January is Coming in HOT!

It is still January and we have been blessed with a ton of great new music! With the increased tension across the United States (and world), I’ll start off with a couple very political songs from folks not known for their politics.

The first is “This Land” from Gary Clark Jr. Clark is known for his incredible guitar playing and his swagger, not his politics. The song and the video discuss Clark’s experiences in Trump’s America. The video is one of the most powerful I’ve ever seen. It is directed by 25 year old Savanah Leaf. I get chills every time I listen to the song or watch the video.

 

Las Vegas’ own The Killers are also a band not known for their politics. Singer Brandon Flowers has dabbled in his support for local candidates or issues, but those statements have been few and far between. With their newest track “Land of the Free” they take on issues like immigration and gun control. It is also the most “Springsteen-esque” I’ve heard them. The video for this song was directed by Spike Lee.

2019 has already been a banner year for one of my favorite types of music, melancholic. One band who embodies this is the appropriately named Twilight Sad. They hail from Scotland and were very close with the lead singer of Frightened Rabbit. Their newest record IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME, finds a return to the synth heavy 80’s sound that I first loved them for. I am hoping to see them on this current tour. They put on one of the most emotional shows I have ever seen. Here is “VTr”:

The Queen and King of American Sad (Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst) dropped a surprise album earlier this week under the moniker Better Oblivion Community Center. They have created something truly beautiful and melancholy. I’ve listened to little else this week. Hopefully they’ll make a stop in Las Vegas if they tour. Here is “Didn’t know what I was in for”.

Anti-Folk hero Sharon Van Etten has bulldozed into 2019 with her loudest and most synth-heavy record Remind Me Tomorrow. After having a few acting roles (including in my fave The OA) and a baby, Van Etten is back with her first release in four years. The songs are much more nostalgic and hopeful than some of her previous work. I adore the new record despite it taking me a little time to get used to loud. Here is the very appropriately titled, “Comeback Kid”:

My favorite young Brit Rockers Catfish and The Bottlemen are back with the first new single “Longshot” off of their forthcoming The Balance. If you get a chance to see them, do. They will absolutely melt your face.

I look forward to even more amazing music this year…both The Head & The Heart and Grouplove should be coming out with new albums, so that alone will make this year perfect for music.

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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.