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The War On Peace-Fear Of Loss (video)

April 27, 2017 Leave a comment

Photo by Chris Hershman


Chicago band The War On Peace are about to release their new EP on May 12th. After two full-length albums, Automated People finds the group looking to expand their sound and their fan base. With comparisons to The Fray circling around them, I’m sure they won’t have any trouble tapping into the mainstream crowd.

“Fear Of Loss” is the first single from Automated People, and the video is very well done. If I had one issue, it would be that I wanted to see more of the actors and less of the band. The story the song tells is interesting, and I would have liked to see a whole video of just that narrative playing out. Still, it’s very well-made and fits the song.

In addition to releasing the EP on May 12th, The War On Peace will be playing at SubT with Minor Characters. Tickets can be found here.

K Flay-Every Where Is Some Where

April 10, 2017 Leave a comment

The first time I heard “Blood In The Cut” was at a festival last summer. K Flay ended her set with a brand new song-a bold move for any live show. It was completely different than anything else she played that day, leaning much more toward the rock end of the spectrum, but somehow it fit.

Ever since hearing that song I’ve been waiting on the edge of my seat for this new album to show up. It was preceded by another single, “Black Wave,” which only raised the level of excitement in my mind. Every Where Is Some Where feels like the music finally catching up to what she’s been trying to do since she was mixing it up on her own when I saw her open for Passion Pit in 2010.

It’s interesting to hear trap beats mix with driving guitars, synths and drums that would feel perfectly at home on a Nine Inch Nails record. The sound brings an added level of depth to the desperation that permeates the album. Much of it is spent searching for something to fill the void of a lost love.

On “Champagne” she sings “I feel it, I want it, I need it, I love it, I’m looking for something to make me feel nothing.” Sometimes numb is all you can feel because it’s better than dealing with the hurt and anger inside-it’s not healthy, but we all do it. The fast-paced delivery of the lyrics on this track are a manic expression of all those feelings trapped in our heads.

The album gets more upbeat in short intervals, with songs like “The President Has A Sex Tape” (timely) and the ode to familial love “Mean It.” These little bursts of distraction from the demons in your head are what propel you toward recovery. In this context, they move the album from being a little too one-note. 

Every Where Is Some Where is easily one of the best things I’ve heard this year. You can listen to it on Spotify or Apple Music, but you’re best bet is to just buy it here.

Categories: Music Review Tags: , , , , ,

Mount Eerie-A Crow Looked At Me

When Phil Elverum dropped his old moniker, The Microphones, in favor of Mount Eerie, I didn’t pay it much mind. In all honesty I wasn’t invested in his old stuff and didn’t have much interest in anything new. That probably seems blasphemous to some; I know he has a great following and is revered among songwriters for his talent. With A Crow Looked At Me, he’s definitely shifted my focus.

The new album, a tribute to his late wife Geneviève Gosselin, is one of the most heartbreaking works I’ve heard in a long time. You can feel the pain in every word he’s written since her death (pancreatic cancer took her life last summer). Elverum is doing his best to raise their young daughter in his own, but the constant reminder of his lost love takes its toll day after day.

The opening lines, “Death is real, someone’s there and then they’re not. And it’s not for singing about,” give you a good idea of what this album is. I don’t think he wants to be singing about this, but it’s the only way he knows how to cope. It is perhaps the saddest recording ever made. Later in the song he sings about receiving a package addressed to Geneviève a week after she passed. It was a gift for their daughter she had purchased, and I challenge anyone to not well up at that thought.

On “Forest Fires” Elverum sings about throwing out her clothes during a heatwave that’s caused a forest fire. “I missed you, of course. And I remember thinking ‘the last time it rained here you were alive still’ and that this same long heat that I was in contained you.”

It’s these little moments of complete devestation that fill these 11 songs. It’s also the resilience of the human spirit to endure this much suffering and continue forward, finding the beauty and meaning in your life to keep going. “We are all always so close to not existing, except in the confusion of our survived-bys grasping at echoes.” This serves as a great reminder that we’re all going to meet the same end one day, which could be scary or a sliver of hope depending on your perspective.

Elverum delivers an emotional album with pieces from his life that anybody who’s lost a loved one will recognize from their own. It’s these universal truths that keep the world spinning. It’s a microcosm of our shared reality that might just help you out if you’re feeling sad or alone at some point.

Lexie Roth-“Drive” (Video)

March 28, 2017 Leave a comment

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Lexie Roth’s new EP comes out at the end of this week and, judging by the couple songs I’ve heard, she’s come a long way from the folk singer I saw at Subterranean a few years ago. The only real similarity is that she has Sons Of An Illustrious Father backing her up on Move Me, much like she did at that show. The music is much different, however, with synths and electronic drums joining her finger-plucked guitar and vocals.

“Drive” is the second song from the EP to get the video treatment, following “Hanging Around,” which came out a couple weeks ago. This one gets a little bit darker, as it shows Lexie escaping an abusive relationship. The way it’s filmed reminds me a bit of the scene in Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown (unfairly trashed by many) when Orlando Bloom’s character goes on a road trip to try to connect with his deceased father. Totally different concepts, but the feeling I got was the same.

If you like what you hear in this song, you can pre-order the EP from Lexie Roth’s bandcamp page. She’ll be hitting the road for a few dates in April. For more info you can check out her Facebook.

Nobody-Turn

March 22, 2017 Leave a comment

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What happens to art when we extricate it from the artist? Does it lose the hold it has on us, or does it grow stronger? Perhaps in manufactured pop or radio music, a song like “Sorry” wouldn’t be so popular if it didn’t have the Bieber brand attached to it. On the flip side, I’ve often heard songs whose title eluded me, and whose performer went unnamed. These songs usually strike a different kind of chord, because they could be made by anybody. Or nobody.

If you’re familiar with the work of Willis Earl Beal at all, the name Nobody should be nothing new. The symbol of a face with +’s for eyes has long been associated with his music, and the Church Of Nobody was his touring band for a time. After slipping out of the scene just as quickly as he exploded onto it, he’s been releasing new music fairly anonymously for a couple years. Now he’s taking that anonymity further by putting out music under the Nobody moniker.

The first album under the new pseudonym is Turn, a beautifully hypnotic piece of self-reflection. If you’ve been keeping up, you’ll notice that the album doesn’t stray too far from what you heard on Experiments In Time, or last year’s Noctunes. In this sound, he’s found a great way to hide beauty under the shroud of darkness for the listener to seek out and discover for themselves.

There’s an overwhelming sadness to Turn, from beginning to end Nobody is on a search for inner peace that is forever elusive. The quiet desperation of the track “Lonely” is driven home with these lines “Slow motion feels like death. You pass me by, can’t feel my breath. Window pane I’ve got nothing left. Press my face on the glass, cause you know I feel lonely.”

On “Feel,” which could be considered the first single from the album now that Beal posted a video for the song shot in his car while listening to it on his car stereo, one could infer that he’s singing about his musical career when he says “You don’t wanna lose what you never had. Now you’re a young man who says your woman just can’t understand the sacrifices you’ve made. And you feel like she’s drifting away into the land of another reality, and you feel like a liability.” Is Beal confessing that he can’t put anything before his art-even love? He laments a few times in a row “You must do this alone,” perhaps providing some insight into his loneliness.

Much of the album features rhythms one would most accurately call “tribal.” I find this to be a two-fold function: on the one hand it’s a simple way to keep a pulsing beat behind the music with minimal infringement on the other sounds. It also conveys a certain feeling of spirituality that complements the ethereal vocals. Other times the beat is more song-specific, like the galloping hooves of a stallion on “Cowboy.”

For anyone hoping to hear something reminiscent of “Wavering Lines,” the closest you’ll find here is the song “You.” The vocals show off Beal’s range, which remains impressive. The vibe isn’t as minimalistic as the rest of the album, with strings and some different drum sounds than other tracks. It’s arranged a bit like a house version of a Julee Cruse song from “Twin Peaks,” which blends well with the overall dark mystery of Turn.

On the final track, the vocals are shared by both male and female singers (Beal and Symona Meer). Their voices fill the space of “Time” equally in the most straightforward song on the record. The darkness remains lingering with the refrain “Time is a burden that I need not keep. Just like my soul is not worthy for you to weep.” However, some light is shed as we get to the end, whether it represents death or just the end of a long chapter, with singing birds taking over for the singers.

No official release date has been made available, though I am told it could be as early as the end of the month.

If you’d like to check out the interview I conducted with Beal a few weeks ago, click here.

Conor Oberst-Salutations

March 16, 2017 Leave a comment


I was over the moon earlier this years when it was announced that Conor Oberst would be joined by The Felice Brothers on a new record. The fact that the record would be seven new songs mixed in with full-band versions of the songs on Ruminations didn’t bother me at all. In fact, the idea that the earlier record was almost a demo tape for Salutations makes me like that collection of songs even more. The addition of The Felice Brothers, and Jim Keltner on drums, provided me with such confidence that they could’ve just remade all the old Bright Eyes songs and I’d be okay with it.

For the most part everything works on Salutations. Some of the new versions of Ruminations songs seem to be not all that different-some added harmonies or maybe a little guitar, but nothing huge. On others, they take a good song and make it a great one. The new takes on “A Little Uncanny” and “Mamah Borthwick (A Sketch)” are fantastic and really make good use of the additional band members. Others, like “Gossamer Thin,” lose some of their raw intimacy.

The new songs are all pretty consistent with the old songs as far as themes and soundscapes. Nothing seems out of place. “Overdue” is a standout from the new stuff. Ian Felice gets to showcase his guitar work a little, and the harmonies really elevate the chorus and give it some emotional resonance.

The album closer, and title track, actually sounds more like a Bright Eyes song. Oberst’s voice is loud and clear in all it’s imperfect glory. The band is mostly subdued until a beautiful steel guitar solo from Ian, followed by Conor namechecking the previous album.

In total, Salutations fully lived up to my expectations. When I saw Oberst play with The Felice Brothers (and First Aid Kit) a few years ago, it was probably the best rock and roll show I’ve ever seen. The quality of music on this record well exceeds the output of most singers who have been in the game as long as Oberst. Hopefully this is the first of many collaborations between these artists.

Khodara-Billie EP

March 16, 2017 Leave a comment
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Photo by David Miller

Back in January I wrote about the lead single off Khodara’s latest EP, Billie. At the time I said that the slow, sultry beat would transport you to another time and place. That’s a theme that resonates throughout the record, with hypnotic sounds that draw you in to the inner workings of Khodara’s mind. It’s done rather simply, with a drum machine and some synths, but it’s very effective. The way her vocals melt into the music rewards those who listen closely, but also makes it a great chill record that you can just have on in the background.

Along with producer Billy Pavone, Khodara does a fine job of keeping the EP consistent across all four tracks. With some tweaking you could almost make it into one long song, which is a good thing in this case. It feels like all the songs were written at the same time, with the same things in mind. It begins and ends with a whisper, hints of simmering rage and lamentation over love fill in most  of the space in between.

Billie is officially out this Friday, March 17th. You can hear three (“Billie,” “Anxious,” and “Lunatics”) of the four tracks right now on her Soundcloud page.

 

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