Posts Tagged ‘Singer-Songwriter’

Anna McClellan on Connie Converse – How Sad, How Lovely

The upcoming LP from Omaha songwriter Anna McClellan is a bare, honest portrayal of self-doubt, self-deprecation, love, loss, and the meandering moments between. Where others would seek to sand the edges of their songs to a smooth perfection, McClellan seems to enjoy the splinters and broken edges. Organs saw against the grain of hooks, her voice quakes, and woodwinds creak in nervous sways. Those splinters draw blood, though, and the record stays with you, popping into the subconscious throughout the day. Anna’s lyrics are there with a knowing smirk. As such I figured she’d be another great candidate for a dive below the surface of the record collection for a Gems piece. Check out her take on the recently unearthed collection by Connie Converse below.

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The Weather Station – “Robber”

Had a day or so to soak in this new song from The Weather Station and it’s getting under the skin quite nicely. With a move to Fat Possum and a shift in sound that embraces flannel blurts of sax, soaring strings, and overdriven organ, Tamara Lindeman has elevated this above her already fairly sterling catalog. Lyrically the song hits a prescient note, alluding to the elaborate denial we all undergo in order to let ourselves support systems that constantly seek to undermine our best interests and strip mine our personal resources, rights, and dignity. We’re all making excuses for the robber — letting government and capitalism corrupt because the hand that takes is so large it seems like its not there at all. The song definitely sets a high bar for what comes next from Lindeman. The song appears on a new 7” out this week backed with b-side “Better Now.”



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Mike Wexler – “After”

Songwriter Mike Wexler assembles a crack backing band versed in jazz, though they find footing between their improvisational past and his autumnal shades and verdant verse. Its a subtle shift, but the players, including David Lackner, Adrian Knight, Max Zuckerman, and Mike Advensky, give Mike’s work a scrubbed up sheen. the The first taste fro the upcoming Mike Wexler with Synthetic Love Dream is the loping, gently swirling “After.” The band here is restrained — a touch of bass thudding like a rudder, a patter of percussion and the driving wheel ramble of guitar pushing against a swell of organ. Wexler is as assured as ever, delivering a song that hangs on the air like breath in December. The new album comes out via his old hangout at three:four records this week and this track is just a small peek into the band’s well-oiled simmer.


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Pearl Charles – “Take Your Time”

Today finds us left with another tender single from the upcoming Pearl Charles LP. The record pushes her away from some of the disco skip of her last record and into the full sway of the sunset stretches of ‘70s Canyon nights with a light scent of Cosmic Country on the breeze. “Take Your Time” is more at peace than “What I Need” — laced with the soft twang of guitars, a tumble of last call piano, and Charles’ heart-stung vocals. The song’s a reminder to slow down and drink in the moment, which is perhaps a helpful reminder while we’re all preoccupied with the crumble of Western Civilization. Yet it still bears some weight that a comfortable autumn afternoon with the right kind of air and a ripple of wind through the leaves can let most anything wait for an hour or so. The new album is out January 15th from Kanine.




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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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