August 6, 2013

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #25: Pickwick


Pickwick is a magnetic, six-person band from Seattle that draws people to stop what they are doing and listen, to pause in their conversations and move closer to the stage. Ever since the very first time I saw frontman Galen Disston sing like a man possessed in front of this generous and tightly-wound band of musicians, I was completely taken.

The first songs I heard from them were soulful, old-feeling jams like “Hacienda Motel” and “Blackout” that still give me great joy (and a healthy amount of toe-tapping/hip-swaying). Seeing them live is akin to a tsunami — we all broke the stage together at Doe Bay Fest 2011, and that was a tremendous moment. But the longer I have followed these guys, the more I notice the darker currents swirling up and the complexities emerge.

Last weekend Pickwick headlined Seattle’s Capitol Hill Block Party, and I loved the reactions. The Stranger wrote about their set, marveling over how this band is not the “polite blue-eyed soul” that lots of us associate with the Pickwick name; the author is right that there is a taut thread of shadow running right through the bloody center of this band, and in the live setting it burns palpably. Perhaps this chapel session evokes especially strongly the bonecrushing post-SXSW fatigue, but I love the darker currents here, the layered heaviness that allows these songs to take on a new shape than I had noticed before.

Also, that Rufus Wainwright cover? Get on out of town.

As always, you can download all the tracks for free below (zip file also at the bottom), and make sure to check out all 24 of the past sessions on the right sidebar.

Recorded at Shove Chapel, Colorado Springs
St. Patrick’s Day 2013, nighttime


Santa Rosa
I notice hands, all the time. Right now thinking of each of my friends, I can picture their hands. To me, they are like faces but almost more expressive. As you watch these videos of Galen, you might also be mesmerized by the hands that alternately seem to channel the spirits, and knead themselves as he kinesthetically works all the songs out of his lungs. His hands elegantly interpret the songs in a subconscious complement that adds to the songs these guys orchestrate.

Brother Roland
We recorded this session on a Sunday night, with all the shadows gathering, our bellies full of the Irish shepherd’s pie I’d made and the Guinness we had paired it with. It was quiet in the church, after their long hot bright week at SXSW. I was half-expecting Pickwick to blow the roof off the place as they had done in all the big, loud, shiny halls I had seen them in before. The restraint was instead a welcome, haunting oasis. This song gave me goosebumps, from these eerie opening loops – and I still get them now listening back.

The unsettled, beautiful feeling that this song left me with was similar to this Werkmeister Harmoniak movie I keep trying to watch. It’s like swimming up to the surface in a confusing dream.

Halls of Columbia
Starting with the chimey chopsticks piano duet of Cassady and Michael (watch video), this song is the closest my hips got to swaying, even as it is one of the most wrenching songs in their repertoire – seeming to wrestle with spirituality and our roots. As this song congeals, I find myself noticing the instincts of this band in the give and take.

Foolish Love (Rufus Wainwright)
I always ask the bands if there is someone else’s song that they would like to end the chapel session with, and most have something in mind — sometimes an old friend that they cover often, sometimes a wonderfully spur of the moment contrivance. This cover of the first half of the first song on Rufus Wainwright’s haunting self-titled 1998 debut album was definitely an off-the-cuff experiment gone blissfully right. It is uncanny how Galen’s voice hovers over the water, and shimmers strongly through the ether in the same way that Rufus’s does.




All pictures from the chapel session here.

In case you haven’t been following along with my adventures on “The Instagram,” we have six more incredible chapel sessions in the bag that we are working through final audio production for, and that you can look forward to in the coming months:
-Will Johnson
-Desirae Garcia
(with some help from Ark Life on a tune)
-David Wax Museum

Summer has us on a bit of a slow-down (WHAT’S NEW) but watch out for what’s next as we get through the backlog because holy hell have we taken some fine folks through that chapel. I’m a lucky woman to get to share them with you.

[audio production from the fine gents at Blank Tape Records, video and stills by the magnificent Kevin Ihle]

April 9, 2013

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #24: Nathaniel Rateliff

rateliff chapel 1

Nathaniel Rateliff may have one of the most piercingly uncommon voices I have yet welcomed into the chapel. It zings through the air when he lets it loose and it is absolutely impossible not to turn your head and gape. Nathaniel makes music that you can’t ignore, and you really don’t want to. Looking like a hard-swilling sailor stumbled off a boat on leave with his turquoise rings and pearl snaps, he disarms with his cathedral-filling voice that grew up singing in churches and, likely, breaking a heart or two.

I remember hearing Nathaniel years ago, fronting his band Born In The Flood, opening for Kings of Leon on a rainy Denver night. Even with a full, loud band behind him I could tell that this was something special. He has honed his voice as a spry instrument over the years I have known him, and now I find it as powerful in the whisper as the wail. There’s also this wry half-smile behind everything I hear Nathaniel sing, a patience and an insight that this song will, eventually, get you, as it alternates cartwheeling in the best wandering-troubadour showmanship and quietly probing in truths and failures.

Three of these songs are brand new creations, unveiled just for us in the chapel, the grey afternoon before our house show. Nathaniel seems to be in a fomenting fertile stage right now, starting new soul bands (Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, probably my favorite new band name in a good while) and playing with old friends in groups like Miss America (with longtime bandmate Joseph Pope III and other Denver luminaries, incidentally playing May 10 in Colorado Springs for The Changing Colors CD release party).

All of these new songs ache, all of them need to be listened to. I am so glad he’s writing like a maniac these days, and we get to reap the results.

rateliff chapel 2

February 21, 2013 – Shove Chapel, Colorado Springs

No Place To Fall (Townes Van Zandt)
Nathaniel started the session with this cover, which seems almost unfair to knock the wind out of me so soon. There is such a gentle lilt and cadence to the way he sings those cripplingly sad lyrics about knowing you need to fall, like a slow-motion tumble down stairs. And that sideways wince when he sings the lines, “but I’m sure wantin’ you…”. I didn’t think there was a way to make Townes songs even sadder, but somehow — there it is.

Don’t Get Too Close
This song dances almost mischievously, an easy shuffle even as it warns us not to come any closer, as if it could spin away at any moment. “Wait, don’t come any closer,” it warns, maybe kindly, maybe evasively. “It was something you couldn’t see.” (watch the video)

Forgetting Is Believing
There’s a line in one of my most-beloved poems, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, which places us “when the evening is spread out against the sky, like a patient etherized upon a table” and in the streets there is “the yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes, licked its tongue into the corners of the evening.”

This song curls and nuzzles and rises hazily just like that, the siren song of forgetting. (watch the video)

“Can I play that?” Nathaniel asked, eyeing towards the back of the stage at the shining Steinway piano. “Yes, PLEASE,” I replied — and wow. What tumbled out of him is this rueful, elegiac hymn that tugs at long winter days and growing older in frozen slumber.

I’ve been thinking of piano a lot lately, as we fight through the final, sometimes-brutal days of Spring before Summer. Songs like this are why.


[thanks to our new film intern (just gave her that title) Kendall Rock, who did a tremendous job, to Kevin Ihle for the post-processing, and for the wonderful Blank Tape Records audio talent]

March 4, 2013

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #23: Mike Clark & The Sugar Sounds

mike clark chapel 1

“I want this guy to go out into the world and become the next Otis Redding …I mean, if there was a job opening for the next Otis currently available,” I leaned over and whispered into my friend Ian’s ear while Mike Clark absolutely owned the stage at Shove Chapel during the recording of this session.

Yes, I’m aware that that’s a loaded statement: the broken-down soul of Otis Redding is ingrained my Georgia roots, since my Grampy went to the same Baptist church as Otis did and I like to think it’s in my veins somehow. I’ve known Mike Clark for a few years, as he’s a major player in the Colorado Springs independent music scene (The Haunted Windchimes, The Jack Trades, that “Hey Daisy” handless bike video made up the street from me), but watching his transformation on that chapel stage into an anachronistic band-leading soul singer was notable. My first thoughts were, “Where the hell did this come from? From a 34 year-old land surveyor from Calhan, Colorado?!”

Mike didn’t start playing music until he was 27, and it appears to have been a fairly intense salvific experience for him, that transformation. It reminds me some of Ray LaMontagne’s story, except instead of hearing a Stephen Stills song on the radio and deciding to follow music with everything in ya, for Mike it was a harmonica he bought on a roadtrip and then played for the rest of the 25-hour journey home. You can see that spirit in these performances.

This is a session to tenderize, to dissolve defenses. The chapel session feels a little more gaunt and starkly soulful than his new record. As my friend Adam said, “There’s a darkness here like so much of that older stuff had in it, below the R&B feel. It’s the ‘blues’ part of R&B that people forget about.” Mike’s startling voice pierced that whole church. You felt the weariness, but there’s a wide-open, unadorned quality to the candor here also. These are A.M. radio songs that wake you in the middle of the night or keep running through your head as you whistle the melody.

BTR-025-StoreThe songs on Round and Round, his debut record with The Sugar Sounds, make you sway and tap like old rock & roll 45s. This chapel session feels more focused on Mike’s tremendous emergent voice — it’s one you have to stop what you are doing to give it the attention it deserves. And Mike is backed here by an ace band of some of the best other musicians in town: Inaiah Lujan (Mike’s bandmate in The Haunted Windchimes), Alex Koshak (The Flumps), Grant Sabin, Ian Bourgal (The Changing Colors), and Marc Benning (34 Satellite). It is so damn fun to watch them play together.

Put this session on and lay flat somewhere and just listen. Every song they performed for this session feels to me like an immediate classic, something you’ve known for a long time. Out of five songs here, only one is on Mike’s current record. He’s writing songs without stopping, and I am so glad that we get to journey with him.

January 25, 2013 / Shove Chapel

Losing My Cool
Just….go on get out of town. Again: A 34-YEAR-OLD LAND SURVEYOR FROM CALHAN, COLORADO. Something tells me in my belly that with this kind of fire in him, and this band behind him, he won’t stay our local secret for long. Holy cow — some of the most fun I’ve had in church, this one.

Take A Chance
The best descriptor I can come up with for this song is that it is hopefully devastating, wearily wooing. It’s a gun-shy swoon — and I get that. There may be nothing scarier than asking someone to take a chance on you. I like the purpose with which Mike does it here.

Upside Down
Oh man when the full band and the horns kick in on this song, it is a golden flash of ebullience. Also, this is one to dance to — but it’s all in the hips. Watch the video here.

That’s How Strong My Love Is (Otis Redding)
Yeah, of course this happened. It’s so humble the way he tackles this one, with all of O.V. Wright‘s wonderfully romantic original lyrics like “I’ll be the rainbow when the storm is gone, wrap you in my colors and keep you warm…” It’s perfect. You should definitely watch it here.

What Lovers Do
At the end of the session, five of us stood around the piano as almost an afterthought, and sang along sweet little harmonies and “ooooh”s to this new creation of Mike’s. I don’t know if I’ll ever post a chapel session song that boasts more simple joy than this one. Watch it here.

mike clark chapel 5


mike clark chapel 3

[visuals by Kevin Ihle, audios by Blank Tape Records. I have rad friends.]

February 4, 2013

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #22: Night Beds


Winston Yellen walked into the side door of the chapel on one of the last days of 2012, with a denim shirt and an easy smile, his younger brother Abe along to play drums and piano. Gregarious and unassuming in appearance, he looks like any other 23 year-old from Colorado Springs, but when he sat down at the microphone and opened his mouth to sing the a capella “Faithful Heights,” we all fell completely silent. Dumbstruck. That voice just flies out of him, with no warning.

The music of Night Beds walloped me with a colossal punch the first time I listened to it, and so far this has not lessened, not even a little bit. As someone who both deeply loved Jeff Buckley and also remembers the earliest days of Bon Iver, I feel like this guy has something in his music that could be listened alongside of both, and I would permanently give access for this music to get at all of the rawest parts of my psyche. It’s magnificent torment, this record – direct and unadorned.

We recorded these songs a couple of days before the year 2012 ended, while Winston was home from Nashville for the holidays. The handful of us in the church were speechless at the power in Winston’s voice, and the smart, literate force of his lyrics. There’s so much melancholy weighted in the single electric guitar that Winston plays here — those bluesy notes hung in the air and felt like water in my lungs, slowly accumulating. Winston floats and swims strongly through the spaces in his song, letting his exceptionally powerful voice pierce through the resonance.

His debut record Country Sleep is out today in the UK, tomorrow in the U.S. Like I said at the end of my last post of 2012, I think Winston’s efforts could be one of the most notable and promising of the year that lies ahead of us. Stay tuned for the in-depth, fascinating interview I got to conduct with Winston; his first in the United States. I hope to post that later this week.

DECEMBER 29, 2012


Faithful Heights / Ramona
First off, stop what you’re doing before you click play here, because you’re not going to be able to continue doing whatever you were doing once Winston starts singing. Secondly, I like these versions even more than the album because they manage to come off even more potent and honest. We talked a lot about these two songs, which bravely open up Country Sleep. I wondered who they were about, who Winston was inviting to crawl into his arms for comfort, who Ramona was, and why she needed to fuck everything she’d been taught. I was surprised and intrigued to learn that both of these could be about him, or for him. Changes the whole perspective, in a poignantly sharp and self-compassionate way, when we sing to a side of ourselves.

At the end of our session I commented to Winston that this was a fitting song for him to play, for our 22nd chapel session recording. This song sings about hearing the trains in the August night, and that’s shaped how I picture it: on a Tennessee hillside somewhere in the dense summer heat. His voice keens like a lonesome whistle in the darkness while the percussion clacks over the rail ties. This is a darkly lush song, on a lush album.



Lost Springs
And I never have known / why I feel so alone…” The more I listen to the new Night Beds record, the more I feel like this line repeated in this song might be the theme of it, in a way that the movie Melancholia fought with its fists pounding against the giant meteor of depression hurtling towards earth and threatening everything we love and enjoy. The sweet piano topnotes that Abe adds on the grand piano feel almost like stardust falling.

Everything Trying (Damien Jurado)
So, GUYS — I am not sure my heart can handle it if people keep covering Damien Jurado songs. I mean, I love it obviously. And: ouch.

This is Winston’s amazing take on Jurado’s crusher from Caught In The Trees (2008). Oh, I’ll be sailing on your deep blue eyes.

Download this whole session in a click. And go get his record.


“Lost Springs”


[video and photo by Kevin Ihle, audio by the Blank Tape Records studs]

January 28, 2013

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #21: Neil Halstead


There is something downright mesmerizing in the understated, persistent songs of Neil Halstead, former frontman of the bands Slowdive and Mojave 3 and pioneer of the shoegaze sound in England. I keep putting this chapel session on to play at nighttime, to quiet my racing mind like a hypnotist’s gold swinging watch in a darkened study somewhere, or like a metronome that whispers instead of clacks.

On the day we recorded this, an eddy amidst the rush of the workday all around us, Neil amiably walked up the wide central aisle of Shove Chapel with his guitar case in his hand and a tour manager who was doubling as a piano player on the gorgeous Steinway. Neil slowly wove a resonant, dappled set for us, with two songs from his rich new album Palindrome Hunches (2012, Brushfire Records). When reviewers talk about cozy sweaters and thoughtfulness in this album, they’re right, but that’s not to say that it is sleepy or at all boring. Rather, it feels quietly satisfying.

After the new songs, Neil turned to me and asked “Is it okay if I do a Damien Jurado cover?” I nearly choked. “Um, yeah, sure I guess that would be okay,” I replied. The results are as completely stunning as you would imagine. He also played a song I specifically requested that afternoon, “See You on Rooftops” – an older tune from 2002′s Sleeping on Roads (4AD), and one that he hadn’t played in so long that he had to remember how it went.

The whole session felt, to me, like a reawakening.

OCTOBER 17, 2012

Digging Shelters

Tied To You

Ohio (Damien Jurado)

See You On Rooftops


[wonderful photos & video by Kevin Ihle, all audio production as usual by the superheroes at Blank Tape Records]

Neil Halstead Side

January 7, 2013

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #20: Field Report

I’ve spent the last three days wrestling my blankets in a haze of fever dreams, hours passing in what feels like minutes and vice-versa. The soundtrack to much of my (stupid stupid mean) flu has fittingly been the impressionistic complexity of Field Report in these recordings from Shove Chapel earlier in the fall.

Even before I roadtested this music to my own actual fever dreams, that’s long been one of the best descriptors I could come up with for how Chris Porterfield’s rich songs wrestle over failings and threads of stories long forgotten. In the same way that time out of mind through fevers makes all sorts of strange threads of memory surface, these songs draw you into stories as if you’ve already heard them. Listening for the first time feels like remembering. Porterfield is a master at using odd metaphors that require you to just sort of accept them before they make sense.

I’ve been so deeply entranced by Field Report, and tangled up in their debut record ever since it first surfaced in my life in the icy springtime. The purity and urgency made it one of my favorites of 2012, and I think that all three album songs in this session outshine the renditions on the record. This band is a jaw-dropping talent, and it’s evident from these recordings that touring has only strengthened their songs. Go see them in 2013.


Taking Alcatraz
This is ostensibly a story about the American Indian occupation of Alcatraz in 1969, but it is also a song about staking your battles and pushing back against fears. “If I die here, well — at least I made a choice.”

Circle Drive
This song feels exactly like a string of long, late-night hospital visits, the sterile and dehumanizing blur between the living and the dying. I prefer the slow weariness in this version to the album version. Nick’s sweet piano cadence kills me here, as does the simple way that Chris states, “I am still your man. Some days we do the best we can.” He also leaves out the line, “we’re doing fine” in this rendition, which is good because I wouldn’t believe him anyways.

Borrowed Tune (Neil Young)

Whoa whoa. The caged energy of this video is mesmerizing, and Chris does absolute justice to the thin-voiced strained urgency of Neil Young’s ripoff of the Rolling Stones. One of my favorite covers we’ve recorded in the church.

Fergus Falls
You wake up suddenly in the middle of this quietly sad story, a song that doesn’t have the courtesy to fill us in on any of the important details that came before. Someone is reminding me about the time ten years ago when their wings iced up in the fall, and the whole thing feels like a dream. This version is slower and warmer, and feels like swimming towards the surface.

I feel like this whole record is about swimming towards the surface.


[audio production by the wonderful guys at Blank Tape Records, video by the always-terrific Kevin Ihle]

November 21, 2012

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #19: Hey Marseilles

There is something colorful and dizzying in the orchestral swoops of Hey Marseilles‘ music. Bookended on either side of the stage with two of the Anderson brothers on cello and viola (two of nine kids, apparently all musical – good job, Mr. and Mrs. Anderson) this Seattle band is fortified with a sparkling range of instruments. Matt Bishop soars at the front of this carnival with words of love and loss and the wide world that’s out there waiting.

There’s a lot of sonic wealth in these songs – especially when those strings dance across your ears. The music of Hey Marseilles is richly thoughtful and expansive. On this collection of songs, they seem to be wrestling with a grownup love and all the commitments that entails; this is one to sit with for a while.

Watch out for their new album coming in March 2013.


There’s a mischievous gleam in this new song, much more than you’d expect from something called “Elegy.” I do not waltz (or two-step, or anything so formal), but I believe this is the song I would like to waltz to if I did. My favorite part of this song comes at the end where everything cuts out but the two Anderson brothers weaving their cello and viola together – it made me draw in my breath and hold it until the measures died away. So good.

Hold Your Head
If the last song was a waltz, this one makes me practically see ballerinas bouncing spry and quick on their toes. It also reminds me of rain, the springtime kind.

True Love Will Find You In The End (Daniel Johnston)
There is something so open-hearted and earnest in this song, sung as matter-of-fact truth set to music by the reticent Daniel Johnston. I don’t have this kind of faith yet, but I am glad some folks out there do – and this version of the song is all dressed up stunningly.

Looking Back
This is a brand new song that doesn’t seem to exist out there in recorded or video form, so I was especially delighted. On this, I hear chronicles of weariness and peace with past mistakes. “If you’re looking back, that’s all you’ll ever see / when I find my way to you, I know I’ll stay.” This is a song about finding a nest, a haven, a home.


Also, hey: if you download this and like it, please enter your email address in the widget thing for the band, below where it says “Free Download.” That way they can let you know when they are coming through your town — they are lovely, lovely guys and you should be in direct contact with them.

[visuals by Kevin Ihle, and videos for all the songs are on his YouTube page]

October 10, 2012

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #18 :: The Barr Brothers

The music of Montreal’s The Barr Brothers unfolds slowly, richly, and often jaw-droppingly. When the idea arose for us to tape a special chapel session during the Meadowgrass Music Festival in the tiny old adobe church on the grounds of La Foret, nestled in the woods of Black Forest (look!), I wasn’t very familiar with the band. Our sound guys were huge fans of the brothers’ previous work with The Slip, and I just knew that they had a harp player I wanted to hear a bunch more from. Their redolent, gossamer sound is absolutely perfect for the church — compelling, and achingly beautiful.

So there alongside the brightly painted folk-art frescos in the dusty, rarely-used chapel, with us and the miller moths, Andrew and Brad Barr were joined by the other half of the band: classically-trained harpist Sarah Page (who Brad met when she shared an apartment wall with him as her neighbor), and Anders Vial on keys, percussion, and other assorted instruments. They make some kind of magic when they all play together.

This session was recorded in the last days of spring, on Memorial Day weekend — but I knew as soon as I heard it that this was definitely an autumn collection of songs, for when the leaves were orange and the air smelled of woodsmoke somewhere. The season is here, and this one is extremely special.


Ooh, Belle
To start things out with some mind-blowing sonic coolness, that sound sending shivers down your neck at the beginning of this song is a long thread that Brad wrapped around the guitar string and slowly pulled back and forth to play the notes — riveting.

There’s something in this song that feels as round and golden, as unflawed and naive as a garden at the start of it all. “The nearer we came to salvation, the further we fell,” Brad sings.

Old Mythologies
I bought a Joseph Campbell book (The Hero With A Thousand Faces) for $2.15 at a used bookstore the other weekend, on the recommendation of one Joe Pug, who was shocked I hadn’t read it. Lately I have been very curious about how these “old mythologies” and stories of heroes can weave their ways into our lives, and what we choose to keep or break apart. Flowing out of the innocence of “Ooh, Belle,” the hand-slapped rhythms that Andrew and Anders lace through this song feels like a heartbeat accelerating.

Let There Be Horses
Anders found an old organ in the little room annexed to the main chapel, covered in dust and full of good histories, so we ran a mic in there so he could play the keys here on it. Once he figured out all the flip-switches, it was wheezy and perfect — and I deeply enjoyed weaving some of the uniqueness of the building into the song itself.

And this chorus? “Oh, let me hear music like you hear music, like you were just born / and oh, let there be horses, let there be danger, let there be one song.”

YES. Nothing more that needs to be said about this song: completely stunning, a benediction.

Don’t Let It Bring You Down (Neil Young)
Whoaaa. This is one of my favorite versions of this song (off Young’s 1970 album After The Gold Rush) that I’ve ever, ever heard. I know these are fighting words but this is arguably more sublime than the original. In addition to the pendulous tension the plucked harp notes add throughout, those three-part harmonies during the extended breakdown? Holy shit. Each time through adds another layer and becomes even more heart-stopping. The two brothers, in particular, sound like fractal rays splitting off the same light.


(see “Old Mythologies” on Kevin Ihle’s video page)

[marvelous photos also by Kevin Ihle; more on the Fuel/Friends Facebook]

July 11, 2012

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #17: Typhoon

Let’s be absolutely clear about this: the first moment I ever heard the music of Typhoon, in the same month I recorded my first chapel session, I desperately wanted them all in there in my little cathedral to reverberate their expansive, yell-out-loud, massively melodic symphonies of songs all around me and my microphones. Almost a year to that March day, they did. And this session is everything that any of us could have hoped it would be.

One of Typhoon’s strengths and glories is all the people that this Portland band makes good use of. There are eleven members of the band, and probably twenty instruments played among them. They also have two drummers, which is essentially the best idea I can think of. Kyle and I discussed how he is the primary songwriter, which lends a continuously-wending feel to all of their songs, but also how each addition of another musician’s coloring and shading into the song helps make them come alive. It was joyful to hear them fill that space.

You had to peel me up off the floor multiple times during the recording of this session, what with all those yelling-together crescendos that felt like one of those chest saws they use in open heart surgery. Only one of these songs (“CPR – Claws Part 2″) has been on an official record; the other three are new or unreleased. “Common Sentiments” will be on their upcoming album that they just spent a month recording on Pendarvis Farms outside of Portland, while “Pain, love” is even newer, and is slated for the album after this next one.

I’ve tried to write about each individual track in this session, but maybe because of the coherence of their music, it all just keeps jostling and nestling around each other and I can’t untangle it into discrete parts. Just do yourself a wonderful favor and put the whole session on continuous loop, like I’ve been doing nonstop lately in these weeks I’ve been in Portland.

Their music was made for this setting. Come, listen.

MARCH 20, 2012

CPR Claws Pt. 2


Common Sentiments

Pain, love

And to get the whole thing…


[audio by the wonderful guys at Blank Tape Records, and on this one, also by the terrific Paul Laxer, Typhoon’s sound guy for their records and the road. Thanks, Paul!]

May 25, 2012

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #16 :: Tyler Lyle

I’ve always had this metaphorical soft underbelly where the scales never grew, which feels far too vulnerable at times; I’m sensitive to the flicker of dark clouds across the eyes of those that I love, wanting to intuit out all the discord and weave it back together into something whole. With each year that passes, I realize more how the wounds and the brokenness and the bruises sometimes, most times, have to just be sat with while they knit themselves back together. Or they don’t. Often they don’t. This has been The One Thing I have been faced with learning in the past four years and, with heightened intensity, in the past six months or so. I am still trying to believe in hope and magic, as much as I can, with a flimsy protective coating. Some people are beetles that can survive an emotional nuclear attack. I’m more like a naked mole rat.

That oblique introduction is directly related to Tyler Lyle, because in meeting him and punctuating the last year of my life with his music and now his friendship, I’ve seen a fellow naked mole rat (sorrry Tyler, not my finest allegory). Tyler believes boldly in hope, choosing his eyes wide open and his heart half-broken every time, as he sings in one of his new songs. This chapel session is a sweet one, but the kind of sweetness that is rooted in sadness, and the smoldering under the ash.

Tyler’s self-released record The Golden Age and The Silver Girl was one of my favorite records of last year, and the night after this session was recorded, he performed at my house (a highlight of all my concerts thus far). I wrote a lot of words and feelings about it here; it still leaves me feeling radiant to remember.

Tyler indicated recently that he is working on 44 new songs (two of which you can hear over here, that I have not stopped listening to since March), and I want to hear the other 42. This kid leaves me with my jaw dropped with every song he writes, and I can’t stop telling people about him with a missionary fervor.

I have a feeling about this one.

MARCH 3, 2012

Free (I Am)
I was in NYC in March, and I spent one sunny Sunday afternoon walking loops through Prospect Park listening to this song on mega-repeat and singing along when no one was around (and sometimes, even when they were). This is a brave and beautiful new tune that cements Tyler’s standing in my mind as a potential major songwriter in my pantheon of great songwriters. There is no artifice in this folk song, only extraordinarily bold hope despite the entropy all around us.

Personally in my last few transformative months, I’ve claimed this song as an anthem of removing the fish-hooks of detrimental love from your heart and swimming off into the glittering water. “Not afraid of giving you all my love, and I’m not afraid to say goodbye.

When I Say That I Love You
This song’s probably the most perfect summation ever penned of looking back at that one hot, pure young love that grabbed you and shook you before you knew what to do with such a torrent. There is no other feeling like that, and it’s a feeling that dissipates so quickly as we get older and develop scar tissue around all the soft parts and spaces.

This song remembers. Another year, another ring around my bones.

(and: that violin? It’s like a river that’s almost too much to bear. Sitting on the edge of stage when this was recorded, I just perched there and cried. Because I remembered, too.)

For Love To Come…
There’s a strong thread of melancholy that weaves its way through all the songs on Tyler’s record last year (because it’s a breakup record, all the songs about one Silver Girl). This song traces a theme that he’s explored in a few different places: the fact that we have to unclench our tight, white-knuckled fists before we can move on, even though stepping into that neutral liminal zone of nothingness can be terrifying. I haven’t minded doing it this year as much, with this soundtrack. “Sometimes for love to come, love has to go.” Also, the harmonies on this one are really something.

Closer To Me
At the outset, this song sounds the cheeriest of the session — an effervescent strum, an exhortation to come closer. But then I notice near-sinister undertones to the song which reminds me of the subject matter of Josh Ritter’s “The Curse” – “Come closer, closer, closer to me / I am a loaded gun, you are a symphony / …past those warning signs, out into the sea.” I hear it as wanting to love someone and being worried that your love might be corrosive (“I got a heart with holes, it don’t keep much heat“). Maybe I’m just glum. In any case: I also love the very Paul-Simonesque whistling at the end.

These Days (Jackson Browne)
Whoa, this cover is the gut-shot: one of the most penetrating covers I have ever, ever heard. Where the version I first heard, recorded by Nico, is all German alienation and that oddly-endearing frigidity, Tyler’s version pulses pure and gold in all that sadness. The fatal, exquisite line in this recording is: “Oh I had a lover, I don’t think I’d risk another these days …it’s just that I’ve been losing / …for so long.” Blammo.

I also, detrimentally, never realized this song was written by Jackson Browne. That just goes to show, yet again, that all the best stuff is probably by Brownes.


[Audio, as usual, by the fantastic guys at Blank Tape Records. Church interior photo by Kevin Ihle]

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Bio Pic 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

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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