Woke Up Hurting

I’ve been thinking about this post since May 11th. A few days prior to that date Scottish Band Frightened Rabbit lead singer Scott Hutchison was reported missing. Hutchison suffered from mental illness. He never shied away from talking about it in his songs or in interviews. Late May 10th/ early May 11th his body was found having been washed ashore after he committed suicide. Just two days ago, celebrity chef and commentary Anthony Bourdain died as a result of suicide. As a society we talk about suicide in hushed tones. Mental health is a conversation best left for the confines of private spaces. This needs to stop. We have to talk about mental health. We have to let people know it is okay to get help. We would not stop someone from going to the doctor if they had broken a bone, we must be willing to talk about professional help for mental struggles as well.

Hutchison’s death hit me hard. He was 36. He was just a couple years younger than I am. He was a successful musician for all intents and purposes. He headed two successful bands, Frightened Rabbit and Mastersystem. He also had a strong solo career with Owl John. Yet he still fought his inner demons constantly. I am not a mental health professional, but I have experience with anxiety and depression. I know they are not easy to kick. They do not just go away. We need to remember this for our friends and our loved ones. We need to check in on each other.

I have not been a long time fan of Frightened Rabbit. I only started listening a few years ago, and only through a friend who had recommended their label-mate and fellow Scots We Were Promised Jet Packs. But, their songs and the words of Hutchison resonated with me immediately. With the release of Painting of a Panic Attack I became a devoted fan. Never before had I heard an album with such raw emotion, heartbreak and hope. I listened to that record more than any other during that year (and in the time since). I was fortunate enough to see them at LouFest 2016, and even more fortunate to meet 3/5 of the band at City Museum later that night (3/5th did not include Scott or his brother Grant sadly). I did get to tell the rest of the band how much Painting meant to me.

The specter of Scott Hutchison will be with me for a long time. His words will live with me and will continue to comfort me and thousands of others long after his death. I am thankful he shared his genius with the world. I hope that others can learn from him and find hope in his words.

I could share many Frabbits songs, but I will stick with a few that have impacted me. First up is “Woke Up Hurting” from Painting of a Panic Attack. Even prior to Hutchison’s death I listened to this entire record at least once a week.

Up next is “The Woodpile” from Pedestrian Verse. 

Hutchison had a close relationship with many bands, including Manchester Orchestra. Andy Hull and Hutchison wrote a beautiful song together called “The Architect”.

After the passing of Hutchison, many of his friends and fellow musicians played his songs in tribute. These can be difficult to watch as the emotions run high, but they are beautiful nonetheless. My new favorite Frabbits song is “Modern Leper”, particularly due to the tribute from English singer Frank Turner.

Fellow Scots The Twilight Sad have been closely tied with Frabbits for years. Scott and Twilight Sad’s lead singer James have written more than a few songs together. Recently The Twilight Sad has been playing “Keep Yourself Warm” at their shows. The emotion shown in this video is completely heartbreaking.

Life is hard. Be more kind to your fellow humans. Be more kind to yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

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Singer Songwriter Overdrive

It is no surprise that I listen to a lot of singer songwriters. I post about a lot of them here. If you aren’t a fan of them, well, you may want to stop reading. Except you would regret not listening to these songs.

There are times when you know singers know each other, and there are other times when they use their relationship to make something incredible. Two of my favorite sad singers, Phoebe Bridgers and Noah Gunderson (who both were featured in this past post) joined forces to each perform one of their own songs with the other. The result was this beautiful “mashup” of “Killer” and “The Sound”. I’ve watched this 20 times…at least.

Two other singers who have joined forces are Welsh singer Novo Amor and English singer Ed Tullett. Novo Amor has a voice reminiscent of Bon Iver, but I think he packs more emotion. The 2017 collaboration album between these two singers, Heiress, has been getting a lot of airplay from me. One of my favorite songs off that record is “Vantablack”.

The northern Midwest is home to many amazing songwriters. S. Carey, who is a member of Bon Iver’s band, is one of them. I like to think I can hear his native Wisconsin in his music as I see pictures of cold winters and green summers when listening to his at times minimalist and other times lush sounds. His newest record, Hundred Acres, has turned into one of my favorite records so far this year. I like all the songs, but this video for “More I See” seems to show some of what I feel when listening to him.

 

Both S. Carey and Novo Amor were recommended to me (the latter being recommended by the band Paper Lights). What other singer songwriters should I be listening to?

2017 Top Songs

2017, like the years past, has been filled with incredible music. As it is quickly approaching the end of the year (ha, I started this post in December), I thought I’d provide a few of my favorite songs that were on albums released in 2017.

There really is no order, except for the first couple of songs which are my most listened to songs of 2017.

  1. “Afterglow” from Ásgeir – this song is magical. I cannot listen to it enough. As readers of Sandy Beats are well aware, I love Icelandic music, and the record Afterglow is one of my favorites from an Icelandic artist. (Bonus, the song “Stardust”, which is also incredible).

 

2. “Alien”from Manchester Orchestra – the official video is probably my favorite video of the year, and the song is one that stays with me after I hear it. Their new album A Black Mile to The Surface is my most listened to album of the year. Here is a live version of the track.

(The rest are in no specific order)

“On Hold” by The XX. I See You is another one of my favorite records of the year, and “On Hold” is also an incredible video. The XX also put on one of my favorite live performances of the year. Like the one above, I’ve already posted the video, so here is a live version.

“Run for Cover” by The Killers – we all know I love The Killers. This is my favorite track from Wonderful Wonderful and may be one of my top 5 favorites from The Killers. I’ve not posted the video before, so here we go:

“Do You Still Love Me?” by Ryan Adams – as someone who has been through a divorce, I know its a helluva a shitty drug. Adams’ split from Mandy Moore (swoon) has moved him to create some of his best songs yet, and his record Prisoner is evidence of that.

“Funeral” – Phoebe Bridgers

I’ve been enjoying what I’ve heard from Bridgers since I first heard “Georgia” a couple years ago. 2017 saw the release of her first record Stranger in the Alps. Bridgers writes some incredibly powerful songs. This one I cannot get out of my head.

“No Peace In Quiet” – Delta Rae

I have loved Delta Rae for a long time now. During 2017 I was fortunate enough to see them perform twice. They recently signed with a Country label, but their music still crosses all sorts of genre boundaries. This song is absolutely and heartbreakingly beautiful. The first time I heard it, I was sold. I cannot wait to see where they go in 2018.

 

Protest Music pt. 1

With recent events where Fascists are making their presence more known in the United States, I’ve decided to push forward part one of two about protest songs. This will not be a comprehensive history by any means, but will focus on some artists and songs that have made an impact on me. I’ve listened to protest music for my entire life. I grew up with a mother who was active in the civil rights and anti-poverty movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s so protest music was never “protest music” it was just “music”. As I got older and started to determine my own music preferences, I gravitated towards socially aware music (primarily from the UK). As an adult I spend a lot of time listening to this type of music, both new and old.

In the United States, protest music can easily be traced back to the time of the Revolutionary War. Later, it was prominent during the Civil War, in regards to both the military fight, but it also was present in the “spirituals” or songs sung by the African slaves. In the early 20th Century many protest songs were born from the labor movement (e.g. “The Preacher and the Slave” by Joe Hill)

In the 1930’s and 1940’s songs dealt with labor issues, but also addressed the dark past of the United States (“Strange Fruit” as performed by Billie Holiday)

and “Joe Hill” as sung by Paul Robeson (who was also persecuted for his left-leaning political beliefs)

Another prominent singer who addressed both racial injustice and economic inequality was Lead Belly. One of his more well-known songs is the very catchy “Bourgeois Blues”

While there were many protest singers in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s, there are two who are arguably the most prolific and still currently widely recognized. These two individuals, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, carried the folk protest flag from the 1930’s all the way until the 2000’s with the passing of Seeger. There songs, like those before them, often dealt with labor issues and economic inequality, but also were directly aimed at issues of their time. One such song, “All You Fascists Bound To Lose” was directed at the rise of Fascism in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

 

Guthrie is most well known for a song that is now (ironically enough) often sung as a very patriotic song, “This Land is Your Land”

Pete Seeger will figure more in the next edition, along with many of the singers from the 1960’s.

My City, My Heart

 

I have lived in Las Vegas for more than a decade. I was not born here, but I fell in love with this place shortly after I moved here. This is my home. I choose to live here, and I am not sure I will ever leave. The last few days have been such a surreal experience that is tough to put into words. I want to have words for it, but I just cannot get there…yet. I know I’ve been sharing some sad songs, and while the sentiment I want to share now may seem sad, its more of a love for my home. When I say Home Means Nevada, I mean it. This post is an ode to my home.

“Home Means Nevada” as performed by The Killers

 

“Viva Las Vegas” as performed by The Killers

“Vegas Lights” by Panic! At The Disco

“A Shot at The Night” by The Killers

 

“Its Time” (and more) by Imagine Dragons

“I don’t ever want to let you down, I don’t ever want to leave this town, cuz after all the city never sleeps at night”

I Hear You Like Sad Songs…

Ok, maybe you do not, but I do. As mentioned in a recent post, I’ve been listening to a lot of melancholy or “sad” music lately. Its not quite dark or emo, but its not “happy”. The exceptions have been for those bands who I’ve seen over the last few weeks.

There has been some amazing sad music come out in the last few months. One of the albums I was most looking forward to is the first release from Phoebe Bridgers, a singer-songwriter based in LA. I first heard her through a Spotify list. The song that hooked me, “Georgia” is haunting, simple and beautiful. After the release of her first album Stranger in the Alps I was able to experience more of the emotion that filled her songs. The song that first struck me (and still continues to) is “Funeral”. I quite appreciate this very understated live performance.

I’ve listened to Seattle based singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen on and off for the last few years. I first heard him as a recommendation from Spotify based upon my listening to his friend and fellow emotional singer David Ramirez. While not from his most recent release, White Noise, “First Defeat” has been a constant the last few weeks. It is another raw and heartbreaking song.

We are going to go way back with this last song. As a teenager I loved Radiohead. I loved all things BritRock. Other than electronic music and gangster rap, I was not a fan of the American drivel (my how the times have changed). Radiohead had a lot of sad songs early on and one of my favorites was “Fake Plastic Trees” from The Bends which in my opinion is the 2nd best Radiohead album. Second only to Ok Computer which defined much of my late teen years. Here is “Fake Plastic Trees”:

David Ramirez: An Introduction

While I’ve been listening to him for a couple years now, this week I’ve really been getting acquainted with the work of Texas bred singer/songwriter David Ramirez over the last couple of weeks.  As I’ve been reading more about him, it is clear that the reasons I enjoy him are pretty widely shared by his fan base. He writes and sings about real life. Plain and simple. Each and every one of us who has lived any part of life can relate intimately to his lyrics. I’ve found many comments online about his work, but the one I keep going back to is an article published last week by Vivian Nunez, “I want the love that’s found in ‘Bad Days’  . While this specific article goes a bit deeper into the love that Ramirez discusses in “The Bad Days” it clearly illustrates the connection that a listener has to his music.

When I was thinking about writing this post, it became really difficult to choose just a few songs to feature. It changed about every day or so as I was thinking of this. So I am go with those that I am feeling today.

As referenced above, “The Bad Days”, is a song about real life love. This isn’t a fairytale love that exists in pop songs and movies:

“There are gonna be days when the love is so thin

The days are a game that we just can’t win

There are gonna be days you might want to be free

There are gonna be days that you hate me

But hold on strong

Don’t let go

We’ll carry on I know we can find a way

Cause you’re still my girl in the bad days”

These words hit me every single time I listen to this song. This is the real love. I’ve been fortunate to see this type of love in both my parents and grandparents. It’s not easy. But the good days outweigh the bad days.  I think this is why Ramirez speaks to me. He sings songs about real life.

In a similar vein, “Shoeboxes” describes finding items from a past love. There is no doubt in my mind that Ramirez has experienced this situation in order to have written these types of lyrics:  

“So I suppose you’ll be in every song I sing

If not written in my words, you’ll be hidden in these strings

Cuz how could I ever forget my first love

My first woman, first truth, first child from above

But why do I hang onto your pictures

Why have I not just thrown out that dress

Cuz it kills me to see you, but it kills me not to

It kills me to remember, oh and it kills me to forget”

I am sure there are hundreds of thousands of people who can relate to  this, but listening to this song it is like he wrote it just for me as it speaks directly to experiences I’ve also had. Ramirez writes songs that are not just his…they are also the songs of the listener.

The song “An Introduction” has the same autobiographical stance, but is different both topically and musically from the previous two songs. In this song, Ramirez is found having a spiritual crisis, which is something I would believe most of us can relate to.

“My biggest fear in the world

Is introducing myself in the grave

After all my years living free

I don’t have much to say

Oh the longer I live the more I know I’m gonna die

And the more questions I have the less I want to try

Time was winning so many times I stopped keeping score

Tell me where to find the Lord”

I’ve never been one to listen to to music and not listen to the lyrics. So perhaps that is where my mind has been it over the last couple weeks that Ramirez has been on constant rotation.