphoric and cathartic bliss of a great pop music. The Brink, their latest offering, is a continuation of their thoughtful brand of energetic pop and the perfect antidote to the darker days and feelings. Note: Chicago folks they will be playing Chicago in April. Their live shows are not to be missed, if only for the sole purpose of watching me dance with complete abandon.  

More on the Jezabels at: http://thejezabels.com/. Also if you haven’t go back to their early EPs start here: The Jezabels – The Man Is Dead

Tycho-Awake-200x200Tycho – Awake Oh man, oh man, have I been waiting with baited breath for this record. If you could bottle chill and groovy into one container, Scott Hansen has discovered the formula. Dive his last record plays with continuing frequency on my stereo, quickly become an addition to the rotation of classic electronic downtempo albums such as Four Tet’s Pause and Rounds, Aphex Twin’s  Richard D. James Album and I Care Because You Do, or Boards of Canada’s Music Has a Right to Children. The latest offering from Tycho is more sprawling and layered upbeat electronic beats perfect as backdrop, soundscape or texture for relaxing… however you may choose to do this. Enjoy.

More on Tycho: http://tychomusic.com/awake/#new-album

…and if the week is really getting you down and you need a pick me up, here an upbeat (perhaps dance?) mix that I use to get me going: Upbeat IndieDancePop Mix.

happy weekend,

a.a.

electroGroove… Holly Herndon’s “Chorus”

…today I find myself repeatedly looping and returning to this intertwining lush series of electronic loops and juxtapositions by Holly Herndon.  It has that dual yet rare quality of inspiring a blissed-out attentive hypnosis (oxymoron?) and pulsating danceable rhythms.  both engrossing and calm inducing, i can’t help but returning to and disappearing into its all-encompassing groove. for those that love the intersection between minimalist music, experimental electronica, and dance beats, this is for you… think Glass & Reich meets Grimes. perhaps you’ll fade into it too…

for more info about and music by Holly go to: http://www.hollyherndon.com/projects/chorus.html

a.a.

Weekly Obsessions: Something Old. Something New. Something Borrowed. Something Blue.

…because I have realized that my writing or chronicling cannot keep pace with all the things that I routinely find myself obsessing about I figured I would try my hand at doing a weekly roundup of things that are musically tickling my fancy. Perhaps this will help me clear out the personal backlog of discoveries and oddities I wish to share.

jepettosSomething New → The Jeppettos Troubles  – How I wandered into the rabbit hole that led me to the discovery of this gorgeous collection of songs by these Irish collective is unclear but what a serendipitous discovery! It was love at first vocal.

beckSomething Blue → “Blue Moon” from Morning Phase by Beck. Like many of my peers who were born in the 70s and raised in the 80s, I was a child of the MTV generation and was first introduced to Beck via the tongue-in-check slacker anthem “Loser” that debuted as “Buzz Cut” almost twenty years ago. Though still not well-versed in literary or musical history, I recognzied and relished in the Dadaesque nature of his prose and the genre-defying quality of his bizarre lo-fi, urban, funky, folk. It was strange yet earnest. He was the Beastie Boys of Indie-Folk. Over the years, I never felt the same connection with Beck’s music as i did to Mellow Gold until Sea Changes, another sincere yet far less stylistically challenging collection of songs about loss and transformation. The album mirrored my own transitions: leaving college, working in a foreign country, and getting through a challenging end of a relationship. It felt like a fitting soundtrack to my days of alternating discovery and melancholia. The first single off Beck’s newest album in some time, Morning Phase, “Blue Moon” returns to the intimacy and introspection of Sea Changes yet with a more expanded, melodic and epic sonic backdrops.  Where Sea Changes was about the day-to-day transformations, Morning Phase feels an existential reawakening.  (And, no there isn’t any dogma attached, at least not that i can discern.) It recalls a similar lunar-titled record and style by the late, great folk wunderkind Nick Drake and sweet 70s grooves. It is truly worth sinking into.

marijuana-deathsquads_oct2013-300x300Something Borrowed → Marijuana Deathsquads – Oh My Sexy Lord – Last week a friend dropped Rage Against the Machine on the turntable I found myself longing for their vocally piercing and politically incendiary sounds. Perhaps the universe sensing my need to fill the void drew my eyes to the fact that Marijuana Deathsquads was playing a show in Chicago in March. I’d heard “Ewok Sadness” back in the fall and was totally taken by their bizarre sound. Listening more intently and closely to Oh My Sweet Lord, I find myself relishing their unique fusion of artsy-metal and rock with smooth, EDM-like electronic layers. It fulfills the Rage longing along with recalling Mars Volta but this piece de resistance is the melding of atmospheric electronica provided by members of Polica and Bon Iver (see “Sunglasses and Bail Money”) and floor thumping dance beats reminiscent of araabUZIK (see “Dissolve”). It is a sonic blender of competing and seemingly contrary styles that meld into a trippy distraction.

faithless streetSomething Old → Whiskeytown. Speaking of sinking or drowning really, I found myself stumbling down Faithless Street after a passing conversation with a touring musician about working with Ryan Adams. After asking him whether he’d heard Adams’ Whiskeytown records, I went on the typical sycophant’s elegy of the crazy tortured genius of Whiskeytown (and Uncle Tupelo). My relapse into Adams’ early days was fueled by another new discovery (to follow in a separate past), but it made me realize that if folks have heard or listened to these albums… well they should.  These guys bring a smile to my face every time.  Whiskeytown from start to finish…

…if you end up on a musical alt-country bender, i’ll take full responsibility for the inspiration not the consequences or casualties.

Concert Update →fter a banner 2013 of live music, 83 shows and over 140 bands, I find myself ahead of last year’s scorching pace. So, any accusations that I’m the Brady Anderson of concert going can easily be dispelled. And, feel free to check my hat size, still a 7 1/8. Fifteen shows to date and double booking this weekend (Cloud Cult and Into It Over It) with highlights including the Flat Five at The Hideout (with the sensational Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor), stellar sets by friends Now Everybody and Sons of the West, and a reunited Neutral Milk Hotel bringing In the Aeroplane Over the Sea to life. Check out the upcoming concerts above.

Oh and who wants to join the Classixx dance party next week at Double Door?

hasta marzo,

a.a.

Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Angel Olsen’s music haunts me. But, it is a pleasantly intoxicating possession. Whether recorded or live*, her voice is filled with legions of stories and emotions, a missive from another time and land untrodden but all too familiar. Somewhere between a rustic America(na) long left abandoned in our dominant urban culture and a seductive siren’s call, Olsen weaves a spell of nostalgia and longing for a purer, simpler sound and world.

* Seeing Angel perform last year at The Hideout was totally spellbinding; if she visits your town run don’t walk to the box office (tour dates here).

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Working in the realm between Folk, Americana, and mid-Century Country, Olsen’s music is not easily classified by “genre” but by the deliberate and disarming languid and contemplative nature of her compositions punctuated by her (aforementioned) vocals that flow between arresting, entrancing, ethereal, and, even, ghostly. Olsen’s full length debut, Half Way Home was a jaw dropping and hauntingly beautiful dream of an album — one that finds itself on my speakers with regularity. On the followup, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, Olsen continues to explore the landscape of atmospheric Americana/Folk while revving up the pace and pushing towards a more uptempo, almost rock sound. Like its predecessor, Burn Your Fire is undeniably intimate and honest, yet there is careful craftsmanship throughout evidenced by the juxtaposition of musically disparate styles or the constant manipulation* of Olsen’s vocals in the mix (in terms of foregrounding, reverb, etc, not “doctoring”; it’s all real). However it is also fabulously ragged, raw, and raucous. The album is a vibrant and dynamic being. Where many records are meticulously crafted to a musician’s exacting standards creating an almost museum-like refinement, Burn Your Fire… allows the listener into its world to wonder, relate, and melt into. It is pensive, angry, and riotous, kicking and screaming with life and inviting the listener to add the smoldering flames of their experience to its emotional bonfire.

For the past week, Burn Your Fire has been playing incessantly on my headphones and in my head, it has provided solace and inspired contemplation. Like the sailor’s seduced at sea, it has mesmerized and enrapt my psyche by its enchanting allure. No doubt, I have just begun to unravel the countless mysteries and layers contained within.

Listen here: Burn Your Fire For No Witness

A definite run to your local record store pick up or direct from the artist here.

marginalia/for what it’s worth

“White Fire” is gorgeous, smoldering track (listen below)

But “Lights Out” and “Windows” feel like the record’s stand-out, show stopping numbers for this listener that I cannot wait to see live.

For me, there is a decidedly 60s psychedelic rock undercurrent to this record – a sort of early era Grace Slick on Jefferson Airplane.

good listening,

a.a.

love by any other name, please… a v-day playlist

from my stereo to your ears...

from my stereo to your ears…

Whether you want to avoid it or not, the accouterments and decorations of St. Valentine’s Day will likely catch or irritate your vision today.  (Unless you live in a monastery or seclusion, please send an invitation.)  Whatever your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings on (or invective against) the holiday (or its lack of substance), we can all recognize that love and heartache are prime musical themes, subjects, and inspiration.

For those who want to ruminate on the idea and concept of love in all its forms (e.g., idealized, inspiring, tragic, all-consuming, emotionally eviscerating… okay you get the picture) here is a playlist for you:  

Fallin’ in and out of… a v-day playlist*.  

I will acknowledge there are dark and angry songs because I firmly believe that the bitter and unpleasant side of love is just as important and sometimes more instructive and illuminating than the in-the-moment bliss (nothing against this concept).  So, yes, this list has some spiteful and venom-tongued lovers along with smitten and star struck lovers and dreamers… but they are all equally lovely to me.

Playback thoughts… feel free to play from beginning to end, there has been some thought on the order of songs but random listening works as well… and always feel free to share!

good vibes of all kinds your way (b/c the world can always use more),

a.a.

* yes the playlist title is different than the post title.  purposeful not oversight.

the effects of love songs...

the effect of love songs…

Inspiration and Aspiration: The Front Bottoms and Mutual Benefit

No matter how much I try, there are always holes in my musical year-end capsules.  Some are oversights (lost strains in the brain) while others simply go unnoticed.  The two albums discussed below fall into the former and latter bucket.  The first a record I seriously high-school crushed on for a week, only to be forgotten when summer and the falls sounds came to town.  Yet, like a trustworthy friend, it stuck around to provide me with the necessary pick-me-up and energy to power through a bleakish winter (both from a meteorological and personal perspective). The latter was a casualty of my own end-of-year musical sequestration. It was the cute newcomer in the corner with quirky eyewear, a clever attire, and a meek yet smoldering stare. Both albums also share a thematic similarity, two perspectives on dealing with emotional adversity in the course of maturing, or as some might called it “growing up” – an odd phrase really because one rarely “grows down” (except in old age when bones shrink) but really grows horizontally for what seems like an unending asymptotic period until that aforementioned elder regression.  While similar in inspiration, the musical landscape couldn’t be more disparate: lo-fi punk-inspired rock versus atmospheric, lush baroque orchestrations (which might be labeled indie-folk for lack of a better descriptor).

front bottomsThe Front Bottoms – Talon of the Hawk

From the opening track, “Au Revoir”, even the not uber-attentive listener can readily discern a seething anger pulsing through the lyrics on this record. But, it isn’t unjustified and illogical animosity or youthful ennui (a sentiment I’m all too familiar with). Rather, the underlying and recurring sentiment that filters into my ears is that of a writer that expects more from others, life, and the world. It is the romantic and idealist’s angst: “I wanna contribute to the chaos, I don’t want to watch and then complain, I am through with finding blame that is a decision that I have made.” I find these types of unabashed hopefully aggressive lines refreshing in a world that often seems more willing to critique, complain, and bemoan all the adversities, real and petty. Broken hearts and promises, mistakes and accidents, mental and emotional breakdowns run rampant through these tracks and despite the recurring slings and arrows, the narrator never retreats and continues to persevere. In fact, there is a youthful appreciation for letting go and appreciating the experiences of the “now”. Even as Brian reflects on missed opportunities, “I could have been a contender”, he responds with an unrelenting, guttural life-affirming mantra: “No I will not surrender!”  Thank you Brian for reminding me/us that it’s only darkest when we stop searching for the light and that it’s cool to have lofty expectations of ourselves and the world around us.

mutual benefit love's crushing diamondMutual Benefit – Love’s Crushing Diamond

…then you turn to Mutual Benefit. On the surface, Love’s Crushing Diamond is a multi-textured aural blanket of light, love, and joy. But behind the mirth, whimsy, and reverie, there is the ever present sense of loss, uncertainty, and the overwhelming existential quandary of the unknown and unknowable (or at least it reads this way to me). Without necessarily sounding of an era or genre, the record feel s like a long lost field recording from yesteryear, the soundtrack of memory, wondering (quizzically and awestricken), and wandering (mentally and physically). If you put a camera and recorded the remembrance of things past in my mind, this would be the score I think you would find. With each passing note, a visage of a long lost lover, recollections of a day long conversation overstuffed coffee date, images of multicolored leaves falling through the air, snippets of early morning snow-covered plains endlessly stretching to the horizon, the feel of sunlight creeping over fog covered and dew laden mountains with the invigorating scent and steam of coffee pouring over and into your soul.  Yes… a sonic madeleine and another pleasant reminder of the passing moments of brilliance in our lives and the need to appreciate them as they happen… (not simply documenting them with photos and tweets).

Au Revoir… Adios… Rock N Roll!

a.a.

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