Posts Tagged ‘Mary Lattimore’

Favorite Albums of 2020

Here’s the year end list. I’m not gonna wax on about how this year was rough, we all know it was a shit year and even more so for artists. It was, however, a great year for recorded music, and I had a hard time not making this list about twice as long to show love for all the albums that lifted me this year. I’ve long been against the whole idea of numbered lists, so once again things are presented in quasi-alphabetical style (I always mess one or two up in creating this, but you get the point). I’ve included Bandcamp embeds where they exist, so if you have the means and find something new, please reach out and support the artists here. Looking forward to 2021 as another year that music makes getting through easier.

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Joe Wong – “Nite Creatures”

I’ve been letting the Joe Wong (Parts & Labor) cut sink into the skin this morning and its starting to take root. The songwriter and composer might be more well known today for his work with television scoring these days (Russian Doll, The Midnight Gospel, Master of None, etc) but it seems that he’s still got an itch for psychedelic rock, albeit of a much lusher nature these days. His new album for Decca is earmarked with just about as many blissful psych touchstones you can cram in — produced by Mary Timony and mixed in the studio by Dave Fridman, the album brings together Mary Lattimore, Anna Waronker, Steve Drozd, and quite a few others to help Wong drape a bit of velvet over every track. “Nite Creatures” makes great use of Lattimore’s harp as Wong makes a play for Lee Hazlewood spun round in the rotoscope under gelled lights. I know that Wong leans more towards scoring, but from a psych-pop standpoint I hope that after the Lynx Lodge has closed for good, that Tom Patterson can find another mercurial psychedelic show in which to place this one. The Fred Armisen-directed video does little to dissuade that feeling, going for a hidden worlds feel while Wong wanders a Moroccan dressed mansion. The song is from his new LP, out now.



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Mary Lattimore

Each new album that arrives from harpist Mary Lattimore is a more gorgeous exploration of sound than the last. Lattimore’s work has the quality of soundtracks to forgotten films buried in the earth — wordless, imaginary flickers of celluloid that may or may not have existed but break our hearts all the same. With a low hum of synth, teardrops of guitar, and her shimmering harp work the songs on Silver Ladders hold the listener captive within the snowglobe sanctuary of its runtime. There’s a feeling of water all around the album, a glinting off of waves that recedes to the blue line where the water drops off and pulls deep. The songs swing from delicate to ominous over the course of the LP. As we progress the water’s gone from pleasure to peril — inviting us in with its azure hues and innocent glint of sunlight, but revealing a hungry pull towards dangerous depths.

To construct the works on Silver Ladders, Mary reached out on a whim to Slowdive’s Neil Halstead. He agreed to produce and over nine days at his airfield studio they worked through her songs to build an album that’s enveloping but also a bit more spare than some of her past works. Halstead adds guitar to several tracks, and his aqueous lines only add to the sense of submersion into the harrowing depths of Lattimore’s compositions. This is especially true on standouts “Don’t Look,” and “Sometimes He’s In My Dreams,” both of which feel like they’re turning points from serene to sinister. Lattimore has remained one of the most consummate and sought after collaborators of late, often elevating an album with her intuitive playing, but here, on her own works she proves that when she’s at the helm the harp becomes more than shading, it’s an entrancing force.




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Mary Lattimore -“Sometimes He’s In My Dreams”

It seems like a day built to realign the soul, and there’s few better suited than Mary Lattimore. Following a couple of excellent collaborations with Meg Baird and Mac McCaughan, Lattimore’s latest expands on her collaborative spirit, swaying away from her typically hermetic solo LPs to include Slowdive’s Neil Halstead as producer and collaborator. Though it’s under a solo banner, the inclusion of Halstead shades this one differently from her previous LP on Ghostly. On “Sometimes He’s In My Dreams,” Lattimore’s harp sparkles off the tops of the waves in rotating diamonds of sound — luminous and airy. Halstead’s guitar drapes alongside her with a melancholy heaviness that digs into the bones. The album centers around a beachside tragedy and both the environmental beauty and accompanying sorrow hang in a balance over the track, giving it an uneasy quality despite its shimmering hues. The record, Silver Ladders is out October 9th and this first listen gives good reason to mark that calendar.





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Jefre Cantu-Ledesma

After two albums that scratched the itch of pop (albeit buried beneath a wash of shoegaze acoustics) Jefre Cantu-Ledesma is heading to a more serene perch for his latest release. Along with a litany of collaborators, including Mary Lattimore, Chuck Johnson, Gregg Kowalsky, David Moore and Meara O’Reilly, Cantu-Ledesma has crafted a statement of glittering stillness. There’s no foam or froth, no static this time around. Instead he’s focused on finding the spaces that form between the sparkles off of the waves, the peace that’s found between the ripple of leaves. There’s an inherit lonesomeness to Tracing Back the Radiance, but its hardly ever somber, rather JCL revels in the temple of solitude, dragging his fingers along the stones to feel every fine edge.

At first blush the record is awash in glistening tones, a wave of muted energy that brings everything to a hush around the listener. It seems simple, but the layers unfold the further the listener lets themselves recede into the wave. The overlapping tones gently push away trouble, without seeking to solve the roots. Tracing Back The Radiance is a respite even within the crush of city life. Head further to the hills and it acts as nature nodding back in rippling harmonics. Jefre’s been cooking up some great records over the last few years, and this marks among his best, if only for its attention to finely tuned details and his dedication to quietude as an all encompassing aesthetic. Coupled with his contributions to MexSum’s Surf Comp from the first half of 2019, I’d say that he’s having quite the year. If you need to let the nagging bite of this year’s constant noise cycle die down a touch, its recommended you let this one seep into every pore.



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Best of 2019 (so far)

It’s been a hell of a year so far and now it’s time to run down the albums that have stuck around the turntable the longest. For all the fraught emotions and everyday injustices, there’s still some bright spot of solace in music. That’s not a trade-off, but its something to keep you going. As usual, these are the best records that filter through the Raven aesthetic. I’ll be off next week on vacation so this 30-spot plus the ensuing two and a half hour mix will have to hold you for a week. Gonna take a break until the 2nd week of July. The second half of the year already has a few front runners, so enjoy these gems before the tail end of 2019 comes running atcha.

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Mary Lattimore & Mac McCaughin

While there’s barely a raised eyebrow at the thought of Mary Lattimore helming a collection of neo-classical minimalist compositions there’s a bit of an ear perk when Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan gets thrown into the mix as well. The pair have teamed up for a collection of movements called New Rain Duets, with Mac helming the synthesizer as a foil to Mary’s poignant plucks. The pair are working in an Eno womb of sound – appropriately evoking the grey-skied sighs of the album’s title. There’s a feeling of cabin fever, bone chill brooding, and eventually a resigned despair to the record. The pieces, set against actual field recordings of rain, begin by lapping at the windows of the soul in a deflating drizzle, rather than wild torrents of sound. There’s isolation vibrating between the notes, a yearning to connect doused by nature’s icy fingers.

As usual Lattimore’s playing remarkably pulls the heart from its chest and massages an ephemeral ache into every inch. As the record wears on, though, MacCaughan’s synths become less subsumed into the walls and reach a rising panic- the feeling of isolation, fear, and anxiety pushing aside Lattimore’s emotional balms. The caged demeanor moves from home windows to car windows, with the rain slicking the streets and a storm lacquering danger onto every minute. There’s still that unmistakable pang of sadness – the feeling that if you can just get through this deluge it’ll all work out all right. In the throes of the second and third movements, the light of exit doesn’t seem so close, however.

I’d love to say that the fourth movement brings a feeling of peace, but its more relief. The gnawing of anxiety and inertia is left behind in a long sigh, but the break in the downpour only seems to leave the world damp and dour. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking record, that doesn’t let the listener off easy. While its an unexpected output from these two musicians, its nonetheless a masterfully constructed chrysalis of pain and panic.



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RSTB Best of 2018

So, it seems that 2018 is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hell of a year by most standards, but musically its been damn entertaining. Perhaps its fair that there’s some bright spot in all the chaos. Not to diminish the chaos, but when the negativity is at an all-pervasive fever pitch, its feels good to have something to hold onto. I’ll choose to remember 2018 as a banner year for music and for the birth of my second daughter rather than the year that page refresh politics threatened to give me an ulcer any day. Below are my favorite albums of the year, taking care to highlight some that might otherwise get forgotten. They’re in (quasi) alphabetical order with no other particular weight on the list. Keep your eyes out for a few more year-end features this week before I reset for the new year. As always, thanks for sticking with RSTB for these 12-odd years or so.

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Meg Baird & Mary Lattimore

That Mary Lattimore and Meg Baird haven’t constantly crossed paths as collaborators is a bit of a conundrum. Both artists spent time in Philly’s verdant folk wave and both have found themselves circling a good cross section of the same musicians over the years. They’re both constant collaborators in general. Lattimore finds herself skewing to the experimental subset, appearing with Jeff Zeigler, Chris Forsyth, and Elysse Thebner. Baird on the other hand has leaned psychedelic, taking up posts in Espers and Heron Oblivion outside of her collaboration with her sister Laura. Now the fates have intervened and Baird’s effusive folk is married to the sympathetic strings of Lattimore’s harp. With voices billowing around the headspace in an otherworldly flow, Ghost Forests, it seems, is an apt title. The album rises out of the mists with an intangible softness – streaked by sunlight, tangled in the wind.

The pair weave subtext and nuance throughout the album, eschewing overt declarations for hazy perfection on a great many of the songs. While there are themes of nature and nations, art and anxiety even the most straightforward songs like “Painter of Tygers” or “Fair Annie” are still subsumed by a disorienting haze that renders every moment of the album beautifully serene. Its Lattimore’s harp that pulls the listener out of the maze each time, though. As with any of her own works or previous collaborations, Lattimore’s talent for adding a bittersweet sparkle to any track remains true. She’s a master of restraint, plucking and prodding songs along with a gilded touch that’s never busy, but always brilliant.

The record builds towards strength, with the first few tracks loping along quietly, doused in a morning serenity. By the time the pair lead the listeners to the closer, “Fair Annie,” the sun has almost burnt away the billow, leaving an ache of longing in its place. The duo’s first outing for Third Lobed immediately leaves the listener wanting more and hoping that this isn’t the last time the women grace each other’s presence.



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Meg Baird & Mary Lattimore – “Painter of Tygers”

Kindred spirits Meg Baird and Mary Lattimore have connected for a collaborative release that’s delicate and haunted. Anchored by the sun-squinted folk of Baird, the first track from the duo’s upcoming Ghost Forests lays a film of noise over Baird’s voice like dust on windows. Baird calls out from behind the din, slowly receding into the Kodachrome ache of time while Lattimore’s harp is upfront and present, sparkling in full color and framing the song’s heartache hues brilliantly. A true partnership elevates both songwriters and this pairing seems like such a natural extension of what both women have been cultivating in their own works that it feels like a band that’s been playing together for years bringing forth their best work. Keep an eye out for the album on Three Lobed this November.



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