Posts Tagged ‘Singer-Songwriter’

Michael Nau – “Funny Wind (demo version)”

The work of Michael Nau often captures a temperamental magic — when the sun dips just below the horizon and the colors take a turn towards cooler greens. His recordings, though not overly adorned, drape his songs in a studio softness that’s often buffeted by some ace collaborators. His voice lays swooning in the velvet trappings that recall the ‘70s vocal treasures that spawned a golden age of honey-hued folk and singer-songwriter prominence. However, before any of his songs made it to the velour and vernal sounds of the finished project, they started as an idea alone at home. Nau has been capturing his songwriting process on tape for years, but the vaults have remained sealed up until now. With Demo Versions, 2014 to 2017 the songwriter lets us all behind the veil to hear how many of his well-loved songs began. The record is by turns sparse and affecting. Once the studio buffer is removed, the songs land like a private-press folk record cut on a budget, but that temperamental magic is still coursing through each one.

“Funny Wind,” in particular, is given a tender tread. The original is laced with a buttoned-up grace, but here Nau is unwound on the porch, letting the lyrics dance around the tape hiss. His voice comes through unfettered, but perhaps its tugging at the soul just a bit more because of it. The song quivers a bit more in its infancy. The final product still lands among the heartstrings, but the demo has a country crooner’s charm and a lingering sweetness that doesn’t quite come through as completely after the polish dries. Sometimes there’s just a perfect take, and this nails that feeling. The record lands this Friday on Suicide Squeeze.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Le Ren – “If I Had Wings”

Been easing into the upcoming EP from Montreal’s Lauren Spear under the name Le Ren. The EP is draped in a bittersweet soul, informed by loss and the lingering regrets that lead on the road to resolution. “If I Had Wings” is a slow saunter into the summer air, flecked with a mournful slide, laconic strums and Spear’s heartbreaking delivery. The song ebbs into the strands of downcast country that have been working their way into constant rotation around here. While the release is only four songs strong, each is a universe of quiet despair and newfound hope. The EP lands on Secretly Canadian July 31st.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Mike Polizze – “Cheewawa”

Another sunbaked strummer from the upcoming solo LP from Purling Hiss’ Mike Polizze. Like the previous single “Revelation,” there’s an inherent looseness, a sonic hammock of sound that cradles the listener. Its easy to pair Polizze’s solo work with slight breezes and the green sunlight that filters through the trees. Early summer solitude is a perfect pairing with his laconic strums and the burlap drawl of guest Kurt Vile. Naturally videos in isolation are getting hard to inject too much creativity into, but the hazy aura here does nicely to compliment “Cheewawa’s” natural ease. The record’s coming our way July 31st on Paradise of Bachelors.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Leah Senior

Capturing the sun-faded ease of the ‘70s has become a bit of a genre unto itself of late. From Drugdealer and Weyes Blood, to Foxygen and The Lemon Twigs, there are plenty who seek to hitch their hammock in the light of post-Laurel Canyon vibes of reclusive solitude and worn-leather comfort. For her third record on Flightless, Leah Senior lets slip out another entry to that canon, and one that’s quite a welcome addition. She’s been no stranger to folk that leans towards the macrame decade as she’s been simmering low-key among the less ferocious names on the Aussie imprint’s roster. She’s played the troubadour aptly. Yet, with The Passing Scene, she’s found a new niche between confessional poetics and a lusher sound that pulls her off of the solo stool and into a studio sound that conjures thick wood panels, tapestry draped lamps, and a soft curlicue of smoke rising from behind the glass. There’s a verdant wooded aura to the record that taps into not only the Valley’s lineage but the valley itself.

Lyrically the album hits on some of the same imagery that would have marked her ‘70s influences, from the lovelorn dreaming of Baez and Mitchell, to the sunset sighs of Sweet Baby James and the slightly religious psychedelia of Judee Sill. In fact, the latter feels like she has a large thumbprint in Senior’s songwriting, merging an often reclusive personal nature with a clear talent for orchestrations that makes her songs soar much further than the studio walls. Like Sill, no matter how well-crafted the trappings around her, Senior’s voice remains the magnetic draw, and she uses it well to form an album that’s drawing her out as an artist to keep tabs on. Between this and the excellent album from Grace Cummings, it seems that loudness and Lizards aren’t all that Flightless has going for it.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Zachary Cale

The latest album from Zachary Cale, while awash in a sort of sunset dulcet feeling is also soaked in a good dose of uncertainty that feels rather relatable. While the album’s been in the works for the last five years, that uncertainty captures the feeling of a year that seems unable to let up. Cale’s pace quavers between rambling fingerpicked rivulets and the kind of buttered comfort that’s made Kurt Vile, Mike Polizze and the Philly set simmer. He peppers in instrumentals that let his understated prowess shine — skewing pensive at some times, and propulsive at others — tying the album together like a faded tapestry. It’s in his equally worn and weathered lyrics, though, that Cale glows the warmest.

False Spring, as the title suggests, deals with a glimmer of hope snuffed by chance and change. Time is beast on this record, leaving the protagonist stranded, stifled, and generally set adrift. Cale’s songs gnaw at uncertainty and are in turn gnawed right back. Occasionally he revels in the looseness of it all, but more often than not Cale is leaning into the bitter winds with an eye in both directions. He’s looking for the lamplight on the horizon and it’s never quite clear if he’s bound to find it. He brings along a pretty good crew on the voyage, though. His tight backing band including Brent Cordero and Charles Burst of The Occasion is amplified by particularly languid pedal steel from Dan Lead, whose lent his tone to Jess Williamson, Kevin Morby and Cass McCombs. The record is a raft in waters that aren’t so forgiving and its worth holding on tight.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Buck Curran

2018 saw the release of Curran’s last album, a quiet and contemplative affair that leaned heavily into his stringwork. The album, aptly titled Morning Haikus, Afternoon Ragas split its works between the Takoma school and the more eastern leanings of Basho and Bishop. This time Buck reinvigorates his focus on the lilting, fingerpicked works but also lets his mournful troubadour side shine as well. Curran cut his teeth in Arborea, whose fragile psych-folk feels as if it would be consumed among the grey skies that he creates here. The title track shakes with a clenched dread, but the feeling doesn’t dominate the album. Rather, there’s weariness here — sorrow and ache that seem overwhelming, melancholy that curls like ash on the air. Curran’s tapped into some of the same streams that fed Chasny’s work before he lit the fuse on the ragged wire electric burndowns. In place there’s no char on the album’s bones, just the winds whipping through the caverns of the heart, cold and lonesome but hopeful that home is on the horizon.

The singer-songwriter side looks good on Curran, and No Love Is Sorrow finds itself easing into a comfortable sway, even when there’s a lump in Curran’s throat. In trying years, its worthwhile to look at the love and let it overhwelm. The goodness can be just as daunting as the bad and the balance between ache of loss and ache of gain fights for control of No Love Is Sorrow. If your folk tendencies tend towards the doom-clouded or psych-folk fodder then there’s much to love here. Curran’s expanded his arsenal and let the strings stand on an even footing with his songcraft and furrowed sentiments. This one’s proving to burrow deeper with repeated listens.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Jess Williamson – “Wind On Tin”

Very glad to see that the country croons of Jess Williamson have returned this year. In her absence there’s been a wealth of great voices added to the sunset striains of alt-country, but her’s has always been a welcomed voice in the genre. With a subtle swish of the cosmic fabric, Williamson wields melancholy through the stardust whispers of the wind. “Wind On Tin” is a spiritual sojourn born out of grief in a dessert town. Williamson claims she’s heard god on the wind, “God” or something else — nature, the vibrational thrum of the earth, the strings of the cosmos. Whatever was on the wind is strung with the fiber of the universe and her song ruffles the same hairs on the neck that may have sprung to life in her hearing. The video, directed by friend and collaborator Eli Welbourne plays into the myth of the mournful cowboy, but its saturated with just the right amount of divine light. Williamson’s new album is out May 15th on Mexican Summer.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Ben Seretan – “Power Zone”

There’s a soft lilt to “Power Zone,” the fist peek into Ben Seretan’s upcoming LP, Youth Pastoral. The song is baked by the sun – a yielding Autumn sun, not an unforgiving mid-summer swelter – and the aura around the track grows tight with a bittersweet comfort. There is breeze in the song too, and it washes away the ache of the sun with a chill that soothes. There’s almost a feeling of rolling waves crashing through the courses, not surf, but the lament of proximal water that’s too cold to enter. That ache and yearning is wrapped in a a touch of tender country swoon – slide guitar and ombré harmonies that slip into one another. Dusky sax leads the way out of the song like the aforementioned afternoon sun trailing into the horizon, holding onto every inch of sky before letting go. Rambled plucks saunter through the song with an unhurried grace and it all frames Seretan’s voice with a humble charm. It’s a wonderfully shaded song that begs to hear the rest of the record, which arrives February 28th on Ben’s own Whatever’s Clever Records. As an added bonus, the record was recorded at Black Dirt with Jason Meagher so you know it sounds crisp.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Richard Youngs and Raül Refree

Soft Abuse’s slide out of 2019 leaves the world with some great offerings and this tender, hypnotic collaboration from Richard Youngs and Raül Refree is a gorgeously undersung gem from the latter half of the year. The record is built around just four-pieces, but they stretch the bounds of the singer-songwriter format, each clocking in well past the eight-minute mark. With brushes of Shearwater, Talk Talk, and recently reissued Jansch gem Avocet in its veins, the record is wounded, broken, but not beyond repair. The songs swirl around repeated phrases and figures until the pieces become mantras and meditations on loss and the lacerations of the past.

Youngs’ guitars are as languorous as ever, feeling lived in yet lucid. Refree adds a twist of heartbreak to the mix, his orchestrations drape All Hands Around the Moment in grey streaks of rain that tumble down the panes of its pain and seep into each and every groove of the record. Youngs is at his height of humility here, and the listener can feel the weight on his heart begin to pull them under as the record locks into the whirlpool of melancholy. Mercifully the album pulls out of its peril in the second half. There’s hope and relief in the verdant rebirth of “Another Language.” The song is a parting of the clouds and a calming of the hairshirt sighs of the opening two numbers. The record winds up hopeful, though still tempered by hurt with another quivering number to close out the collection. Youngs’ catalog is a dense garden to enter, but if you’re looking for a rather essential inroads, this right here isn’t a bad place to start, nor a bad place to linger.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Mixtape: Some Cowboy You Turned Out To Be

While this doesn’t really fall under the year-end banner, I’m going to place it in alongside the rest of this wrap up. It’s actually been a year since the site’s last mixtape and I think these have fallen by the wayside too long. For this one, I’m shifting focus on the mixtape series to contemporary over archival releases to wrap up some of the excellent strains of alt-country, country-folk, and dusted singer-songwriter tracks that have come out in the last few years. The creep of country into indie has had a nice push lately, bringing forth some of the most affecting and aching tracks of years past. While I’d wager to say that Cosmic Americana has had the strongest resurgence in years past, I’m making the case for alt-country as a close second. The lay lines on this sort of genre are shifty and mercurial, so feel free to disagree, but I’d wager this mix has some strong contenders in its ranks.

These songs are full of heavy hearts, failed marriages, missed connections, youthful melancholy, and maturing reflections. There’s joy, but it’s between the somber sway of pedal steel and the bittersweet twang of guitar strings. I offer this mix as a companion to solo drives as the sun dips low and endless stretches of road lie ahead, or rainy evenings on the porch alone. It’s a solitary set of songs, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no hope in its heart.

Continue Reading
0 Comments