Wednesday, October 1, 2014

VIDEO: Karen and the Sorrows -- Just a Little Heartbreak

I've gotta come clean. I'm addicted. To sleep. I just got in a solid 8 hours for the first time since...August?...and it felt great. So I'm not going to write a full review tonight.

However, you can enjoy Karen and the Sorrows' newest music video for "Just a Little Heartbreak."

If you are someone whose life ambition is to live in Brooklyn, this portrayal of two queer ladies moping around Park Slope and Crown Heights is the gritty side of the borough they won't show you in Girls. (In other news, I am super bummed that I couldn't make it to the video shoot. It looks like it was a fun time!)

If you like Karen and the Sorrows, you can purchase one of their songs, "Star" on my compilation album! Proceeds go to a great LGBTQ youth-based organization called FIERCE.

Karen and the Sorrows -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Luke Winslow-King -- Everlasting Arms

Luke Winslow-King is a Northern boy made good. Lured to New Orleans for the same reason everyone else is (music), Winslow-King studied at the University of New Orleans. While I'm sure he was interested in blues and jazz long before then, that hip-swaggering, bourbon-and-tea-sipping New Orleans style is very much a presence in Everlasting Arms.

Winslow-King's warm, earthy voice lends itself to these down-to-earth compositions. "Everlasting Arms" and "Swing That Thing" show off Winslow-King's rock'n'roll bravado. Winslow-King's the first album, The Coming Tide, was celebrated for its New Orleans-influenced tunes. This time around, it feels to me that New Orleans takes a -- not a backseat, let's say passenger's seat -- to Winslow-King's take on rock'n'roll and pop. These songs would be very much at home on the radio in the best kind of way. However, it's the majestic "Last Night I Dreamed My Birthday" that stopped me in my tracks. The lyrics, instrumentation, and performance are absolutely perfect -- the kind of song that makes this album earn its place on my list of required reading.

Luke Winslow King -- Official, Facebook, Purchase from Bloodshot Records

Monday, September 29, 2014

Emma Swift -- Emma Swift

I'm gonna start with the bad since I like to end with the positives: I wish this album were longer.

Emma Swift splits her time between Sydney and Nashville, but there's no question that the Australian native deserves a special place in Music City. Swift's got the voice of singers long past -- maybe great country vocalists were a dime-a-dozen in the old days, but in an age of autotune and sampling, Swift will make you stop right in your tracks.

That's not to say she wouldn't have stood out back in the day, but her voice is a clarion call now more than ever in a time where soul is being eked out of music for every last penny. Swift's backing band is no less impressive -- "King of America" is a dreamy ballad of a drunken encounter, one that Hank or Loretta could have sung. But as the three-verse song is spun out over 8 minutes, you can't help but be carried away to your local dive bar and sadsack cover band. Swift's approach reminds me of Sturgill Simpson's latest opus -- proving their traditional chops allows both artists to push the boundaries of the genre over the edge without you even realizing.

Emma Swift is absolutely a keeper. Maybe we can convince Australia to let us have her as our next national treasure.

Emma Swift -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Friday, September 26, 2014

Emilyn Brodsky -- Eats Her Feelings

Emilyn Brodsky's charisma is difficult to resist. Here's the snippet from her bio that won me over before I'd even listened to her music: "She has been called ‘charmingly aggressive’, ‘the love of my life’ and ‘a jerk’."

Brodsky's lyrics are devastating -- deeply honest, funny, and bitter. She flits between country ("Functional Alcoholic") and more experimental polka...ish?* ("Paper Thin Line") Amidst the tales of dysfunctional relationships (more on that in a minute), the album is interspersed by ironic voicemails. This might be gimmicky with a lesser artist, but something needs to cut the harsh realism of the album's first half. There's no question that the conceit is a hipsterish, but for once it doesn't bother me. (I live in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, wear plastic glasses, and sport an undercut. Deal with it?)

The album seems to focus on Brodsky's breakup but glides into songs about dating and trying to find the next person -- lately I've been feeling like that's a basically impossible task in New York City. (PS -- If you have a job, are comfortable with your sexuality, and a reasonably clear bill of mental health, hmu because I can't seem to find somebody who can check off all three boxes.) "Someone Belongs Here" brings it all into perspective:

someone belongs here more than you
someone belongs here more than you
someone belongs here more than you
but you’re here so let’s not take the longview

are you the hunter or are you the hunted?
are you pining or are you wanted?
i forgot who i was just then;
are you my lover or my mother or my father or my friend?

But the album isn't a downward spiral. The last few songs detail healing and ends on the high note of "Good Days."

Emilyn Brodsky Eats Her Feelings is not for the faint of heart, but you'll feel more refreshed once you get to the other side.

Emily Brodsky -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, iTunes, Webstore

*I am the next Greil Marcus

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cricket Tell the Weather -- Cricket Tell the Weather

Cricket Tell the Weather is one of the Northeast's breakout folk bands and with good reason. The band won first place at last year's FreshGrass festival and they've won several songwriting awards.

That's all great, but let's talk about their banjo player Douglas Jay Goldstein -- mostly because he's so cute when he blushes. Doug and I went to high school together (Karen of Karen and the Sorrows also attended its hallowed halls) and sat next to each other during English. (Sounds boring but we read Lolita and Grimm's fairy tales and discussed the nature of childhood. It was a badass class.) Even in high school Doug cut class to jam with the likes of Victor Wooten. When he was around you could find him playing the theme song to Doug in the cafeteria, which I always thought was the coolest thing.

All of that is to say that I knew Doug was going places musically and I'm glad to see his devotion to his craft paying off.

In addition to writing beautiful, moving music, the band does a lot of educational outreach to bring appreciation of bluegrass and roots music to youth. (Doug is doing this at our alma mater.) Cricket Tell the Weather is obviously dedicated to their music -- both in terms of their own songwriting and the way they spend their day jobs. I hope there's even bigger things in store for Cricket Tell the Weather because they absolutely have the chops and historical expertise to take them on.

Cricket Tell the Weather -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Joe Fletcher and the Wrong Reasons -- You've Got the Wrong Man

Joe Fletcher was easily one of my favorite "discoveries" at Campfire this summer. I'd heard his name around but never took the time to check him out. His set was low key -- it was early in the morning and everyone was hungover, possibly including Joe -- but...determined. Fletcher's lonely folk music isn't quite fit for a sunny weekend afternoon in the country. It's best suited for a bar with a drink in hand. (Literally zero of the alcohol on sale at the festival was gluten free, so I got to enjoy the show sober.)

Joe brings a working-class ethic to stage and that's evident in his songs. "Haint Blue Cadicallic" is an inventive imagining of a night drinking with Hank William's ghost. "I Never" is apparently a live staple of Fletcher's that had the crowd groggily stamping their feet at Campfire. "Ms Red" is my favorite song on the album -- a beautifully crafted snapshot of a post-breakup stupor. I'm not familiar with Fletcher's deep cuts, but standing on its own, You've Got the Wrong Man is an album that displays the talents of a songwriter who's got plenty of game.

Joe Fletcher and the Wrong Reasons -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Monday, September 22, 2014

VIDEO: Éyal Hai -- You and I (feat. Margaret Glaspy)

Bummed out by the end of September? Here's some summer lovin' from New York-based songwriter Éyal Hai and the distinctive jazzy vocals of Margaret Glaspy.

The video takes selfie culture to the extreme -- a comment on the narcissim of love? Or a cleverly executed music video? You decide!

Éyal Hai -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp
Margaret Glaspy -- Official, Soundcloud