The story that precedes Chris Milam’s new record, Kids These Days, is a sad one. It’s also a classic tale of someone who loses everything and then has to start over again, figuring out who they want to be from the bottom up. These 12 songs are a fresh start and a declaration of who Chris wanted to be from that day forward. It’s a musical journey that takes you through all kinds of emotions.
We start with a trilogy of songs dealing with the broken engagement that started Chris down this road. The opening trickle of guitar sounds like a nod to “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna-Fall” before Milam’s smooth vocals come into the listener’s ear. Before long, there’s a full on band and string section filling up the space as the simmering rage boils to the surface. He sings “There’s a picture on your phone, of me at ten years old, and I don’t know where that kid has gone. Every day, every mile, every casual smile, every story retold, every joke getting old. While you won’t talk around it, I’m screaming it out babe, I’m dying.” The emotions finally come to a head and the band carries the load for a moment while Chris catches his breath. It ends on a whisper before the gospel-tinged “Half Life” picks up.
That song plays it pretty simple and straightforward, laying out the engagement itself and how quickly it turned around. “Autumn” is probably the most fully-realized song on the record emotionally. I recommend listening with headphones, because there is a lot of string work you might miss without them. There’s a moment a little more than halfway through the song where the cello melts into a guitar solo that is really quite extraordinary. He lets the instruments do a lot of the heavy lifting, and it works to his advantage as the arrangement is done well and really tugs at the heartstrings.
Once that section of the record is over, Chris frees himself up to try all kinds of stuff. He unleashes some big, fuzzy guitar work on the album’s lead single “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” and gets to show off some of that Memphis blues that’s swimming around in his veins.
He plays it smart and doesn’t let any of the songs overstay their welcome. And the style changes enough that you won’t lose interest with too many ballads in a row or too much guitar (is that a thing? too much guitar?). There’s a lot going on throughout most of the tunes, so a dedicated listener will be rewarded.
Standout’s for me are: “All Of Our Ghosts” for the string work, “New Drug” for rock and roll, and “Coldweather Girls” for storytelling. You’ll want to listen to everything, of course, and you can on April 7th when Kids These Days is released on Namesake Records.You can pre-order it now on iTunes and get the title track right away.
If you’re in Memphis you will have the chance to see Chris play around the record release date (March 26 at Ghost River Brewing and April 6 at Loflin Yard). If not, you’ll have to wait until later this spring/summer. For full details on touring and more music, check out his website.
This song got under my skin in a different way than most. Initially I thought the song itself was just okay, but the video was really good. I watched it a couple more times for the visuals, and as I did, the voice of Rafael Vigilantics started digging into my brain. Part campfire ballad and part trippy head game, the song comes together like a hazy dream.
The song was co-written by Noah Harmon (Airborne Toxic Event), who’s been working on a lot of different projects lately. Other music by Vigilantics, which you can find on Bandcamp, ventures everywhere from folk to hip hop. He seems like a pretty interesting character, so I hope we get some more ahead of his new album Orleans. That record should be coming in the Spring.
He will also be on the road with Sadistik and Nacho Picasso starting in mid-April. Hitting Chicago on May 7th, so keep that in mind. Check out his Facebook page for any updates.
I’ve been a big fan of Lilah Larson since 2011, when Oliver Ignatius sent me some tracks he was working on for Sons Of An Illustrious Father. They pretty instantly became one of my favorite bands, and the album One Body has been a constant in my streaming habits (as well as vinyl listening-a beautiful oxblood red piece of wax). They’ve kept fairly busy the past couple years, but I’m glad Lilah made some time to do a solo record because what we get on Pentimento is pure in vision and executed beautifully.
The album came out at the tail end of 2016, but now it’s streaming on Spotify, Bandcamp, and iTunes. I took a couple spins through Pentimento last week and really fell in love with a couple of the songs. They all come off as well-crafted and sincere, but “Father Daughter Ghost” and “Someone Else” stand out above the rest for me.
The former struck me as a little odd at first. The beat is totally different from the rest of the record, and the electric guitar’s small section early in the song reflects a bittersweet yearning. The thing that really caught me up is the lyric in the bridge, which could have easily just been a throwaway: “If I saw you would you see me, too, and would that mean that we were born again? And tell me what good would that really do? We really wanna do it all again?” The electric guitar comes back after and has a more triumphant feeling, like a burden has been lifted.
“Someone Else” has a more traditional sound, carried on pure emotion from Larson’s delivery. She does an amazing job of projecting sadness, anger, confusion; often all at the same time. Trying to make someone else happy sometimes requires a lot of compromising your own happiness, even your own identity. It’s even possible to compromise so much that you kind of lose yourself along the way. Here, torn between heartbreak and a life of pretending to be someone you’re not, Larson acknowledges that some things are more important than others.
There are some other cool things on Pentimento, from the electronic drums on “Windsinger” to the way Larson layers harmonies with her own voice on “tbh,” it’s an impressive production. Larson plays darn near everything on the album-save for a little percussion on “Father Daughter Ghost” and “You Are.” This is solely and uniquely her own, and it’s a great testament to her talent as a musician and songwriter.
A few years ago I had the pleasure of heading west to Los Angeles for a little festival in Santa Monica. Way Over Yonder was billed as a folk fest put on by the same people that do the Newport Folk Festival every year. There were certainly some great folk acts on the bill, but it was here that I saw the greatest rock and roll show I’ve ever witnessed-Conor Oberst backed by The Felice Brothers.
It’s just been announced that Conor is working with the band again on a new (sort of) album. Salutations is going to be 7 new tracks, plus all the songs from Ruminations done with a full band instead of solo. Yesterday they released the first new track, “Napalm,” as well as their version of “A Little Uncanny.”
“Napalm” is, in my opinion, the most electrifying track Oberst has released since “Roosevelt Room” appeared on Outer South. There’s a little twang in the vocals on some lyrics, and since Ian Felice isn’t focused on singing he’s free to go wild on lead guitar.
Salutations also features Oberst’s Monsters Of Folk bandmate Jim James and drummer Jim Keltner. The Felice Brothers will join Oberst on tour (seriously must-see live) for dates in Europe as well as a handful here in the States. Check out the tour dates here.
The album is up for pre-sale through Nonesuch.
Savannah, Georgia, routinely third of the Georgian cities when it comes to music, is gonna be the host for some great bands from March 9th through the 11th (making it number 1 in my book, if only for a few days). Savannah Stopover, now in its seventh year, features headliners Kishi Bashi and Lee Fields & The Expressions as well as my personal favorite Ezra Furman.
Other featured artists include Julien Baker, Lewis Del Mar, and Alanna Royale. With over 80 bands confirmed, including some great music local to the state of Georgia, there’s sure to be something for everyone!
The multi-venue festival takes place the week before South by Southwest, so it’s a bit of a warmup for some of the acts trying to make waves at this year’s greatest networking opportunity. This is a great chance to see these musicians in a room full of music fans and not industry people talking loudly while sipping on PBR.
For tickets to the festival, click here.
It’s been more than three and a half years since we heard new music from Steph Barrak. Her debut LP, Words To Break Your Heart, came out on Valentine’s Day 2013 and she added her name to my list of singer/songwriters to watch. Finally she’s back with a new single and a record due out in early February.
The time in between releases hasn’t caused any deficit in her songwriting or singing. “So Familiar” is as radio-ready and relatable as anything off Words. The production feels like it’s taken a step up, so the new record may be a bit more slick. She’s working with the same team from the last album, and they all seem to have grown together during the hiatus.
As with her previous album, 50% of the sales of this single will go toward Girls Rock Boston. You can purchase it here.
Never Again will be available February 3rd.
Last night Josh Ritter stopped in Chicago for his second headlining date of the year in support of his album Sermon On The Rocks. The first show was at the very cavernous and not-so-great-sounding Riviera, and this concert was at the much-preferred Thalia Hall, with it’s fantastic sound system and intimate atmosphere. The diehards made it out despite the double whammy of the Presidential debate between future Commander-In-Chief Hilary Clinton and some schmuck who thinks saying “Women-you gotta treat ’em like shit” is an okay thing to do, and also a high-profile Monday Night Football game. Well, after looking at the score and watching the debate on DVR, going to the show was definitely the Right Move(s).
The setlist was pretty fun-straying away from the most recent album quite a bit to play some classics. He still played plenty of tracks from Sermon On The Rocks, including “Henrietta, Indiana,” “Where The Night Goes,” and “Getting Ready To Get Down,” but he also played a lot of fan favorites, kicking the show off with “Monster Ballads” and “Me & Jiggs” from Animal Years and Golden Age Of Radio. There were a couple brand new songs thrown in as well, which sounded good.
The band was a little different this time around-no Sam Kassirer on keys (no keys at all), no Josh Kaufman on guitar (replaced by Marty something who could really wail), and no Liam Hurley on drums (Ray Rizzo subs while Liam is caring for his new baby). Zachariah Hickman was on bass, of course, but played the stand-up version for the whole evening. The songs had more of a country vibe with this arrangement, which I imagine has something to do with the upcoming dates opening for Jason Isbell. It was a nice change of pace, though, and I enjoyed these versions thoroughly.
I didn’t write down the setlist, and there hasn’t been an update made to Setlist.FM yet, so here’s how I remember it…very likely it’s wrong:
Monster Ballads, Me & Jiggs, Cry Softly, Henrietta Indiana, Long Shadows, Bonfire, A Certain Light, Young Moses, Right Moves, Myrna Loy (In The Darkness), Snow Is Gone (solo), Girl In The War, Wolves, Cumberland, Where The Night Goes, Folk Bloodbath, Getting Ready To Get Down, Kathleen ENCORE: New Song, Lillian, Egypt