HEY, YOU GUYS! I hope all of your weeks have been lovely (and apart from a little welcome-to-Chicago snow-fueled rear-ending), mine’s been pretty fantastic as well. I hope you were able to make it through our two interviews last week because we’re bringing you two more this weekend! I spoke with Alynda Lee Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff and Tim Wilson of Ivan & Alyosha and both of them were super kind with their time and had some really interesting things to say in our chat. Plus, both of the albums they’re offering on our site are sonically superb from beginning to end. That’s all just a bonus on top of another batch of highly recommended recommendations as well. It’s a merry musical Christmas for your ears, my friends. Get at it!
For a VERY limited time (i.e., only until Tuesday, March 3) Portland, OR-based singer-songwriter Josh Garrels is offering up Over Oceans (the very first release on his own label, Small Voice Records) in anticipation of his brand new album Home (out April 4). Defying easy-accessible labels and tightly adhered-to genre boundaries, Garrels excels at singing stirring, relational lyrics over deceptively simplistic instrumental beds. Over Oceans is mostly acoustic-based alt-folk in nature and moments like the organ groove of “Decision” and the field recording atmospherics of “Train Song” add the perfect sonic seasoning to help showcase Garrels’ impressive and expansive musical palette.
Listening to the twangy heartbreak of “Not Home Anymore” by Lera Lynn and Ben Arthur, you’d never guess it was completely crafted in the backseat of a car on a short three-hour road trip between Nashville and Memphis. A product of Songs of the Road and Acoustic Café’s Songcraft Songwriter Series, “Not Home Anymore” was conceived, written, performed, and recorded all in one day. More specifically, it was started at Loveless Café in Nashville, shaped up at a rest stop along the way, crowd-tested at American Dream Safari, and then recorded at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis. As interesting as the process was, the song is even better. Don’t miss out on this one!
If you’re currently observing Lent and need an unbelievable soundtrack to help get you in the right head/heart space, look no further than Page CXVI’s Lent to Maundy Thursday. Functioning as the middle release of Page CXVI’s church calendar project (between their Advent to Christmas and Good Friday to Easter releases), Lent to Maundy Thursday follows the pattern of taking existing hymn texts and marrying them to updated melodies and organic instrumentation. Plus, singer/co-producer Latifah Phillips will take your ears to new places with her otherworldly vocals.
Has someone ever dropped an oddball phrase (“Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”) into a conversation and you’ve wondered where it came from and what it means? Well, Bryan Allain’s book Actually, Clams Are Miserable won’t help you at all with those types of questions BUT it does contain humorous commentary and explorations surrounding a variety of these head-scratching expressions and quaint colloquialisms. If you’re more concerned with laughing than learning, this book’ll make you happier than a… very happy thing.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t still crazy after all these years, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
Hurray for the Riff Raff is about to head out on the road for a headlining tour and you can bet your sweet bippy I’m jazzed to finally get to check them out live at Lincoln Hall when they roll through Chicago. While you scroll through the tour dates to find your own city, listen to their 4-track The Body Electric Tour EP exclusively here on NoiseTrade. Featuring two tracks from their most recent album Small Town Heroes, a Billie Holiday cover, and a song written for Trayvon Martin, The Body Electric Tour EP is jam-packed with musical richness and social commentary.
I talked to Alynda Lee Segarra, the heart and soul behind Hurray for the Riff Raff, about each of the tracks on the EP, her involvement with The Body Electric Fund, and what drives the topical, protest singer spirit of her work.
NoiseTrade: As a songwriter, your music has always had a bigger goal than just enjoyment and entertainment. Where was the social change/activist/protest singer seed first planted in you?
Alynda Lee Segarra: I think growing up in New York City and experiencing the Nuyorican Café (which hosted very politically focused poets) had a big impact on me. Also, the punk scene in the Lower East Side showed me how music can focus on what you see happening in the world around you. A lot of what I loved artistically growing up was either focused on creating change in the world or creating relief from despair.
NT: To that point, The Body Electric Tour [EP] features a couple of your most topical songs to date, “Everybody Knows” and “The Body Electric.” Can you walk us through what you were responding to in each of those songs?
Segarra: “Everybody Knows” is my response to the murder of black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida. I felt like I was going crazy as I watched his story unravel in the news. I felt like there was a struggle in the media to accept his death and to even paint him as a thug. I wanted to link his death to my visit to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. I wanted to remind the listener of how in the past, the masses have been convinced to demonize black people. We need to remember that in order to change it and to call it out when it’s happening again. We all know where that road leads us, but if we forget it we will end up at the same violent dead end.
“The Body Electric” has a similar focus of dismantling the weaponization of women’s bodies. As women, we are told that we attract violence and if we dress a certain way and behave a certain way we will not receive that violence. That is not true, we cannot stop it with limits to our behavior. There needs to be a new thought process of how we are treated and respected. This thought process is also true for people of color and queer people. Both songs touch on how we are human and how we deserve to be ourselves and live without the threat of danger or murder.
NT: Last September you ran an extremely successful Indiegogo campaign to shoot a video for “The Body Electric” and to help support The Body Electric Fund, which works with organizations like The Third Wave Fund and The Trayvon Martin Foundation. Can you tell us a bit more about your involvement with those organizations and how individuals can still help contribute even though the initial Indiegogo campaign is over?
Segarra: I wanted to raise awareness of The Trayvon Martin Foundation and Third Wave because I feel like musicians and artists get attention when we care about social issues, but these are the people who are working everyday to try to build a better world. We are still raising money for these great organizations and have a link available through “The Body Electric” music video.
NT: On The Body Electric Tour [EP], you’ve also included your cover of Billie Holiday’s “Fine and Mellow” from your My Dearest Darkest Neighbor covers album. What’s your connection to the song?
Segarra: This is a song I combined with a Big Bill Broonzy guitar tune I learned. I love his guitar style and Billie’s rendition of “Fine and Mellow” has always touched me. I have been very inspired by her and wanted to add some very raw guitar playing to the tune.
NT: To round out the songs on The Body Electric Tour [EP], there’s “I Know It’s Wrong (But That’s Alright),” whose music video captures the most amazing roller skating party I think I’ve ever seen. First, can I get an invite to the next one you throw and second, the lyric “It’s never wrong to hop a fence” has always stuck out to me in that song. What does that line mean to you and what do you see when you sing it?
Segarra: First off, yes, definitely! The whole time we listened to Salt N’ Pepa and MIA! Second, though I like to be a little mysterious, I can say that I am a firm believer in always breaking the rules and fully being yourself, no matter how much it confuses those around you. It’s your life. Live it.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t smooth like Barry, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
Ahead of their brand new album It’s All Just Pretend (out May 5 on Dualtone Records), Seattle-based indie-folk quintet Ivan & Alyosha are combining their brand new single “All This Wandering Around” with their debut album All the Times We Had into an exclusive NoiseTrade collection they’re calling All These Wandering Times. By pairing together a taste of where the band has come from and where it is headed, it’s easy to hear what makes them so special in the moment they’re in now.
I spoke with lead singer/co-founder Tim Wilson about their new single “All This Wandering Around,” their experience between recording their debut and their new album, and we snuck in a little Bob Dylan as well.
NoiseTrade: Your new single “All This Wandering Around” has an incredibly confident, forward-leaning feel to the songwriting and instrumental performance. Did you guys experience that feeling for yourself while writing and recording the track or is it something that might just be perceptible to the outside listener?
Tim Wilson: Musically, I’d agree that the song drives in a pretty confident way. Lyrically though, it’s full of self-doubt, honesty, searching, confusion, questions, and self-deprecation. I feel like confidence should, in my opinion, come from experience and a decent amount of humility, which maybe in an indirect way, the lyrics in this song do project a sort of confidence.
NT: The chorus of “All This Wandering Around” says, “If I find what it is I need/Maybe all this wandering around and around will finally stop.” Is that more of a comment on already knowing what you need and just trying to attain it or actually trying to find out what exactly it is that you “need” in the first place?
Wilson: I think it’s different for everyone. Some know what they need, some don’t, but we’re all searching regardless. Many of us know what we want, what we need can many times be harder to attain. I’ve found meaning and purpose, but there are many things I still search for, unanswered questions I want answered and weaknesses I know I have to or want to change.
The chorus talks about finding what we need but also where we belong. We have cars, planes, phones, drones, and all sorts of technology that connect people these days, so why do so many of us feel lost, lonely, disconnected and a lack of belonging?
With “All This Wandering Around”, part of what I think we were getting at and questioning is whether or not we’ve lost something along the way. Whether we’ve lost our identity in the name of progress, success, moral relativity, and our own ambitions. Or if maybe our mobile devices and big screen televisions are sucking the life out of us, as well as the ability and desire to interact, communicate and do life with one another.
NT: You guys recently announced that you also recorded a video for “All This Wandering Around” that will be released soon. Can you tell us anything about it in advance?
Wilson: The concept is a really fun one that represents the song and even the record as a whole really well. Our friend Caleb Young directed it and we shot it just north of Seattle in a town called Bellingham. I’ll be honest, I don’t love being on camera, so it was important to relax and have fun, which was definitely accomplished. Can’t wait for everyone to see it!
NT: Since your debut album All the Times We Had featured some songs that were written for previous EPs, did you find the all-new-material songwriting process for your upcoming follow-up It’s All Just Pretend (out May 5 on Dualtone Records) daunting in any way? Did you approach the process any differently?
Wilson: What’s great about this record is that 3 of us in the band are now writing. Ryan, Pete, and I contributed an equal amount of songs to choose from for this record. It was really exciting to have such strong material to choose from. I think our songs have always been the biggest strength of the band, and in my opinion that only continues to grow and get even better.
NT: What were some of the biggest changes you experienced in the recording process between All the Times We Had and It’s All Just Pretend?
Wilson: The recording process for All The Times We Had was quite a bit shorter than It’s All Just Pretend. We spent twelve days in a proper studio for All The Times We Had before we had to get back on the road. For It’s All Just Pretend, we had about six weeks in Oklahoma and Los Angeles, plus pre-production, overdubbing, and post-production (some mixing) at our homes in Seattle.
We had also been playing most of the songs on All The Times We Had live for about a year and a half before recording them. For It’s All Just Pretend, we didn’t play any of them live before we got into the studio, which was great and kept everything fresh.
NT: Self-indulgent bonus question time… For last year’s Bob Dylan in the 80s: Volume One tribute album, you guys recorded an energetic cover of Dylan’s “You Changed My Life,” a Shot of Love outtake that didn’t get an official release until the mid-90s. What drew you to this rare Dylan track and do you have any plans to record any more of his songs anytime soon?
Wilson: I wasn’t familiar with that song until our friend Jesse Lauter suggested it. Jesse curated the project and I’m glad he asked us to record that particular song. So many verses! Nobody writes a song like Bob Dylan. His lesser-known gospel stuff is amazing, so articulate, and so heartfelt.
I would love to cover more of his songs. I think Desire is one my favorite records of all time and “Romance In Durango” is so beautiful.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t looking for one more cup of coffee for the road, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
Hello again, my friends! It seems we’ve been experiencing an embarrassment of sonic riches lately here on NoiseTrade and this weekend’s transmission is packed to the brim and overflowing with seriously great music. First off, we’ve got two interviews featuring Buxton and Geographer, the latter of which was conducted by our (drumroll please…) BRAND NEW INTERN Lauren! Secondly, my music recommendations this week feature some must-hear material that sounds ridiculously tasty. Guys, don’t waste anymore time reading this, just go grab all of these killer releases and set sail on a weekend of musical bliss. Get to it!
There’s a good chance that this stunning debut record from Revolution, I Love You is exactly what’s been missing in your life. We Choose to Go to the Moon features 10 tracks of experimental alt-pop driven by the perfect mix of real-world instruments and digital flourishes. As gritty guitars blend with hip-hop loops and slick bass lines dance with synthesizers, each song breathes a fresh breath of creativity and confidence. “With Anxious Smiles and Fitful Swaying” is a nice introduction to the band’s sound and their fuzz- pulsing cover of The Smith’s “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” is a welcome take on the oft-covered classic.
Since Eshon Burgundy’s new album The Fear of God is currently available for pre-order (set for a March 3 release on Humble Beast), there’s no better time than now to introduce your ears (or say hello again) to the flawless flow and powerful production of his previous album For God’s Sake. Burgundy’s standout record is offered here on NoiseTrade in its entirety and the horn line of “Let Down” and the cinematic intimacy of “They Don’t Know” are worth the download on their own. Be sure to listen through For God’s Sake and then head over to iTunes to hear (and pre-order) Burgundy’s newest tracks on The Fear of God.
Deep in the vein of rootsy acoustic storytellers like Townes Van Zandt and Nebraska-era Springsteen, Ryan Culwell’s songs paint vivid sonic films with just his voice and a guitar. “Red River” is the first single from his upcoming album Flatlands (out March 3) and the brooding ballad seems like the perfect soundtrack to a cold winter drive at dusk. From his lyrics, to his themes, to the tone of his voice, Culwell exudes Texas through and through, which is perfectly fitting in getting across the authenticity of “Red River.”
While Brooklyn cartoonist/comedian Patrick J. Reilly spends most of his time writing and drawing ME, a monthly comic quasi-memoir, he also has a variety of standalone stories that are equally as irreverent and engaging to read. Writer’s Block tells the story of a writer struggling with… how do you say it… ah yes, writer’s block and the cover artwork featuring charicatures of Shakespeare, Kevin Smith, and Bilbo Baggins should tell you everything you need to know about Reilly’s slant on storytelling.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t rocking the suburbs, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
With their fourth studio album Ghost Modern coming out at the end of March, San Francisco based musical outfit Geographer has pinpointed exactly how to create something out of a postmodern philosophy. But most importantly, the new sound that composer and songwriter Mike Deni creates is an absolute timeless piece that will leave listeners wanting more with each new single that he releases over the coming month.
With this new sound comes a brand new direction that Deni has never been able to go after before. And this comes across strongly with Deni’s philosophy on life that even though life may be meaningless you can’t just let it pass you by. Listeners will be able to tell the passion behind the group while listening to their live performance at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles and the song “Need” off their upcoming release.
NoiseTrade: Was there a specific reasoning behind choosing “Need” to be the song featured from the new album on NoiseTrade? And if so, what was it?
Mike Deni: It’s just one of my favorite songs on the new record. It’s an example of a direction I’ve wanted to go in for a long time, but just never had the ability to pull off fully before. And I love the end of that song where the cello essentially turns into a synthesizer and I harmonize with it. It happened to be one of the best sounding songs of that set, so it worked out perfectly.
NT: You offered up four songs of a live recording from your sold out performance at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, which includes one of your better-known songs “Kites”. What was the specific reasoning behind that live recording? Can you tell a significant growth in your songwriting and musical talents from those four songs featured and the new album?
Deni: A lot of Geographer’s identity is our live performance. People hear about us, they hear our music, but I feel they really understand what Geographer is when they see us live. We’re not just getting through tours, or doing it cause we have to. This is what we love to do. We try to do something special with our shows, to show people something they didn’t know before, both about our music, and about themselves, about life. I think at their best, live performances can stay with you for weeks, for months. There have been certain performances I’ve been to that stick with me to this day. And I’ve taken the best parts of those performances and put them into my own.
I want people to have an experience. And yet we’ve never released a live album because it can be so hard to capture that energy, that moment, in a bottle. But the El Rey show, we’d just taken really about 6 months off from shows, and most of that time I spent at a desk finishing up the new album, getting the art ready, doing photo shoots, answering interviews, planning, coordinating, and we just exploded on stage with all that pent-up energy. That was one of my all-time favorite shows I’ve ever played, and I’m so grateful we captured it in a recording. For me that show is what live performance is all about. And now the fans can experience that even if they can’t see a show or weren’t at that show.
NT: It seems like postmodern philosophy is a big part of your writing style for this album, Mike. Was there a specific song on the upcoming album that you think it plays a bigger part of than any others?
Deni: “I’m Ready” is really the lynch pin of the new record. It says, “Okay, so life is meaningless. So I have no idea what’s going on. What am I going to do about it, just sit here and wallow, just wait while it passes me by?” And the answer that “I’m Ready” gives is “No.” This is a very personal song to me, a very personal struggle that I feel I’m just now getting on the other side of. Songs like “Kaleidoscope” on Myth hint at the fact that perception is subjective, and the implications of that are that one’s own self is subjective, since we perceive ourselves, and others do as well. And if we ourselves are subjective, then what can you really hold onto as true.
On Myth I wrote, “There is nothing here to hold onto except the possibilities, I refuse to understand it, I refuse now to believe,” and on “I’m Ready” I say, “But the truth is just as useless, we will cover it in our wake.” They wrestle with the same question, but the difference is that now there is something more, there is a horizon beyond disbelief, beyond recognizing the fallacies and myths around us. And whatever that is, I’m ready to go there. I want to be a part of life. I want to take that step further. To say that if I’m stuck here, I’m going to enjoy it. I don’t need to know what’s next, to be reassured. I’m here. I’m going to live.
NT: You talk about how the ocean and the bluffs played a big part in your writing process for this album and by knowing that listeners can hear the influence of it in the song “Need.” Can you tell us a little bit of what the antagonist of the album is going through in the song?
Deni: The first line I wrote from “Need” was “I need your love.” It doesn’t get more simple, more desperate, than that. We need each other’s love. We need someone to understand us. We are adrift, wild, in a vast ocean. And we need things to anchor us or we’ll wander aimlessly, maybe forever, without any purpose. There’s a reason we couple off with each other, find friends, find people to love us. When someone loves you they almost put your mind at rest. They say, “Well I don’t care about any of that, I love you, I choose you.”
The rest of the song is an interpretation of the Freddy Quell character from The Master, which is a movie I watched over and over again while I was writing the album. He is an animal, he is wild, he has no master, but he longs for one. We long to subjugate ourselves to a master, to a lover. We complain about the lack of freedom, but we loath freedom, it terrifies us. Freedom is the endless, unfathomable depths of the ocean. And that’s what I looked at at while I was writing the record. There seems to be a whole language that it speaks, if only we could understand. The placid surface, and the roiling depths, replete with monsters and untold terrors. That’s us. That’s a human being. That’s Freddy Quell. That’s the song “Need.”
NT: In your bio, you talk about lies we feast on to keep calm. Can you explain what you mean by that? What kind of lies?
Deni: I’m not so interested in them anymore. I was very concerned with uncovering those lies when I was making Myth. I wanted to dismantle them, or at the very least display them, I wanted to understand what was real, what was bone, what was the roots of life. But what I found was a root, a bone, no flesh, no flowers. There are also flowers in life. And Ghost Modern is interested in learning how to enjoy them.
With their forthcoming new album Half a Native looming on the horizon like a sonic storm, Houston’s own Buxton has compiled a retrospective sampler to bring you up to speed on their musical evolution. An Unfamiliar History beautifully captures a band in motion and feels like the perfect prequel to the new sounds on their new album. To find out more about Buxton, their new album Half a Native, and what led them to leave Texas to record in Los Angeles, be sure to check out our exclusive interview with the band.
NoiseTrade: On your new record Half A Native, you guys seem to have sprinkled a few new sonic ingredients into your roots-flavored sound. What inspired those new elements?
Sergio Trevino: Well, we went out to Athens, GA to demo the record. It’s probably the most consecutive time we’d ever spent together outside of the van, and relatively distraction free. We had a couple of ideas going in, but songs like “Good As Gone” and “Old Haunt” were written out there and sort of helped steer the direction we went. When we went out to record with Thom Monahan about a year later, he sort of unleashed his massive pedal collection on us. On the other hand, time probably played the biggest role. We recorded our last record in 2010.
NT: What drove the decision to pull up your Houston stakes and travel out to Los Angeles to record the album?
Trevino: It kinda made sense to look elsewhere since we demo’d outside of Houston. And we were itching to work with a producer who made records we liked. We weren’t necessarily looking to go to LA, but I had run into Thom Monahan at our labels Christmas party and we just kinda hit it off. And you know, after touring the last record, our world had certainly expanded.
NT: Do you feel the change in scenery had any discernible effect on the mood of the songs and performances?
Trevino: Maybe subconsciously. I think it was just really good to be in the same mindset as when we were doing demo’s and just kinda going for it. We ate thai food and dirt cheap sushi just about everyday. Thom definitely had the biggest effect, he had strong opinions where maybe we were a little indifferent and it really kept us in check and focused.
NT: Your NoiseTrade sampler, An Unfamiliar History, functions as a primer on the evolution of the band. What made you pick those specific songs to tell the up-until-now Buxton story?
Trevino: Well, we’ve been a band for a really long time. And fortunately in that time I think we’ve fallen into some really great songs. We did a record in 2007-8 called ‘A Family Light’ and it’s been largely unavailable up until now. So we definitely wanted to highlight those songs. As a fan of music and perspective and context, I like to hear a progression in sound. I hope people hear that, and maybe new songs can shed a different light on older songs, and vice versa.
NT: You guys have a pretty busy March scheduled, including playing this year’s SXSW festivities. For someone who’s never been to a Buxton show, what can we expect to see and hear?
Trevino: Well, one of the things we strive for is being genuine and honest. And you’ll hear honest interpretations of the songs, and the progression of us playing them every night. There’s nothing wrong with saying the same banter every night or doing the same set. The way people digest music and the general sense of the modern world, it seems as though our value of sincerity is something we hope to share and express to others when we play.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t walking in L.A., you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
Hey there, lovers! (Man, I’ve never felt more like Delilah!) Since Valentine’s Day can be a bit of a divisive holiday, I’ve gone the populist Dickensian route this week and tried to cover all of my bases. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the lovey-dovey-sent-from-up-abovey camp or the “Hallmark holiday” humbug camp, there’s a little something for everyone here this week. I’ve got a romantic retrospection from a bona fide sonic cupid, an EP that hits below the heart belt, and an incredible sampler that strikes all the chords in-between. So whether you’re making out, making up, or making a break for it, here’s some fantastic hand-picked music from me to you. Be mine, Valentine.
While you may already know Dave Barnes from his brand new album Hymns for Her or his monster hit “God Gave Me You,” Love Songs is an exclusive sampler that features a few of his romantic songs from other albums throughout his career. Dave’s no stranger to the slow jam and his love-laced lyrics can certainly help you out when you don’t know exactly how to say it yourself.
If your yearly dose of “Love Stinks” by The J. Geils Band isn’t doing it for you this year, may I offer you Brad McConnell’s Valentine’s Day Blows EP. From the “I thought the ref said keep the gloves up” artwork to song titles like “Can’t Cure Crazy,” McConnell packs a plucky 1-2 punch of tongue-in-cheek lyrics and varied song styles in this four-song sorrow-drowner.
Promising “half love songs/half anti-love songs,” this amazing Paste Magazine sampler from a few Valentine’s Days ago strikes the perfect mix for the hit-or-miss holiday. If you’re feeling a little more on the lovey-dovey side, tracks like Drew & Ellie Holcomb’s “Nothing But Trouble” and Stars’ “Hold on When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It” will strike your fancy. If you’re feeling like it’s a bit more complicated, Those Darlins’ “Be Your Bro” and Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics’ “Mr. Wrong” will help soundtrack all of your “Hallmark holiday” ranting.
When Kate Hurley’s not busy creating as a singer-songwriter, worship leader, and teacher, she gets around to writing quite a bit as well. Her most recent book Cupid is A Procrastinator: Making Sense of the Single Life addresses “the joys and frustrations of being single longer than she expected to be.” Striking a balance between humor, grief, encouragement, and hope, Hurley’s writing seeks to dispel both the magic formula myths and break down the complexities of the multi-layered “gift of singleness” issue. If you enjoy these selected chapters, be sure to check out Hurley’s entire book as well.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t giving you a highway with no one on it and treasure just to look upon it, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
Howdy, howdy, howdy, my friends! Congratulations on making it through another week and let me be the first to welcome you to this lovely business we call the weekend. This week, I shockingly experienced my first ever accusation of “sporting a southern accent” since moving to the Windy City, so please excuse me while I remove the hay stalk from my teeth, detune my banjo, and pour out a 40 oz. of sweet tea to my hoedown homies. However, as I continue to tip my hat to the lovely people of Chicago’s ability to dig me out (Sleater-Kinney, ya’ll!) from our most recent blizzard, please allow this new batch of musical recommendations to keep you all warm and toasty (if only on the inside, where it counts). Turn it up!
Growing up under the Atlanta airwaves of 99X, Butch Walker’s voice is kinda engrained in my teenage DNA. My ears latched onto his certifiable songwriting genius during his days fronting Marvelous 3 (the Hey! Album is a late-90s post-grunge classic) and I’ve loved the cavalcade of solo material he’s released since the early 2000s. Oh yeah, he’s also produced an album or two by some folks you may have heard of like Pink, Taylor Swift, Weezer, Dashboard Confessional, and Katy Perry. This 4-track sampler opens with “Afraid of Ghosts”, the gorgeous title track from his brand new Ryan Adams-produced album released earlier this week. Walker rounds out this special release with two tracks from his Peachtree Battle EP as well as the b-side “Battle vs. The War” featuring the always welcome harmonies of Nikki Lane.
Under the My Brightest Diamond moniker, Shara Worden’s hauntingly evocative vocals are an unexpected thrill-ride for the ears. In awesome Bjork-like fashion, you don’t exactly know where she’s going to take you, which makes the ride all that much more special and enjoyable each time you hop on. Sample the otherworldy soul of “Golden Star” or the shoulda-been-a-Bond-song slink of “From the Top of the World” for perfect examples of Worden’s unique spot on the musical spectrum. Until Now compiles six mystical meanderings from My Brightest Diamond’s first three albums: Bring Me the Workhorse, A Thousand Shark’s Teeth, and All Things Will Unwind. After being brought up to speed or falling in love all over again, be sure to also check out My Brightest Diamond’s most recent album, This is My Hand, released last fall from our friends over at Asthmatic Kitty Records.
When an album boasts “instrumental surf rock and twang with space, spy and spaghetti western influence,” you’ve got to be at least a tad intrigued, right? Defenders of the Twang, a 6-track sampler culled from the new 78-track anthology from The Sandblasters, is one of the most eclectically tasty (and downright fun) pieces we’ve ever had on NoiseTrade. The rockabilly romp of “Water Gunn” and the tremolo-tinged blues of “Snake Shake” are fantastic places to start with this twangy trio.
While I’ve always loved the packed-in prose of the short story format, the very short story format has been unbelievably fascinating to me in recent years. The ability to actually create a story in just a couple of sentences (or, in the case of Twitter short stories, 140 characters) is truly an art form that deserves attention and merit. Charlie Close’s The Art of the Very Short Story takes an engaging look at a variety of techniques and approaches to what makes the format work (and not work) so well.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t getting the door, Mrs. Jackson, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
Friends, Romans, NoiseTraders, lend me your ears. No, seriously. Lend me your ears for a few minutes and I promise to make it worth your while. I’ve got a really cool batch of music recommendations this week that includes an Americana trailblazer, a cello-spiced indie-folk band, and a guy who raps in Portuguese over vintage bossa nova beats. Even this week’s book offering is music-related, as author Justin McRoberts has a robust catalog of fantastic singer-songwriter material from the last 15 years or so. Oh yeah, I believe there’s also a pretty big-deal, primetime gathering of commercials with football breaks in between planned for this Sunday, so GO (insert the team you like here) AND BEAT THOSE LOUSY (insert the team you don’t like here)!!
While Sean Watkins is mostly known for his musical contributions within the format of a band (you may have heard of his platinum-selling, Grammy-winning band Nickel Creek or his side project with Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman called Fiction Family), his solo work is equally impressive in its stark individuality. His most recent solo album is titled All I Do is Lie and songs like “Don’t Say You Love Me” and “This Will End in Tears” are heart-lifting in their impressive instrumentation and heart-breaking in their lyrical intimacy. All I Do is Lie is currently being offered in full while Watkins is out on his first solo headlining tour, so be sure to grab it before it’s gone!
As the EP’s title and idyllic cover art suggest, The Speedbumps’ Cabin EP is a warm, inviting sonic escape that feels comfortable in its delivery and stirring in its atmospherics. Singer-guitarist Erik Urycki has an engagingly soulful thread running through his vocals and the addition of Sam Kristoff’s cello to the standard acoustic string-band mix adds a uniquely beautiful layer to their acoustic ballads. The unassuming percussion that propels each track never gets in front of the other instruments or vocals and truly cements the indie-folk groove of tracks like “Montreal” and “Breakdown.” Even after the sonic snow melts you will not want to leave this Cabin.
Brazilian rap over bossa nova beats? Uh, yes, PLEASE! Vinicius Terra’s fantastic bossa-rap album is called Quando a Bossa Encontra o Rap (which translates to When Bossa Meets Rap) and that’s exactly what you can expect from this guaranteed party-starter. While it may take a second to gain your equilibrium on the first listen, you’ll soon be transported to an incredible world of sophisticated instrumentation, slick live drum beats, and raw vocal flow. “O Inverno” is such a standout track and I can’t recommend it enough.
I first encountered Justin McRoberts in the late 90s when he released a couple of albums on one of my favorite (now defunct) indie labels, 5 Minute Walk Records. After a decade and a half playing music, McRoberts is now working as an author as well. He released his first book, CMYK: The Process of Life Together, in 2013, and just last November he released his second book, Title Pending. Title Pending is a great collection of stories and essays about things McRoberts has learned regarding his own creative process that are all both informative, inspirational, and definitely worth your time.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t just here to do the Super Bowl Shuffle, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack
Greetings and salutations, NoiseTraders! May I be the first to welcome you to the weekend and here’s hoping yours is full of whatever it is that floats your boat. Me? Well, I’m hoping to partake in a whole lot of not-a-thing-to-do sprinkled with heavy dashes of snow-gazing, movie-watching, and diner-brunching at The Golden Apple with my lovely. I have a feeling this week’s musical recommendations will be appearing at various points throughout the weekend as well, especially the Velcro Mary track. Just can’t seem to get enough of it so far. Dig in, friends. Yours ears will thank you for it!
If this winter weather has you feeling a bit too chilly, put on these sizzling tunes from Canadian soul singer Nuela Charles and you will feel your frostiness melt right away. This four-track sampler features three songs from her most recent album, Aware, as well as a bonus industrial-pop remix of “You Got Me” courtesy of producer Jeff Olson. The slinky smooth piano-and-horn flirtations of “Unfortunate Love” are beautifully bolstered by the guest vocals of Darren Frank and the stutter-step rhythms of “Good in Me” will have you yearning for the nearest dance floor.
Slospeak Records has a roster-full of exciting bands and this sampler of live acoustic sessions eloquently illustrates the point. From Golden Youth’s metronome-pulse sway of “Where’s Your Heart Gone” to Fever Fever’s plucky “Hypnotized,” Slospeak’s talented grab bag of groups all really shine in this live setting. After sampling through this acoustic sampler, be sure to track down the original albums these stellar songs come from as well. In fact, Golden Youth’s entire Quiet Frame; Wild Light is available in full here on NoiseTrade to get you started.
While I’ve heard that the dream of the ‘90s is alive in Portland, Velcro Mary are doing their part to bring a little of it to Charlotte, NC as well. “Whatever Helps You Sleep At Night” is a glorious slice of nostalgic-and-now nineties-ness that thankfully relies far more on inspiration than imitation. With splashes of Dinosaur Jr., Sparklehorse, and Folk Implosion, Velcro Mary expertly brings up fond musical memories and promises new ones at the same time.
While most instructional writing books deal almost exclusively with what happens between ink and page, Tyler Ward’s The First Forty broadens the scope a bit. Ward’s book promises to show writers how to “be more intentional with what they consume, who they admire, what they think about themselves, and who they spend their time with.” Ward also offers practical time management and relational tips that feed into creating a positive writing process as well.
When writer Will Hodge isn’t living all over you, you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack