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)

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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,

I Won't Back Down But Stay With Me

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So. Tom Petty is getting royalties from Sam Smith?

Seriously, sir. Mr Petty. You have my attention. I get that you want to be relevant in the 21st century and I hope this is not a real life interpretation of “Power Drunk”.

Let me be sincere and say that I enjoy most things Tom Petty, but when news breaks that he won suit of one of the most popular pop songs of 2014 I have to question his motives. There are only so many chord progressions and vocal melodies in the history of music, there are bound to be some similarities. Most accusations are left at the living room floor as conversations stir among competing music enthusiasts. How often have you found yourself saying, “oh! I know this song! It’s *******!” only to have your observation denounced by your company claiming that in fact it was a new song that you’d never heard of?

But you were right! That song you heard was the one from yesterday. It did have that nostalgic element. It did strike that nerve. It did have that melody.

My Name Is Jonas:Weezer::Dammit:Blink182

Blurred Lines:Robin Thicke::Got To Give It Up:Marvin Gaye

Best Song Ever:One Direction::Baba O’Riley:The Who

Locked Out Of Heaven:Bruno Mars::Roxanne:The Police

Viva La Vida:Coldplay::If I Could Fly:Joe Satriani

Born This Way:Lady Gaga::Express Yourself:Madonna

What I Got:Sublime::Lady Madonna:The Beatles

I rest my case.

Hooks are cyclical. Songs are momentary. Who are we to judge that next big thing who subconsciously reinterprets music from their youth and creates new art with music for the next generation to enjoy.

I am sorry Mr Petty, but this time I disagree.

I hope that this is not what you meant by “American Dream Plan B”.

The Holy Broke – Do It Yourself

“These tinted windows keep police at bay,” Kent Ueland opens The Holy Broke’s stunning debut LP Do It Yourself with an ode to the cocktail of competing emotions that accompanies touring in a van and proceeds to dive headlong into a confessional narrative that mostly concerns itself with the darker machinations of human nature. These songs are a product of Ueland’s last year, a time which saw him lose a long-term relationship and a longer-term band (Terrible Buttons). As a result, Do It Yourself  presents a bruised, harrowing trek into the blackest void and then kinda sorta back again.

 

Firmly rooted in the vagabond folk tradition, the analog recording is spare, raw and direct in all the right places and when the occasional production flourish turns up, the studio serves to elevate the songwriting.  The doubled Axel Rose-esque vocals on the introspective blues of “I Ain’t Proud” add an extra sucker punch to lyrics like “I just wanna hurt somebody anyway” while the extra acoustic guitar reverb brings an otherwordly pleading reverence to the line “I need to hear your song fill my empty house” in “Yellowed.”

No matter how much Ueland tries to make you dislike, or even despise him, what comes through loud and clear on Do It Yourself, is that these songs are the story of someone authentically pissed off, filled with irreconcilable antipathy and yet, who still seems capable of healing and moving improbably forward. This is the type of record that can only be made by someone with a resolute sense of survival and the adventurous courage to plow ahead, kayaking into the tsunami.

“Suicide is for pussies,” Ueland sings, you may not agree with him, but you have to respect his conviction.

Do It Yourself comes out January 24th.

Bad Check: Songs About Money

I’ve had several reasonably interesting minor epiphanies lately. One of which is the often-overlooked fact that there are as many great songs written about money troubles as there are about break-ups.

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The struggle of the working musician, the impoverished-by-choice troubador is one of the first casualties of rock n’ roll-stardom. Though Adam Duritz wrote (though only on the first Counting Crows record) “When everybody loves you, that’s just about as f-up as you can be.” I would argue that he is probably not worried about bouncing a check, or running out of gas station burritos.

Wrote a bad check to the government. Wrote a bad check to my parents. Wrote a bad check to this cello player. She didn’t know it at the time ’cause I’m singing it later.

Michael Knott’s music career is a Homeric poem of possibilities, dashed-hopes and absurd slice-of-life observations.

Check the genius imagery of the chorus:

Sometimes I wish those shiny red lights on cop cars
were just big bright cherries
I wanna bowl
I wanna knock down some pins

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Help Mike avoid writing any bad checks, pick up his music on Bandcamp. Also check out the ultimate Knott resource at KnottHeads.com