5/29/2012 4:18:38 PM
Hope For Agoldensummer
Life Inside the Body
Available now on
Mazarine Records (May 1, 2012)
At times, the voices in this Athens trio adopt the timbre of instruments
typical of their genre: violins and musical saws. Simple folk harmonies and
plucked guitar strings seem equally suited to float on a breeze through
summer’s open windows or hang in the air of a winter burrow.
Life Inside the Body
is founded on slow rhythms and old-fashioned close harmonies. A cappella tracks
like “Cold Cold Bed” and “Come Back” reveal a seemingly effortless intimacy
between the voices of sisters Claire and Page Campbell. Other tracks—“Come On,”
“Day Glo Grey”—add instrumental accompaniment, but keep a pretty straightforward
folk feel. The album is full of nuanced variation. While individual songs slip
into sub-genres, consistent vocals and pacing hold it all together.
The band is at its catchiest when edging into folk-rock
territory. Tracks like “Daniel Bloom” and “Shining Heart” borrow rock’s
backbeat for added texture. “Daniel Bloom” is the star of the album, with
ghostly, lyricless vocals and an enchanting guitar hook that immediately lure
listeners into the song’s fold. “Shining Heart” is not as immediately catchy,
but after a slow build, listeners are rewarded with an unexpected leap into a
joyous, longing refrain.
Other songs offer an even greater departure from tried-and-true
folk. The changing rhythms, bit of discord, and vaudeville feel of “Annie,” and
the wispy, high harmonies and playful lyrics of “Come Over” are welcome
experimental departures. These slightly eccentric vignettes seem the band’s richest
terrain for potential growth, especially if they can keep the tone more sultry
Hope For Agoldensummer was born of wishes: a reunion of two
sisters, an escape from the cold and dark of winter. Musically and lyrically, the
band seems to represent both the wish-come-true and an understanding that such
wishes cannot last. Claire and Page Campbell may be together, crafting soulful
indie-folk with musician-producer Suny Lyons, but winter will return and these
souls may part ways—if only to reunite later. It is fitting, then, that Life Inside the Body seems a bridge from
sorrow to satisfaction and back again.
5/18/2012 9:18:12 AM
“Most lucky reporters get
to see one major movement in their lifetime,” Chris Faraone wrote in early
October 2011. “Occupy is shaping up to be the most intense beast I’ve ever
witnessed.” At that time, Faraone was in southern Florida, seeing the earliest days of Occupy
Miami, and coming to terms with his initial skepticism. “I’m becoming convinced
that of all the mass movements I’ve covered,” he says, “this one will grow the
quickest, and become the biggest.”
In his new account of the Occupy movement, 99 Nights With the 99 Percent, it’s fair to say that
Faraone approaches his subject from a unique angle. Like many veteran
activists, he has deep roots in the precursors to Occupy. 99 Nights’ first two chapters cover this world of high morale and
low turnout, from spirited actions in front of Bank of America branches to
anti-foreclosure neighborhood barbecues. If this portion of the book is gritty
and loose, it is also infused with the same tough spirit that Faraone encounters
throughout the next three months. It is this spirit that allows him to overcome
his early reservations about Occupy’s procedural tedium and its tendency to
overshadow other ongoing struggles.
Faraone’s book, like the
movement itself, is diverse and challenging. The structure is strictly
chronological, but swings wildly between a number of different occupations,
personalities, and events. During the first three months of Occupy, Faraone
crisscrossed the country at a dizzying pace, and his writing manages to capture
at least some of that madness. In between working groups and flash-bang grenades,
the book overflows with interviews, photos, and blistering first-hand
At the same time, there is
little that Faraone romanticizes about the movement. Though it’s clear he is
energized by what he sees, the book maintains a critical tone that gives his
narrative a good deal of authority. Faraone pulls no punches in describing
camps’ lack of diversity, internal violence, and complicated relationships with
police and other movements. Faraone’s furious attention to detail presents an
absorbing, immediate account infused with red-eyed sincerity.
It’s that sincerity in
fact that makes 99 Nights a less than
complete history. But if we don’t get a full picture of a disparate and complex
movement, we do get a vivid sense of the passion and energy that pervaded
Read an excerpt of 99 Nights With the 99 Percent, right here.
Image by Katie Moore. Used with permission.
5/11/2012 3:13:03 PM
Available From Detroit Documentary Productions
There are few cities that
have experienced American history as dramatically as Detroit. During most of the 20th
had a reputation as a model city, and during World War II, as an arsenal of
democracy. Through the 1950s, the city’s largely integrated industrial
workforce supported a prosperous middle class. At its peak population level in
1950, the city’s median household income was a third higher than the nation’s. With
these facts, Deforce begins a
heartbreaking history of decline and violence that not only helps explain Detroit’s current crisis,
but also deeply challenges our understanding of poverty, urban politics, and
Deforce is a legal term
meaning unlawfully holding the property of others—in a larger sense,
displacement, alienation, loss of meaningful community. This idea of deforce,
the film argues, is central to Detroit’s
history, and the larger urban American experience. This is particularly true in
poor black neighborhoods, where police violence, a lack of basic municipal
services, and pervasive blight have damaged any connection to a larger
community. Today the effects are vividly felt in a city with a higher murder
rate than wartime Iraq or Northern Ireland.
And while it’s tempting to view Detroit as
remote or anomalous, Deforce situates
it well within the history of suburbanization and the 21st century
politics of urban America.
At the same time, for all
its devastating perception, Deforce
does not succumb to defeatism. Residents interviewed for the film talk as much
about the city’s resilience as about blighted structures or food deserts. And
it’s in this feeling of resilience that the film places much of its forward
momentum, rather than in particular goals or proposals. There is an
unmistakable sense that, even if displaced or alienated, Detroiters feel strongly about where
they come from.
reluctance to offer specific solutions is unfortunate, but it shouldn’t
overshadow the larger narrative. In exploring the deeper roots of Detroit’s ongoing crises,
the film asks difficult questions of its audience that seek to break down a “conspiracy
of silence about urban issues.” The implication is that urban communities
across the United States
suffer from some of the same illnesses, and it’s only by addressing these in a
direct and meaningful way that we can begin to move forward.
5/8/2012 9:42:16 AM
Father John Misty
Available now on Sub Pop (May 1, 2012)
"I never liked the name Joshua, I got tired of J.," reveals former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman on his
new album Fear Fun, opting for the less serious moniker of Father John
Misty. The shedding of his former identity and the arrival of a new one not
only comes in the form of a new name. It's as if the J. Tillman of old, the one
heard harmonizing in Fleet Foxes, and creating solo albums of harmless folk
songs, was born anew with an edgier style, a stronger propensity for
rock-influenced songwriting, and a fresh haircut.
While this rebirth of sorts may have fans of his previous
work slightly concerned, there is no need to worry. Fear Fun manages to
hang on to the core appeal of Tillman’s previous work while charting new
territory in both lyrical content and musical approach.
The Father John Misty aesthetic shines on the album’s first single, "Hollywood
Forever Cemetery Sings." Backed by a hypnotic drumbeat and a grinding electric
guitar, Tillman delivers darker lyrics than on previous projects - a staple of Fear
Fun. On the slow jam "Funtimes in Babylon,"
Tillman showcases his talent for tragic imagery, singing, "Ride around my
wreckage on a horse knee-deep in blood / Look out Hollywood here I come." Another, "I'm Writing
a Novel," channels the Beatles' "Ballad of John and Yoko" with a lively beat, a
gang of riffing guitars and a squealing organ pad. Other tracks find Tillman
paying homage to classic 70’s country western guitar work, handclapping fiddle
shufflers, and synth-laden disco grooves.
Tillman's announcement earlier this year upon his departure from Fleet Foxes
said, in part, "Farewell Fleet fans and friends. Back into the gaping maw of
obscurity I go." Lucky for us, Tillman was rejected by that maw, and it has
thrust him back into the spotlight as Father John Misty. Here's a stream of the entire album from the Sub Pop YouTube page:
Ben Sauder is an Online Editorial Assistant at Ogden Publications, the parent company of Utne Reader. Find him on Google+.
5/4/2012 4:21:53 PM
Available on Bloodshot Records (May 22, 2012)
In the sense that a mutt has several genetic influences and not necessarily one that’s dominant, that descriptor is a fitting title for Americana troubadour Cory Branan’s newest album, Mutt - his first for Bloodshot Records. Like the dog wandering the neighborhood, the record shows signs of coming from here or there, some influences clearly shining through without any completely staking claim to primacy.
Branan cites influences from John Mellencamp to Tom Waits to John Prine, to Bruce Springsteen and literary forebears like Raymond Carver, and they all are apparent in his balladeering. Branan leans toward Prine and Carver in the opening track “The Corner.” “Down on the corner of what I want/and what I tend to get,” Branan slowly drawls, as a narrator who knows well what he wants, and knows even better it’s his own fault he doesn’t have it.
Where “The Corner,” like most of the tracks, moves at an unhurried pace with Branan’s non flashy guitar work providing the accompaniment, “Survivor Blues” brings the band to the front. Singing with a bit more force, like a restrained Springsteen, he takes a look back and twists the old wisdom “They say it makes you stronger/first you gotta survive/what didn’t kill you/make you wish you died.”
On “The Snowman,” Branan unabashedly does his best Tom Waits. While not attempting the latter’s otherworldly, gravelly vocal delivery, the scene is set with melodicas, harps and all manner of Waits-esque instrumentation supporting his surreal lyrical story. No other track on the album gravitates anywhere near “Snowman,” the majority leaning more toward the guitar ballad end of the spectrum.
Like any self-respecting troubadour, Branan looks back longingly on the good and bittersweet times. “Yesterday (Circa Summer 80 Somethin’)” recounts a hot summer day spent acting cool and impressing that girl hanging out near the kiddie pool. While she’s gone now, he remembers every word she said and the band supports these claims in an anthemic style that would bring a smile to Mellencamp’s face. While Mellencamp shows up in the lyrics here, Branan makes sure his heroes are right there with him at all times, whether he speaks their names or not.
5/1/2012 12:43:32 PM
The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes and Backsides (1968-71)
Available now on Light in the Attic Records (May 1, 2012)
When one is remembered for collaboration, as Lee Hazlewood
often is, it can be easy to overlook the contributions he made all on his own.
Light in the Attic Records is illuminating the work he did in his fertile late '60s era with The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes & Backsides (1968-71).
Late '60s glamour queen Nancy Sinatra and guitar virtuoso
Duane Eddy, with whom Hazlewood scored numerous hits, are nowhere to be found.
Instead his booming baritone and sparse, haunting arrangements take center
stage. Collected from his solo output on LHI (Lee Hazlewood Industries) the
anthology includes the previously unreleased “I Just Learned to Run” and yes, a
few duets, featuring the likes of Ann-Margaret, Suzi Jane Hokom and Nina
Echo-laden yet understated, Hazlewood’s baritone fills the
space like a charming, but dangerous party guest. He’ll put you at ease with
stories of cowboys, grand ladies and dreams. In the next note, he’ll send
chills down your spine with edgier tales of heartbroken cowboys, heartbreaking
ladies and whiskey, and pill-induced nightmares.
That duality is evident with “Califia (Stone Rider)” a dark
tune that sees Hazlewood’s sing-spoken drawl trade places with Suzi Jane Hokom
in haunting fashion. “The Bed” has the narrator aching for a lost lover,
telling her his side of the bed is now nothing but a cold-sweat soaked haven
for bad dreams. Yet in the very next track he pairs with Ann-Margaret singing
an eerily happy tune about finding a nice place to “Sleep in the Grass.”
Light in the Attic
has put together a collection that’s part greatest hits collection, part deep
cuts for the devoted fan. While it avoids his famous production and duets with
Sinatra, it does include some of the best cuts from his studio albums. The
result is a nice introduction to an influential late-60s hit maker that also
rewards long time fans, all without taking the easy route to get there.
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