Posts Tagged ‘Singer-Songwriter’

Chloe Alison Escott – “Back Behind The Eyes Again”

The last time I had mention of Chloe Alison Escott, it was with an entry to Chapter Music’s healing Midnight Meditations compilation. The song was a far cry from Chloe’s work with The Native Cats. While the spare delivery remained, she’d traded propulsive post-punk for a midnight sigh of piano. There was mention of a full album in the same light and now further pieces of that album, Stars Under Contract fall into place. “Back Behind The Eyes” is just as worn, weary, and smudged with rain as her last single and it precedes an album of worn resolve, self-acceptance, and growing into the person you’re trying to be as an adult.

While it seems this one has been bubbling under the skin — a part of Escott’s live repertoire in flux for several years — the feelings finally fit into the emotional puzzle that’s laid out on Stars Under Contract. Escott mentions “I wrote “Back Behind the Eyes Again” 12 years ago. Sometimes it takes a while for me to get around to recording a song, and the lyric and the structure will evolve over that time; in this song I changed one word (“another” to “better”) and it’s otherwise exactly as I played it at shows in my 20s. It’s about drifting in and out of yourself, and about dramatising life with music.”

While the nervous energy of The Cats has been burnt off of these songs, the scars that Chloe brings to light are still there, acting as a thread tying the new album to her past. The song seems like a moment of healing, a reminder not to pick at the wounds, but to be mindful of them to let them heal. The album is out October 16th from Chapter Music.




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Grace Sings Sludge – “The Pledge”

was always a fan of The Sandwitches and this hammock swung strummer from the band’s Grace Cooper is a good taste of her latest LP and a bit of an extension of their charms. There’s a loose feeling to “The Pledge,” dangling its feet in the breeze and hardly taking itself too seriously. Cooper has a way of making the ordinary, lackadaisical musings on love feel slightly profound, though. While the song’s themes of self-improvement to serve the ends of a relationship seem both relatable and at their heart, doomed, Cooper’s sighed delivery gives them some weight that makes the hollow promises thud even harder. The song flits by in a haze that takes full advantage of Grace’s dreamy style of folk-pop. It’s hard not to feel the room instantly fill with incense the moment her guitar begins to strum and by the end, even though the words ring false, we’re all calmer somehow anyway. The LP is out now on Empty Cellar.




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Grace Cummings – “Sweet Matilda”

Grace Cummings’ LP from last year caught me late, but never really let go. Cumming’s voice has a quality that’s startling, but affirming. There’s a sandpapered rasp nestled into a richness that unfolds further with each listen. Her stories capture hurt and healing in a way that matches the assured delivery that drives out of the speakers with a powerful gait. She’s the latest in a long line of indelible artists that have found their way into Mexican Summer’s singles offshoot Looking Glass and like the other inhabitants of this world, “Sweet Matilda” stirs a deeper well in the listener. Atop a patient piano, Cummings lays out a tale of loss that fills in the fine details with a refined hand. Its a crushing, gorgeous song that fits in right alongside her previous LP like an epilogue. With so many songs entering the fray each day a lot of gems can get lost. Don’t let this one get away.





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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.



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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.



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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.



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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.



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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.




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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.




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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.

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