Oct 7th, 2014
New video for Outside from Montreal’s TOPS.
New video for Outside from Montreal’s TOPS.
I know exactly where this photo was taken because I used to live around the corner, years ago, when I came back to Toronto after spending the previous four years in Southern California. I was living at a friend’s loft down the street on Sorauren and the Fall was making itself known to me for the first time in a long time. I walked passed that mystery restaurant every morning to get coffee and I wondered whether anyone without some kind of previous affiliation or secret password had ever walked through their door in need of income tax services and a “hot food sandwich”.
Back then I would have been listening to The Wooden Sky’s “If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone” which I thought was a poignant album title for that period of my life of constant coming and going. The Wooden Sky recently released “Let’s Be Ready” and I haven’t listened to much else since I purchased it last week. I don’t live too far away from that street corner, but I’m a world away from that time in my life and I could easily apply the same parallels to the evolution of The Wooden Sky. They’ve maintained a style that is so uniquely their own, but their songwriting has grown more confident, more inspired, more fully-realized than the records before it. Not surprisingly then, the album itself coincides with the launch of the band’s new boutique label, Chelsea Records.
Standout tracks include, “Saturday Night”, “Don’t You Worry About A Thing”, and “Maybe It’s No Secret” among others. There’s a certain kind of soul in Gardiner’s vocals that warble and drawl – it can be both tender and animated, as it narrates stories that touch heavily on feelings of displacement/life on the road, loneliness, love, getting older. In fact, the lyrics are actually quite melancholy, but the rhythm and guitar seems almost manic in comparison. Maybe it’s because there’s such a lack of these kinds of high energy, aggressively guitar-driven albums in my musical rotation these days that I crave it. There’s an intensity to it that feels cathartic and redemptive as a listener.
Angel Olsen just released a new track called All Right Now along with the announcement of her deluxe edition of Burn Your Fire For No Witness that will include 5 new tracks, out Nov 18th on Jagjaguwar. Listen, below.
I’d been meaning to write about this ever since it began in July. Dave Bazan has been releasing two new tracks each month for five months and the result is some of his best songs to date. This month features tracks: With You and Little Landslides, On With You, he’s resurrecting an electronic beat reminiscent of his Headphones days, but with more complex layering. Bazan rarely writes love songs but with these, he reveals a certain vulnerability – a darkness that only he can bring into what would be considered a love song, “self-loathing, paranoia, jet lag, alcohol, bad dreams, long-distance calls” a laundry list of woes experienced on the road while maintaing a relationship. In Little Landslides he examines his internal landscape, “another young man tells his story before his heart is even broken one time, like a standup who forgets his punchline” suggests that Bazan’s heart seen and endured heartache, he becomes an authority on the matter, like a rite of passage that must be experienced to be written of.
Another standout from the series include Sparkling Water, it’s one of those Bazan’s songs that evokes such melancholy, something about the simplicity of his repetition, “you know, I don’t” and all of the alienating experiences of being in a man’s or woman’s body, trying to relate or connect or occupy the same space. Something that feels impossible and only invites a feeling of loneliness.
A tension pervades the series, as he laments on the human experience as it relates to other, being in relationship and one’s own understanding of being alone. His style of songwriting has graduated from pointing the finger at religious hypocrisy and oppression on more of a societal level – to an exploration of the human psyche in a way that feels tender, forgiving and human. You can buy the entire series here.
Here is the thing, I am not a guitarist, nor do I pretend to know what I’m talking about when referencing guitar styles. Despite taking a guitar-for-beginners adult night class and spending countless hours noodling around in front of Rocksmith, I do not play.
But I am a feeler of feelings. And for Blake Mills’ sophomore album, Heigh Ho, I have many.
The mythology of Blake Mills seems to have transcended that of my tight-knit group of friends who swore Break Mirrors was the best album of 2010, and those who entered our circle only after careful consideration that they might be the kind of people who would really get it, and would in effect, ‘get us’. We would include songs like ‘Cheers’ in mixtapes to one another and play it for each other to ignite a potent nostalgia for the times we first heard it. This, it seems, is a sentiment shared by other secret friend groups, who together form a larger tapestry of people-who-like-under-appreciated-music. That, along with a string of collaborations with such artists as Fiona Apple, Cass McCombs, Julian Casablancas, Jenny Lewis, Jackson Browne, Beck, Lucinda Williams, Alabama Shakes (along with a slew of notable collaborators on Heigh Ho) and more as well as a a recent nod from Eric Clapton as a phenomenal guitarist, converged to reveal an undisputed truth: Blake Mills is as skillful a musician as he is a songwriter and that playing well still matters to people.
I have only listened to Heigh Ho a couple of times over, mostly with headphones in my office trying hard not to get tearful while listening to Blake and Fiona croon playfully over Seven, imagining that I lived in a universe where a gentleman-like cowboy would tilt his hat my way and ask me to slow dance in his living room. Or the subtle, pulsing theatrics of Cry to Laugh (which reminds me of a Fiona Apple song I cannot pinpoint). Don’t Tell Our Friends About Me, in contrast feels the most confessional, (something similar to his older – It’ll All Work Out) where he sings, “and I’ll write songs that’ll help me deal with issues, and sure, some people may hear too much” which is so direct in it’s delivery that you feel like it’s a line you weren’t supposed to hear. Like he shared a moment of honesty, where the lines between fictional narrative and artist were blurred and the song becomes funny and vulnerable. It is in his standout single If I’m Unworthy that he reveals the natural evolution of his work, because it feels like a fully-realized song, written with a certain texture in mind and with it, a sort of intention of a feeling to be transferred to the listener. A slow burning excitement towards absolute chaos and back down to a soft, immaculate steadiness, then again marching towards a release. There is a magic in it. The entire record, it seems, is considerate of that kind of magic- heard in the strings on Half Asleep create a Disney-esque dream world, or the sparse and quiet harmonies of Gold Coast Sinking. It all feels delicate and precise, like something beautiful is unraveling, and if the light hits the room at a certain hour and everyone is dancing in sync, then a perfect moment can be achieved.
New video for Amen Dunes’ Splits are Parted. Pick up Love, it’s one of my favourite records of the year.
Mac Demarco covers “Lights Out” off Angel Olsen’s sophomore record ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’
Here it is, the September mix. Happy 3 year anniversary, mix club!
It’s always easy in September because this is the month when everything good comes out. There are so many good albums streaming right now: Delta Spirit, Ryan Adams, Tennis, and soon to be released, the new Blake Mills, Generationals, Julian Casablancas, and the monthly tracks that Dave Bazan has been releasing (and probably a few others that I’ve forgotten). Basically, order has been restored in the otherwise vapid wasteland that was music this summer.
Other things I’ve been digging as of lately: Miranda July’s new Somebody App. Get it and we will become somebodies together. Catherine Lacey’s book: Nobody is ever missing. Rebecca Curtis’ Twenty Grand. Lena Dunham’s hilarious New Yorker short story from her upcoming novel. And more importantly, the latest season of Inside Amy Schumer is up and streamable in all of it’s filthy glory. If I could line up all the women in the world and choose just one to be my best friend, it would be Amy Schumer.
To celebrate 5 years of Friends With Both Arms, I put together an August mix, which actually isn’t so unusual, since I’ve been doing that every month for the last two years, it’s just been secret. So, for one time only, I’m opening the list up to some new members. If you want to be in the secret club, sign up here.