Season Changes

I want to write something profound, but my creativity juices have not been flowing as much as they. Perhaps it is because I’ve been getting more sleep and taking a bit more care of myself…which means fewer late restless nights.

I love Fall. It is my favorite season. Las Vegas does not have much of a Fall, but that does not mean I cannot celebrate. I don’t really have “Fall” music, unless it is Halloween music or bands like Oingo Boingo and Bauhaus (WHO ARE BACK TOGETHER), but as I finished school late in the summer, I have been listening to more music. I am also taking a break from drinking this month, so music will be a pretty big stress reliever and constant companion.

For this post I will highlight a couple artists I am really enjoying.

Josh Ritter is an Americana singer songwriter from Idaho, though listening to his newest record, Fever Breaks (which is produced by Jason Isbell), you would swear he was from the Southern US. This year he has had two significant releases for me. The first is his newest album and the second was his cover of “Old Old Fashioned” on Tiny Changes the record celebrating the 10th anniversary of Frightened Rabbit’s Midnight Organ Fight.  I love the original by the Frabbits, but his cover is one of my current favorite songs.

Ritter’s Fever Breaks is a very political record. My favorite of those songs is “All Some Kind of Dream” where he comments on the current state of affairs in the US.

“I saw my country in the hungry eyes
Of a million refugees
Between the rocks and the rising tide
As they were tossed across the sea
There was a time when we were them
Just as now they all are we
Was there an hour when we took them in?
Or was it all some kind of dream?”

Oddly enough, the band I listen to the most in the last two years has only received one post here. Penny and Sparrow  are folk/American duo with Texas & Alabama roots. They have a religious tone that flows through their songs without being overt, which is probably one of my favorite things about them. Their lyrics are always heartfelt, and often full of sadness. Their newest record Finch is probably their least sad and contains one of my favorite love songs of all time “Don’t wanna be without ya”. The video is also incredible as it includes scenes from some of the best Romantic Comedies of all time.

On a different note, their record Let a Lover Drown You from 2016 is full of heartache. They are pretty active both touring and recording as they’ve released 3 records since 2016. I am excited as I get to see them later this year. Here is “Gold”.

 

Tow’rs is an indie folk family band from Flagstaff, AZ. Like Penny & Sparrow they have songs that have a very spiritual tone running through them. They just released an incredible album New Nostalgia which shows how the band has matured over the years, but their sound is still pretty unmistakable. One of my favorites off of the new record is “Pink Confetti”.

It is tough to pick a favorite song from Tow’rs, but this version of “Girl in Calico” from Grey Fidelity may be my favorite.

As the season progresses, I am sure I will find some more artists to enjoy!

Spring Heavy Rotation

There have been so many new albums released over past few months that have captured my ears. Mixed in with bands that are old favorites are a couple new discoveries and new found appreciation for bands I did not give much time too in the past.

The National is a band that I should like because they are often quiet and sad. I do like some of their songs, and very much appreciate their influences on bands like Frightened Rabbit. Their newest record I Am Easy To Find is filled with such great melancholy that I really have no choice but to embrace it. My favorite song off the album is “Light Years”.

Speaking of Frightened Rabbit, through an online group of Frabbits I found out about an up & coming Scottish band called Wrest. Wrest can easily fit in a set with Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks. They recently released their debut album Coward of Us All. I love each song on the record, but my favorite is most definitely “Human”. I really hope for big things from this band. Their insightful (and melancholy) lyrics really hit the spot.

Sandy Beats favorites Of Monsters and Men will be coming out with a new album later this year, and will also be performing at Life Is Beautiful (!!!). From the sound of their first single “Alligator” off the upcoming record Fever Dream that they may be a bit less folky… that is definitely okay with me. I am excited to see them live again and to hear more new music.

My most anticipated album for the first half of 2019 was definitely Living Mirage from The Head and the Heart. The album does not disappoint. I like it just as much as their sophomore release Let’s be Still. Each new THaTH record has a new favorite song…this time it was “See You Through My Eyes”…I cannot wait to hear this song live. The first single off the record is “Missed Connection” and is another incredible song.

Another album that I was anxiously awaiting during the first half of 2019, Bear’s Den’s So That You Might Hear Me brought another hefty dose of English melancholy and introspection into my world. I am pretty sure its the album I’ve listened to the most this year (with Wrest and THaTH coming in tied for second). I love each song on this record, but have two favorites: “Crow” and “Hiding Bottles”. The video for “Crow” gets me every time.

The last song is not new, but the version most definitely is. While the band Penny & Sparrow does have new music coming out this year (Finch), this song is a John Denver original. “Annie’s Song” will always remind me of parents. Apparently my uncle performed this at their wedding (I have heard a couple different stories regarding this)…but whether or not this song was at their wedding, it is their song to me. I love the John Denver version and it will always be my favorite, but this version is just so perfect as well.

There is no better way to end a post than with this beautiful song.

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?

The Woods are Calling

I am very interested in where a band or singer comes from. I think that they are ambassadors of their home, but also I think it at times can show in their music. From the more blatant (The Killers) to a more subtle approach (Trampled by Turtles). When I first listened to The Pines  I could sense their home in the music. They are from small town Iowa, but spent some time in southern Arizona before settling as a band in Minneapolis. Listening to the music its easy to pick up on the feeling of open spaces and small towns. This music feels like the north woods of the upper midwest, but also the desert expanses of the southwest. There is a melancholy in the music, and a sadness, but there is also hope.

Over the last two weeks, I think I’ve listened to their most recent album of original material, 2016’s Above The Prairie at least a few dozen times. It is difficult to not listen to the entire album in one sitting its a compelling progression of songs. There are three songs off this record that I cannot get enough of. The first is also the first song on the album “Aerial Ocean”. I love the mix of the very “country” sounding slide guitar, and the very ethereal synthesizer.

The next song is the second song off the album, “There in Spirit”. The song is haunting and reeks of a realistic despair.

The final song is the last song on the album, “Time Dreams”, which features the words and voice of John Trudell, a Native American activist, writer, and actor. There is so much beauty in this song.

 

I have listened to the other Pines albums on Spotify, but they definitely do not strike me like this one does. That is not to say that they aren’t also amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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”: