With Draw

In the past few months, I have had the chance to see music from Australia, France, and Canada, in addition to the Texas, New York, and LA-based acts that typically come through. That’s been nice.

Gojira were very polite, which stood in contrast to their precise and pulverizing metal. Their French accents were cute. I don’t know if Courtney Barnett spoke or sang or mumbled or what, but whatever it was I couldn’t understand it but totally loved it (as always). Crystal Castles were Canadian, and I also saw Phantogram. Both were about as antiseptic as expected.

Along with Barnett, the Sound on Sound Fest one-day pass also provided close access to a rock legend (Bob Mould) and a local legend (Explosions in the Sky). The latter was the clear highlight of the fall for live music. These guys’ near-telepathic chemistry and their mastery of dynamics was put over the top by the coolest light show I have ever seen (thanks, weather).

Personally, it has been a crushing few months, but discovering new music and seeing old favorites is a helpful tonic. Listen to some of what I have been listening to, if you d/care.

Open Playlist (Google Play)

Hammock – Everything and Nothing

 

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I stumbled upon the meaning of adult life 9 years ago.

Not that I actually figured out much about what it all means. But my daughter, the one who’s unloading the dishwasher while I write this, was born and I was struck with the sudden epiphany of accountability.

hammock-600-4No excuses.

Lots of regrets.

Relentless pacing and emotional inventory.

Fierce belonging.

Explosive kindness.

Surprising mercy.

Hammock has spent the last 11 years soundtracking those kind of moments for thousands of completely unrelated stories from completely divergent individuals. J Edward Keyes writes “one of the most remarkable things about the Nashville duo Hammock has been their ability to almost uncannily translate the pulse and fiber of human emotion into actual chords and melodies.”

I couldn’t ever hope to improve on that sentence. http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=4067613091/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

I don’t want to go into the details… The music tells the story. Throughout our body of work, we’ve lived with ghosts, not disembodied spirits, but the ghost-like memories of those who disappeared.  We’ve composed and sung songs to the dearly departed, passed over into oblivion with hymns of finite longing.  All the while inhabiting our own impermanence… in endless distraction from the whole catastrophe… Until it all became too much.  It was time to face life on life’s terms. – Marc Byrd

 

Best of 2015: Albums

BEST OF

Love and disappointment and success and miscalculations and friendship and the beach sand that gets stuck in the cuff of your raw selvedge denim. 2015 was both a reasonable year and totally insanely bonkers. Plus, I chose some albums that probably land me firmly in the adult contemporary-demo. Still, here’s my list …

10. Leon Bridges – Coming Home (Columbia)
9. Sleater Kinney – No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)
8. El-Vy – Return To The Moon (4AD)
7. Playdough – We Buy Gold
6. Ryan Adams – 1989 (Pax-AM)
5. Langhorne Slim – The Spirit Moves (Dualtone)
4. Twin Shadow – Eclipse (Warner)
3. Brandon Flowers – The Desired Effect (Island)
2. Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down (Matador)
1. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)

Honorable mentions: Wilco – Star Wars, Modest Mouse – Strangers to Ourselves, CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye, Eels – Royal Albert Hall, Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us, Passion Pit – Kindred, Purity Ring – Another Eternity, John Foreman – The Wonderlands,

Marshall McLean Band release a new video

I’ve lived through some cold winters but the imagery in Marshall McLean Band’s on-point new “Coat of Many Colors” video sent shivers up my spine. Building a buzz through a string of sold-out shows in the Northwest, the band has scheduled a Video Release show for March 28th at The Panida Theater with support from Anna Tivel. Intense, impassioned and shot in what can only be described as a freezing, rural barn, “Coat of Many Colors” represents another milestone for McLean, bassist Justin Landis and drummer Jesse MacDonald.

Coat of Many Colors from Marshall McLean Band on Vimeo.

More on the band from it’s website:

The Marshall McLean Band was born out of the Northwest, and it carries with it the unique sound that is becoming distinct to this part of the country. The four-piece band, based out of Spokane, has brought forth a fresh idea; that one can merge elements of thoughtful songwriting in folk, the driving force of rock, and the melodic accessibility of Americana and carve out a new genre – a kind of NW Americana Rock.

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One of Spokane’s favorite songwriters, McLean manages to write songs without pretension. He sets reflective moods and backs them up with a distinctive picking style that travels seamlessly from powered lead lines to dynamic rhythm. It is in the final output, however, where the Marshall McLean Band carves its most solid niche. The method in which acoustical elements are managed through filters and amps gives forth a clean, overdriven sound that blurs the line between genres. The band is unafraid, blending these styles, taking the best of both worlds and discarding the rest.

Best Albums of 2014 – Version Rossi.0

In direct opposition to my 2013 list, 2014 was a year of highly anticipated albums that for the most part, I thought, delivered on their anticipation.

Anticipating upcoming albums is a funny thing. If it’s a band you have followed for some time, you are generally looking forward to something similar to their old stuff. Something welcoming and familiar. Many times, however, that’s not quite what you get. If it’s a new band, there are multiple ways you might have come to your place of anticipation – word of mouth, good early publicity, etc. Or maybe it’s a band you’ve known about, dabbled in but could never quite get into, but have reason to believe this new offering will be different. Three of the albums in my top 10, in particular, were highly anticipated, at least by me.

However, some came out of nowhere. There were albums that hooked me from the first listen, while still others that grew with time. I started putting a tentative list together about a month ago, and the way it has shifted since that initial list is testament, I believe, more to my wide range in tastes than anything else.

So, without further ado, below is my top 10 albums of 2014. Please, tell what I missed, why I’m wrong, and what you also loved this year!

1. The War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream

From a personal standpoint, the most highly anticipated album of 2014. And man, did it ever deliver. I was a bit late to the War on Drugs game, only having really started to appreciate the work of Adam Granduciel with their 2011 release, Slave Ambient. But that album was enough to get me excited for what came next. Lost in a Dream feels is deep. It’s the only way I know how to describe it. With every listen – which is likely now going on 100 for me – I hear/feel/experience something different. But I think the greatest compliment I can pay to this album is that EVERY time I listen in, it feels as if Granduciel is right next to me, playing the song for the first time. It’s that real.

2. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams is back, and in a big way. It’s evident not just in how this album is everything that every Ryan Adams fan had hoped for in his return from “retirement,” but it how he’s come back into the spotlight the only way he knows how – unapologetically. From covering whatever the hell he feels like (see here, here, and here) to chastising a fan for a camera flash that set off his Ménière’s disease. Ryan Adams toured hard this fall (and I was there), including the late night talk show circuit with Jenny Lewis. And why not – this album deserves to be heard far and wide.

3. Perfume Genius – Too Bright

Perfume Genius, aka Mike Hadreas, has been on my radar for about three years – after his debut LP Learning but before encore Put Your Back N 2 It. His first two albums were personal, dark and haunting. You felt as if you were watching him play each song behind a one-way mirror, with him unaware that anyone was listening or watching – a personal window into his soul. Too Bright, on the other hand, is Hadreas’ coming out party. Subdued opener I Decline lures you into the belief that you are in for the same ol’ same ol’. But that’s quickly rejected as in-your-face single Queen breaks out singing “No family is safe, when I sashay,” followed by grunts coupled with a catchy electronic hook. Hadreas’ previous albums saw him coupling the topics of sexuality and depression, as if there were intrinsically linked. But Too Bright has Hadreas breaking out from behind the glass, comfortable with who he is and exclaiming he is here to stay, in a big way.

4. Future Islands – Singles

The biggest missed live-performance regret of my year come by way of Baltimore-based Future Islands. For the first half of 2014, the band was playing domestic and international shows at known but not large or iconic venues. But that all changes in the second half of the year, as Singles gained in popularity, and word of their electric live shows spread across the indie music scene. That meteoric rise in popularity culminated in a much-talked-about performance on Letterman. My fear is that small, intimate venues won’t be on the tour circuit for Future Islands for the foreseeable future. Good for them.

5. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

One of the strongest albums of the year burst onto the scene in its first month. Speaking of highly anticipated albums, the first album from Against Me! since lead singer Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender in a Rolling Stone article in 2012 fits snugly into that category. Admittedly, the album title that leaked some six months prior to release led to much of that anticipation, but this album delivered in a big way. From the first track to the last, Grace’s vocals and lyrics come across as raw, personal, tortured, unapologetic, and in-your-face. Remember when punk rock was overtly political? This is a throw back to the heyday.

6. The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt

I love the Gaslight Anthem. They have become entrenched into a list of a dozen or so bands that carry loftier status for me. Get Hurt is what it is, and it’s not what it’s not. Brilliant, right? What it is is an attempt by Brian Fallon and company to be taken more seriously as a band, to come out of the shadows of cult-status and announce themselves to a wider audience as a “serious rock band!” This is apparent, not only in the album itself, but also in the marketing campaign that surrounded its release. Hell, Fallon himself declared Pearl Jam to be the album’s biggest inspiration. What Get Hurt is not is the same ‘ol heart-on-sleeve, teenage-angst-filled combo of dance-alongs and ballads thats permeated their previous albums. This new way works, too.

7. G-Eazy – These Things Happen

Every year, one rap album is able to crack my top 10. This year’s entrant – G-Eazy – comes from the same lyric school as 2012’s representative, Kendrick Lamar (unofficially, at least). Though G-Eazy hails from almost 400 miles north on I-5, the beat style and themes covered are very similar. They include dealing with newfound success, sacrifice, and staying true to self. But the theme throughout this album that resonated the most with me is Gerald Earl Gillum’s apparent internal struggle between living in the now and an obsession with dying young. This is something everyone has dealt with at some point, but G-Eazy verbalizes it better than most.

8. Copeland – Ixora

Copeland is back doing what it does best, writing songs that combine relatively simple piano or guitar chords with deep lyrics and the haunting voice of Aaron Marsh. I was skeptical Copeland’s music could still resonate with me, but that skepticism was misguided. This is a strong album from front to back that gets better with every listen.

9. Lana Del Ray – Ultraviolence

Another highly anticipated album, following up on 2012’s strong LP Born to Die and mini-album Paradise, Ultraviolence beat back Del Ray’s haters by featuring moody songs that stuck with you long after they ended. Del Ray’s unlikely (or, maybe more accurately, “self-constructed”) path to fame is well-pronounced, but for all the hate, you have to give her credit for the staying power.

10. The Antlers – Familiars

This album doesn’t ebb and flow, doesn’t have climaxes or songs that are better than others, or even many catchy beats. What it is is steady, strong from the beginning to the end. This might not be an album I listen to much in a year, or even remember in 5 years. But I enjoyed it this year as a background soundtrack of sorts, able to be played while reading, writing, or working.

Honorable Mentions:

  1. How To Dress Well – What is this Heart?
  2. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
  3. Matthew Ryan – Boxers
  4. Conor Oberst – Upside Down Mountain
  5. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
  6. Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were
  7. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager

Light Thieves Live at Peeve's

Imagine this.

You find it hard to concentrate in the suburbs. It really isn’t that safe after all, what with murder-suicides taking place just a quarter mile away from your comfortable, ranch-style home.

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In search of clarity, you head downtown to the headier environs of the Fulton Mall. It only takes ten minutes to arrive. You head through the darkness to Peeve’s Public House, former home of Milano, Cafe Corazon and Fresno Brewing Company.

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=135281693/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

Once inside, the music of Light Thieves greets you, a volcanic blast of math-rock time signatures, dense basslines and vintage synth sounds that jolts you to the core of some semi-subconscious level you didn’t know existed.

Preparing to embark on a west coast tour, Light Thieves had plenty of friends in the crowd Monday night. With a growing reputation as one of the best live bands in California, they did not disappoint. Delivering a fierce, taut and exploratory set, they played a mix of new and old songs to a dedicated audience.

It’s been a Summer of Troubles for most of the world. And maybe indie music won’t help you find answers in the moments when you realize that some of the truths you believe in might actually not be true at all. But it’s a community experience, looking for signs of progress and health, when you learn new acronyms like ISIS and IKR but don’t understand why people aren’t afraid of the police acting like soldiers.

Sometimes Light Thieves play a song and you aren’t sure if it’s funny or sad. Which is perfect when equilibrium is elusive and holes are opening in the fabric of space and time. Maybe it’s an inside joke.

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