We are looking ahead to a long summer filled with all sorts of good folks coming through to play us some Fuel/Friends House Concerts! Our next one is Thursday, June 6th with Vandaveer, and has been a long time coming.
These are songs that resonate with echoes of old, rich music: spirituals, dirges, and songs of rejoicing. It often feels primal and organic in the percussion (lots of handclaps), elegant in the wending warmth of the cello. The lyrics are also dang smart; one just needs to listen to a rich allegory on songs like “Spite” to know that.
But the real currents that pull me through these songs come from the vocal pairings of Rose Guerin’s icy deep low harmonies and Mark Charles Heidinger’s wending ripples and currents that tug us around the rocks. Heidinger’s voice has this vinegar of sadness around it that actually reminds me of Nina Simone (something I would never expect); they both have that slight metallic tang and bitter aftertaste that sounds regretful all the way through.
Vandaveer has a new record out of traditional folk murder ballads and other dark things, called Oh, Willie, Please. I am looking forward to being drawn into those complicated stories on a warm summer night.
And off their last record (one of 2011′s favorites of that year), the title track, which I still love so damn much. I thought of this song over and over in that Barcelona cathedral, and all those dazzling dizzying colors still come to mind every time I hear it.
As our opener for the evening, we are in for a real treat. Fresh off one of THE most insanely long and awesome shows I have seen in a very long time (at Meadowgrass this past weekend), opening the night will be Colorado Springs’ own Joe Johnson. He may also know a folk murder ballad or two, and man — can he also wail when he sets his mind to it. Check out this video he made last weekend amidst the pines, with friend Kevin Ihle:
EARLY SHOW: Please note that we have a multitude of musical riches in town on this same night, and we are doing this house concert as an early show (from 7pm to 9pm), so as to allow time for all of us to hop on bikes (those who have bikes) and ride the few blocks over to the Triple Nickel for the second act of the night with more good friends: The Changing Colors, with Ark Life and Roo & The Howl, which will get started shortly after 9pm!!
A generous donation is encouraged at my house show next Thursday, to support homegrown quality music and musicians. BYOB. You can RSVP via Facebook here — hope to see you here!
Sixteen years ago today, Jeff Buckley went swimming in a tributary of the Mississippi River, and was pulled under. Back then I was a few weeks away from graduating high school, and can still remember reading the snippet of printed news in the paper that morning. I can still hear the blood rushing in my ears at that moment.
I’ve probably written more about Jeff than any other artist on this blog, and the purity and power in his music still flies straight and true into the best parts of me. Hyperbole aside, the more music I listen to and the more years that calcify around me, the more I realize what a startling light he was. When I recognized the anniversary today it felt like a punch to the gut.
I’d never seen this documentary, but you can (and should) watch the whole hour-long thing online today:
I’ve also gone through all my archives here and pulled out a few noteworthy posts (with working mp3s) of all sorts of Jeff goodness that you may have missed. Recommended listening today:
All of my waking hours in the last week (and some of my sleeping ones as well) have been spent listening to the new National record, Trouble Will Find Me (out May 20 on 4AD). I am thoroughly taken by this narcotic, melodic speedball of record, all dark hues and complicated beauty. The National is one of my favorite bands, and I’ve waited three years for this. From the understated opening notes and breakingly delicate vocals, this record is magnificence that was absolutely worth the wait.
I think the magic combination that I so appreciate about the National is the way their music is both sentimental (“I am secretly in love with / everyone that I grew up with”) and gorgeously fatalistic (“I have only two emotions / careful fear and dead devotion / I can’t get the balance right”) at the same time. It’s such an interesting and noteworthy combination in music; that constant engagement with things we often think of as being very much at-odds. The Guardian wrote a piece about this record, and I re-read this sentence a few times: “What they have perfected, over the course of six albums, is a kind of glistening melancholy, a strangely beautiful dourness.”
I got stuck on the part that said that it was strange to find beauty in dourness, because lately I have been challenging myself to see a natural interweaving, and not something strange at all. I was reminded of something I wrote for that brilliant Cold Specks video, which wove together the decomposing and the budding, the avalanche with the slicing forward. Even though I have trouble articulating the way this concept looks in my head, I think it is the same reason I love The National – their songs are all both, at once.
“When they ask what do I see, I say: a bright white beautiful heaven hanging over me,” Matt sings on this (very dark) record. It’s there, all at once: in that blinding brilliance, the desire for redemption, that sad shitty feeling in your gut when you realize that things are so very broken everywhere. When I think of that, I shield my eyes because we can all agree that sometimes it’s too much, and sometimes we default to lingering in the swamp. But one thing that Berninger’s words –and this band’s elegant instrumentation– will always do for me is sharpen that sinuous zone between the celestial and the torturous.
Matt Berninger is my all-time favorite lyricist: he writes intellectual, spidery lyrics that can be so achingly spot-on in what they evoke, and also don’t shy away from the ugliest things we can think. I had to start keeping a note on my phone to write down all the mindblowing lines on this record that keep jumping out at me (or at least what I think they say). Lines as simple and profound as: “When I walk into a room, I do not light it up. Fuck.” Or these lines from “Slipped”:
“I’m having trouble inside my skin
I try to keep my skeletons in
I’ll be a friend, and a fuck, and everything
but I’ll never be anything you ever want me to be…
I keep coming back here where everything slipped
…I will not spill my guts out.”
Drummer Bryan Devendorf is probably also my favorite drummer; his percussion will often feel blissfully narcotic to me, in its tight persistence and crisp unpredictability. To me, his drums speak another language and contribute to the meaning of the song just as much as the words themselves do. Throughout this record, and every National record, one of their strengths is in changing time signatures, sudden shifts and (especially) hesitations. In a recent interview with The Gothamist, Bryan talked about the song “Hard to Find” being a “beautiful piece of music, around this odd fixed-meter thing — it’s very natural and, for lack of a better term, human.”
Similarly guitarist Aaron Dessner talks about the “funny extra beat” in opening song “I Should Live In Salt.” All throughout this record my brain kept lighting up at unexpected percussive joys. “Apartment Story” (on 2007′s Boxer) has long been a song that I will put it on the headphones if I want to sleep, using that rhythmic ferocity to mute and soften the corners of all my non-stop thoughts. On this new record, “Graceless” is an immediate standout to me that does the same: over an unrelenting hammering of classy drums, it’s addictive, with brilliant lines like “All of my thoughts of you / bullets through rotten fruit.” Wow.
The multi-instrumental capacities and coherence of The National have only become more pronounced throughout their six records. “I Need My Girl” starts with these weird little needling guitar tones that feel like all the persistent thoughts that start pricking at you in the darkness as soon as you turn off the lights to go to sleep; all the insecurities, all the things we’ve said that may have, in fact, been a little too aggressive — even as they helped keep ourselves intact, hold our shit together, help us gather our shit in. “Heavenfaced,” feels like a bruise forming, or slipping into some sort of storm-swollen dark river. It has one of the most beautiful breaks on the record, and gives us this lyric, which is perfect:
“Let’s go wait out in the fields with the ones we love.”
Lots of people are calling this record the best one yet from The National. To me, that’s like picking a favorite child, or chocolate/beer/ice cream/any beloved thing, for that matter. This is an astoundingly good record that you should get lost in next week, and for many weeks and months to follow. How do they keep doing it? It must be magic. Or chemistry. Or something else I’m just busy deeply, deeply appreciating over here.
Late spring is such a raw and wet time of digging out from under the ice and (maybe) melting snow (not this week though, in Colorado). There is something about the world that seems undressed, on the verge of new, and full of promise. It is as if all of nature around me is living that wonderful Ryan Adams lyric “precious little thing / with eyes that dance around without their clothes.”
I know this is late-ish, but I’m gonna call April a wash and declare it not too late to salvage this spring. Some of these songs are borderline summery too, so if you live somewhere that’s already green and warm, then you’ll find fodder to soundtrack for whatever goodness this season brings.
UNDRESS ALL THE WORLD ::
THE FUEL/FRIENDS SPRINGTIME 2013 MIX
Love Like This – Kodaline
With a whistle stretching cleanly over the horizon and a melody that explodes in technicolor bursts, this carnival of a song dives right in head first – not even caring if love like this won’t last forever. Bold move.
Needle – Born Ruffians
“I belong to no one, like the watermelon / rolling with momentum / spitting out its seeds. Buried under snow and waiting just to show us how it grows…” This song dovetails in with the last one, I find, all about the deliciousness of sometimes being “a song without an album.” And after that warmly layered fleet-foxy intro, it breaks into a full-on shiny indie dance anthem.
Undress The World – The Milk Carton Kids
The simple purity and Paul-Simon-ness of this song feels effervescent and wide-eyed believing — in spite of the fact that nothing around the heroine of the song is whole. I also realized, in a holy crap moment, that I wrote about Milk Carton Kid Joey Ryan way back in 2008, after a musical scavenger hunt to discover who did the soundtrack for the indie film Bella. Good then, good now.
Jumper Cables – Widower
A hugely wide-open song to start the terrific Fool Moon record from Seattle’s Widower. I’ve had all of these semi-woeful lyrics running a bare path through my head lately, because they are so perfectly surgical, all “ferris wheels of feelings” and such (and, you know, that’s what I do). You should really come see Widower at my Fuel/Friends BBQ House Concert on May 23, to kick off Memorial Day Weekend and summer and all those good things, and since Kevin is coming all that way.
Pompeii (house show version) – Bastille
This is my favorite recording lately, just listening to it over and over on repeat (especially in my car), and basking in all that joy. The best tiny moment comes at 1:29, after that avalanche of a drum cascade and you hear a guy laugh out loud of sheer happiness, almost disbelief. I’ve been trying to be that appreciative. That laugh made me sure that he and I could be friends.
Jericho – John Fullbright
This song, from 24-year-old Oklahoman Fullbright, is just one sonofabitch of a marvelous song, one you feel like you know as an old friend from the first time you hear it, as he struggles with waiting for something –the right thing– to unfurl.
To The Bugs On My Ceiling (with River Giant) – Edmund Wayne
I love this sundrenched, golden EP from Seattle band Edmund Wayne (joined here by River Giant, who I will see at Timber! Fest in July). There’s a slinky, inebriated feel to this song that enchants me as it winds its way through the speakers, all falsetto and rueful regrets. Maybe it reminds me a lot of the way Jeff Buckley’s “Everybody Here Wants You” also made me feel, and there is not a thing wrong with that.
Little Numbers – BOY
Two Swiss/German gals in a band called BOY; tricky — and goddamn catchy. There is no way to listen to this song without tapping something, even if it is a mental airdrum solo in your head. Spring is making promises outside.
Just To Know What You’ve Been Dreaming – Will Johnson
Centro-matic / South San Gabriel frontman Will Johnson came and stunned us all in a house show and a chapel session last week, and since then I have been listening to even more of his music than usual. This song is from his 2004 record Vultures Await, which is heavy on the piano and also helps restore some hope in me about the good things that are out there waiting. Life is wide, as Will told me with simple confidence, over my kitchen table.
Joe DiMaggio Done It Again – Houndmouth
I nestled this one up next to Will’s song because he loves baseball as much as I do, and this is the season, the most blessed season of them all. With lyrics written by Woody Guthrie, originally sung by Wilco and Billy Bragg, covered here by the fiery Houndmouth: you cannot go wrong with a song like this. I already have plans this year to see two Giants games in Denver, a Twins game in MPLS, a Mariners game in Seattle, and I couldn’t be happier.
I’ll Slip Away – Rodriguez
I love how the music of long-overlooked Seventies folk musician Rodriguez is all over the place these days after the release of the fantastic documentary about him, Searching For Sugar Man. “And I’ll forget about the girl who said “no” / then I’ll tell who I want where to go … Maybe today, I’ll slip away.” This song and this season both make me want to explore and take advantage of every sunny day and unfrozen road.
Hardly Are You Lonely – Desirae Garcia
Hazel-eyed Colorado luminaria Desirae Garcia (from the Haunted Windchimes) has devastated me in the best possible way with this little vinyl EP Ill Fitting she recently put out, just four songs recorded at home to tape. They navigate dark waters with fearlessness, a flower on the ocean floor. She plays an early show tonight at the Bridge Gallery in Colorado Springs for First Fridays.
Specks – Matt Pond PA
An older tune from 2010′s The Dark Leaves, this song bravely professes, “I believe in energies that no one has to see for us to prove,” which sums up some of the faithfulness required to completely enjoy spring, doesn’t it? Currents are rising in the specks of silver in the sky, and gold in the river running.
Time To Run – Lord Huron
On the recommendation of my friend Joe Pug, I have recently discovered that this is a terrific album to (not only name one of your favorites of 2012 but also) run to. The warmly calescent percussion and themes of appreciating this world and not wanting to leave it, even when sometimes you have to escape to the desert, make my daily runs quite a bit more enjoyable. Of course Joe gets to run in Texas and I am still fighting off ice storms, but I’ll make up for it come July.
Don’t Watch Me Dancing – Little Joy
Perhaps you remember this wonderful gem of an album, a side project from Fabrizio Moretti (The Strokes), Binki Shapiro, and Rodrigo Amarante (Los Hermanos) that feels like you wandered off in 1960s Cuba and found yourself slow-dancing on a porch somewhere after a few too many rum and cokes.
Malibu Rum – The Wooden Sky
…which is also where this wistful, redolent song comes in. From their second Daytrotter.
I Will Not Die in Springtime – Chris Porterfield of Field Report
For a dude who died in 1864, Stephen Foster is just absolutely tearing it up on the Fuel/Friends seasonal mixes lately — He also penned “Hard Times Come Again No More” which opened my fall mix. But to hear Field Report‘s Chris Porterfield give such heartfelt treatment to this lovely elegiac hymm about music on the breeze and soft, delicious murmurs, well….how can anyone resist?
Muchacho’s Tune – Phosphorescent
This is a song for rolling away the stone, for realizing that the river is running bigger and faster than you are, even as you lag in the dirty city snow for a while. Between the shadow and the storm lays this amazing record, one of the best of the year so far, hands down.
We’ll See The Sun – Houses
I already put this song from Denver band Houses on a summer mix in 2009, but fuck it, this season needs it all over again. I heard this song reverberating through my internal brain-speakers the other day when I was lying flat and worn out after a yoga class, and all of a sudden the sun split through the heavy grey clouds that had been blanketing Pikes Peak, right before it set, and shone directly into my eyes through the huge windows. Yes.
Last night in the span of five songs at the Bluebird Theater, in an opening set, I watched Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats become the best band in Denver. It was their very first show and holy mackerel you guys, I was speechless.
My cheeks flushed all red, my friend Andrew and I just kept looking at each other with jaws dropped. As those horns wailed, the piercing songwriter troubadour was reborn as a writhing, kicking soul singer with a seven-piece band behind him. As I surveyed the room, there was a similar look of pure joy on everyone’s faces, as Nathaniel yowled and yelled like a man possessed.
I know my video skills last night were extremely sub-par (I figure it out, and rotate my phone) but this electrified minute of video will give you some idea.
How can Dash Hammerstein be a real name? Or better yet, since I think it is, how could he do anything but make humble retro-inspired pop songs of mooning and harmony, with a moniker like that?
Dash Hammerstein wrote to me that he is a twenty-four year old carpenter from Brooklyn, and also that “I make these little surfy country tunes whenever I get a chance.” The two technicolor tunes I heard on Bandcamp were just exactly the sort of immediately-hummable reminiscence that I needed this week – all Buddy Holly and tears on my pillow, with handclaps. I want to do a hot summer house party with this guy and You Won’t.
On Wednesday night, April 24, Will Johnson is finally coming to play after a long time planning. Will is a Texan songwriter who fronts Centro-matic and South San Gabriel, making smoldering, understated music for the last twenty years. He’s also collaborated on some of my favorite side projects in recent years: with Jim James and Jay Farrar on that tremendous Woody Guthrie albumNew Multitudes last year, as a part of Monsters of Folk (with Conor Oberst, Jim James, and M. Ward), and on the smoky duo album with Jason Molina (of Magnolia Electric Company, who recently passed away).
There is something in Will’s honest voice and way of phrasing that makes me persistently uncomfortable (in a way I very much like); it’s a red-hot ember held real close to the skin. I’m so looking forward to an evening of just close listening to him and his guitar.
I have been completely riveted by Will’s music ever since I first saw this song that my friend Dainon recorded years ago in the radio station studios where he worked:
“And we tried innocence and we tried formaldehyde / in the end you were left with the string and I, the kite” — ooof. That’s still one of the most powerful songs I’ve personally ever heard about a marriage ending.
Last year, his record Scorpion was this sun-scorched, potent slow-burner of densely woven wonder, and I think I listened to the track “You Will Be Here, Mine” on repeat for months. It is so full of wonderful hesitancies and fumbling that make it even sweeter when everything finally hits its stride in that song.
TWO OTHER THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT WILL:
1. He just announced a collaborative project with (Fuel/Friends two-time house show alum) David Bazan, called Overseas:
I like the rambly, literate way that Jesse Elliott always lets his heart and words bleed all over everything. For years with (chapel session alums) These United States, and now through his new project Ark Life, it always sounds like his mind is rambling so fast and so pure that the rest of all of us around him can barely keep up. He is one of my favorite kinds of musicmakers.
His new Denver-based band Ark Life blends together a crew of good musicians to make some fine open-air/open-highway music, all tied up with three-part female harmonies. Tomorrow night they are playing a Fuel/Friends House Concert, and if you’re in Colorado, you should be there.
You can download the rest of their Daytrotter session from last week over here. It’s the first recorded material available anywhere on the internets from Ark Life, so if you want to hear more, well, you’ll just have to come to my house show tomorrow night.
Also playing with Ark Life tomorrow night, I am excited to welcome Denver band Poet’s Row for the first time, maybe named after some cool art deco apartments on Capitol Hill? Either way: it’s a show not be to missed.
Name: Heather Browne Location: Colorado, originally by way of California Giving context to the torrent since 2005.
"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel." —Hunter S. Thompson
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