June 14, 2011

not one good reason left to keep me / but please don’t let me go

Bryan John Appleby crafts thoughtful, melodic music about complicated relationships and desires, from his home in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. The singer-songwriter path is well-trod in every city, and Seattle is no different, but Bryan sets his music on a higher plane with the incisively intelligent way that he can wrap words around a tenuous moment. He said in an interview, “I write my best when I’m reading lots of books and listening to lots of bands and songwriters.” I think that comes through in his music, with a variety of historical, literary, spiritual, and relational groundings. It’s no wonder I fell for him.

My first listens of this song reminded me of the best, most achingly open parts of Blind Pilot songs. This is a song about the tension and the gulf between wanting someone and actually having them. There is SO much raw vulnerability in the way Bryan sings “not one good reason left to keep me / but please don’t let me go.” I am reminded of the old adage about how we need love the most when we deserve it the least.

Every line in this song seems to strip something in me bare, like when he sings, “I am roaming through the darkness, I am rambling through the night / I will find you soon my darling, be sure and hold the light.” Have you read No Country for Old Men? If so, this reminds me of the last page.

Fixin to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold….

Cliffs Along The Sea – Bryan John Appleby

And the gorgeous video for this song, by Christian Sorensen Hansen (who made this and this also), with Bryan singing on a lake whilst being paddled around by a harmonizing Mychal from Campfire OK:

[so pretty that you should watch it larger]

I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Bryan perform live last Friday night at the High Dive in Seattle, with a full backing band. The words I used afterwards were: “decimatingly muscular.” KEXP’s Hannah Levin called him “One To Watch” in the Seattle Weekly last summer, and finally getting to see him live myself, I completely agree. As well-crafted and piercing as the EP is, hearing the new material and seeing how his songs catalyze and explode in the live setting got me very excited for his upcoming full-length release, Fire On The Vine.

Bryan just launched a Kickstarter campaign yesterday to help fund the final steps of this new album. The songs are done being recorded, and he just needs advance commitment from folks who want to have it when it is released (on vinyl too!). As a refresher: Kickstarter is a rad way for lovers of music to commit in advance to the album that is yet to come, and in doing so get some sweet perks (a mixtape from Bryan! a handwritten letter! a personalized cover!).

I recommend you support this worthy artist who has something true and beautiful to say.

Also, hey — he’ll be playing at the Doe Bay Fest in August, for those of us who are lucky enough to be heading to Orcas Island! So get excited.

April 15, 2011

kickstart Cataldo. do it.

Eric Anderson is the core of Seattle’s Cataldo, and I love his music terrifically. I’ve written a few times before about him and included his songs on both my summer and fall mixes last year. There is something in the pointed honesty and cleverness of his lyrics, which when combined with the catchy melodies (banjo! singalongs! quiet handclaps!) reel me right on in. As he writes, the music “hopefully seems like it was composed by a hard worker with a mild taste for adventure,” which is an excellent summation.

His latest, greatest album Signal Flare came out in 2008, so it has been a long wait for some new music. Eric is finally is ready to release another, but needs a Kickstart. He has crafted the Kickstarter packages in finely dashing style too – in addition to the album you can get bonuses like a handwritten haiku, a pho date, a custom cover song, even what is apparently the best ice cream in all of Seattle. This is a man who is having some fun – and you can benefit. Please head over to his page; this is a rich, earthy, thoughtful, poignant album that needs to be heard.

Here is the gorgeous music video that Seattle videographer Christian Sorensen Hansen made of “Deep Cuts,” the opening track from the new album. Sorensen Hansen is the same distinctive director behind The Head and The Heart’s “Lost In My Mind” video — so evocative, his work.

I can’t tell which resonates in my heart louder: the song itself (“let’s begin at the end / of a bad year, with bad things at my back…“), or the combination of the sound of rain falling (!), the blanketing fog, the ocean horizon twinkling with lights, and the rising embers from the campfire:

PS – The new Cataldo album includes a re-worked electric version of “My Heart Is Calling,” which is good because I’ve listened to the version from Signal Flare about a jillion times.

March 10, 2011

there is nothing you have done that has been wasted


I am pretty excited about the Pacific Northwest Invasion (take 2) that is happening this weekend, with the show I am presenting Friday night at Moe’s in Denver (win tickets below!), and then the super-rad intimate Fuel/Friends House Show on Saturday night. All the bands playing are amazing. But I am holding a special reserve of anticipation and trembling for the power that I know comes with Kelli Schaefer.

Kelli opened my very first house show I held, back in November. I have not seen anyone like her. The way she can transfix a room with her somber, strong songs is astounding and when she lets her rock howl loose, hairs stand up on end. Back in November, I recognized the vibe in that room when she played to Jeff Buckley and the Grace album – the bluesy guitar sang and wept while Kelli punctured each song through with startlingly dramatic imagery and beautifully conflicted lyrics. I think we all felt something special crackling in that voice.

She is coming back through here on her tour down to SXSW in support of her masterpiece new album The Ghost of The Beast. I had a really difficult time picking which track to feature from the album, because it is so varied that no single song is representative of Kelli. But this is the song I immediately listened to the most, a benediction of the steadfastness of love and the quiet joy found in holding up others even when our arms are shaking. Listen to that scritchy-scratch opening loop; this song also showcases the intricate ambient noises that Kelli works throughout her music, like you are digging them out from the sounds of the day.

And when she sings here that there is nothing we have done that has been wasted, I believe her.

3051225121-1Gone In Love – Kelli Schaefer

Similar to the organic growth of Drew Grow (who produced the record), Kelli’s full-length comes from collecting a series of singles that she has released in Portland over the last year through the Amigo/Amiga label.

It’s a scavenger approach which yields a surprisingly cohesive album here, but one that defies classification nonetheless. There are times the record feels like waking from a dense sleep (on songs like “Trinkets,” layering through ambient noise), as if Kelli is somewhere singing through dark cotton and vintage microphones. Other songs layer her vocals into an enchanting siren choir (“Home”), or let loose with riffs that would make Led Zeppelin turn an ear. Kelli sings honestly about something called “The Fury,” which one could imagine is an artistic inferno, or the struggles we have within — or something else entirely. In one of my favorite lyrics on the album, she sings:

God would you send me somebody
who understand the fury
who understands the fury well?

He’s gonna have to be a fighter
gonna have to know the story
strong enough to tell it to me when I’ve lost my head
when I’ve lost my head

The way she sings it (that last line, especially) gives me chills every time. This is a woman who seems to see inside of me in a way that not many female artists do.

My other favorite is found in the gothic sonic layers of the title track, “The Ghost of The Beast.” Listen below; it’s sharper and shows some of Kelli’s punkier chops. I’ve spent repeated listens trying to figure out what that sound that starts the song is, and I finally just learned it is Drew Grow scraping a shovel across the ground, and looping the noise. It is disconcerting and perfect.

I contributed to her successful Kickstarter campaign, and earlier this week the album arrived on vinyl. The cover art features a ribcage cut delicately out of paper – protective but delicate, able to be torn. If you come and see her this weekend in Colorado, or buy the album and listen with headphones, I guarantee you will be transfixed.

shows_ive_seenTICKET GIVEAWAY
I have two pairs of tickets to give away to see Kelli Schaefer tomorrow night (Friday) at Moe’s in Denver, next door to the Gothic. She is opening for The Head and The Heart & The Moondoggies (all of whom will be playing my house show Saturday night!). It is going to be a tremendous show. Please email me if you would like to be entered for a pair. Come early – Kelli is on first Friday, around 8pm, and you do not want to miss her.

[top image credit Charity Burggraaf]

May 27, 2010

New Reservoir Songs Vol. 2 EP from Crooked Fingers


Formerly the frontman of ’90s rock band Archers of Loaf, Eric Bachmann has been crafting music with his band Crooked Fingers for over a decade. He writes incisive, pitch-perfect songs (remember “Sleep All Summer” that The National and St. Vincent covered last year? It was one of my favorite finds of those warm months, and Nick Hornby’s as well).

Sleep All Summer – Crooked Fingers

Sleep All Summer – The National & St. Vincent
[from the Merge SCORE! comp]

The first Reservoir Songs EP in 2002 had an old-time baptism depicted on the cover, and the gentle, warm arrangements of songs therein knocked me flat. I loved his version of Springsteen’s “The River” — somehow he makes the original even more heartbreaking, the disillusionment of forgotten dreams gentle but thorough [listen here].

Bachmann is currently harnessing the power of the internets to kickstart funding support behind his next Reservoir Songs Vol. 2 EP (due out on July 6). There will be six new covers on the second incarnation, with a vinyl-only pressing on the tiny indie label Foreign Leisure. His songwriting fodder this time around is Merle Haggard, Moby Grape, Thin Lizzy, Billie Jo Shaver, The Kinks, and this late ’60s easy rambler from John Hartford:

Gentle On My Mind (John Hartford) – Crooked Fingers

To pledge to this project through Kickstarter just means you commit ahead, buying ahead to show the financial backing for the endeavor. I think it might be the future of music for indie musicians. Bachmann’s already raised more than the $5000 needed to initiate, but look – for just $15 now, you get a limited, numbered edition of the EP on vinyl with screenprinted cover art, and a download. What is raised now, in excess of the set goal, goes towards a new Crooked Fingers full-length album, after 2008′s Forfeit/Fortune, which is just fine by me.

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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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