Posts Tagged ‘Three Lobed’

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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Daniel Bachman on Virgil Anderson’s – On The Tennessee Line

This series never fails to unearth great records that should have been in my orbit all along. I’m continually intrigued by whether an artist will choose an album that feels so in line with their tastes it makes perfect sense, or a surprise outlier that seems to come out of nowhere. For veteran string-slinger Daniel Bachman, the pick lands squarely in the former camp. Bachman, if you’re unfamiliar, has been a purveyor of fingerpicked folk of the highest order, and with his latest album, he’s arced over into experimental waters that feel both jarring and perfect. He’s picked an Appalachian banjo gem from Virgil Anderson, a spot-on pick for fans of his own idiosyncratic style. Check out how it came into his life below.

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Daniel Bachman

For his latest album Daniel Bachman has embraced space – space between notes with runs that amble rather than ramble, outdoor space via field recordings and headspace through some of his most challenging and experimental sides yet. His last album embraced an Appalachian folksiness, pock-marked by some clangorous diversions that kept it from becoming an exercise in gazing through the wrinkles of the past. While Bachman’s always been reverent of the past, he’s never been tied down by it. As he lays into The Morning Star, though, he’s torn tradition apart and glued it back together in his own vision.

For an album created by one of the great technical talents of our age, there’s a surprising shift from flashy fingerwork here to a much larger emphasis on environment and tone. Through a series of longform drones, flickering and sinister vocal samples and meditative plucks, Bachman drives the album with an air of contemplation. The Morning Star absorbs and ingests the chaos of modern matters and slows them down, picks them over with the eye of a patient woodcarver and sends out the artist’s interpretation – his rough edges and jagged hand adding a craggy character in purposeful acts of degradation.

The album is not eclipsed in total darkness, the nervously hopeful “Song for the Setting Sun III” gives a slight break in Bachman’s cloudbank compositions, but overall, it’s one of Bachman’s darkest works to date. It’s also probably one of his most accomplished. From Fahey to Richard Bishop, there are those who have infused fingerpicked folk with an experimentation that’s palpable and potent. In fact, this might just be Bachman’s America, its just that his own America has slipped its axis quite a bit from where Fahey found it. If you’re looking for lush technicality that’s born to sooth, sway towards the excellent album from Nathan Salsburg, also out this month. If you’re ready to pull the strings until they break the skin and burn the bone, Bachman’s your man.




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Gunn-Truscinski Duo

Has it really been since 2012 that Steve Gunn and John Truscinski paired their prowess to purge a temperamental squall from their instruments? Seems that it has, but the pair is back together and despite Gunn’s rather meteoric rise in the interim, it feels like not a day has passed in their symbiotic sonic pact. Bay Head, their new LP, sounds like two artists making music simply for themselves and the cut cord of commercial appeal suits them nicely.

Moving away from Gunn’s recent reliance on pop structure, the record builds its stormfronts on both his fingerpicked runs, threading the album like looped vines of sound, and a more caustic, rusted metal explosion of corroded fuzz. The album is, for the most part, covered in clouds that are grey streaked and threatening at times, but when the duo lets a little light in there’s a peek of delicacy as well (“Shell,” “Some Lunar Day”). Even Gunn’s most enticing moments, however, are not without a bouquet of thorns for listeners who relax into their twined beauty too quickly. This is not a sunshine ramble of folk, but rather a full picture of turmoil and respite.

The real beauty here is in the interplay between the two artists. With guitar and percussion duos the language is the most important thing and Gunn and Truscinski know how to converse, playing off one another in subtle nudges. When the guitars threaten to boil, scratching at their amps like caged animals, Truscinski pulls the chain, tumbling with Gunn but knowing where the boundaries lie. Bay Head is ecstatic and free, but never messy, never threatening to buck its listener. This album is a reminder of just how potent these two musicians can be, and even if its another five years before we get another one, it’ll have been worth it.




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Gunn-Truscinski Duo

Back before Steve Gunn was commanding Matador wheatpaste, he and John Truscinski had been laying down cinder-psych issues for Three Lobed with no particular agenda except finding the a common buzz and following it through the veil. They’re back in form here, with Steve shying away from his accessible canon of late and going in for scorched threads of nylon string rip and Truscinski anchoring him back down to the cruel, dusted Earth. Couldn’t be happier that the duo is divining the truth yet again, though I’d also be amenable to news of a new Golden Gunn album as well. Guess I shouldn’t go asking for favors. Still, mark you calendars for this nugget.




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Wooden Wand

Perhaps there has been no more steady hand guiding Raven Sings the Blues than the presence of James Toth’s Wooden Wand. Since the site began in 2006, there have been myriad releases from Toth and as I’ve changed, so has the music of Wooden Wand blossomed from noise experiments with The Vanishing Voice, to psych-folk’s crowning glory and on into a pure distillation of Americana that rings far from the hollow brand of weekend alt-country that so many Brooklyn pickers would adopt fecklessly over the years. No, Toth has always been independent music’s poet laureate, whether he’s got the onion skin to prove it or not, we all know its true.

On Clipper Ship, his first album in three years (a relative dearth in terms of Toth’s output), he crafts an album that puts the musical heft ahead of the lyrical focus. A groundswell of his fellow craftsmen have found their way to the studio for this dragging the net from Glenn Kotche (On Fillmore, Wilco) and Jim Becker (Califone, Iron & Wine) to Zak Riles (Watter, Grails) and sought after sidemen Luke Schneider (Margo Price, JEFF The Brotherhood, Natural Child) and Jim Elkington (Tweedy, Richard Thompson, Steve Gunn). The songs jut out from the piers of Fahey and Basho and then tumble into endless buzzing drones and blissful hums. Stripped of the words this would rival any Scissor Tail release for acoustic dominance.

Though that’s not to discount the lyrics on Clipper, they’re as literate and as personal as ever, lending the album Toth’s own brand of rural mesquite, a woodsiness that flecks each song with a mouthful of smoke. In his aim to construct an album that stands alone on it’s instrumentation, he’s succeeded and then some. Combined, however, the instrumental acumen and lyrical quality push this towards one of Toth’s finest releases. The lyrics suggest a haunted America; full of murder ballads and codeine comedowns for a generation adrift and reaching, grasping and grappling with truths that seem to grow less plausible every day. Toth has said that in the wake of 2016’s political heft, he may slow down output, not wanting to add to a glut of musical content out there. But if the spigot slows and each new release is of this caliber, then I’m on board for the wait.




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James Jackson Toth on Japan – Tin Drum

The latest installment of Hidden Gems comes from a longtime RSTB favorite. I think it’s fair to say that without Wooden Wand, Raven wouldn’t have shaped up the way it did in those early years. When I happened on a great set by James, billed to open for Jack Rose in a cramped bar in Greenpoint back in 2005, Harem of the Sundrum and the Witness Figg quickly became a fixture on the turntable and a desire to spread some of the WW gospel was born. Below Toth shares a record that’s made an impact in his own life and how it crept in and took hold.

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Wooden Wand – “Mexican Coke” + Carlos The Second

Good news today out of the Wooden Wand camp, there’s a new album on the way from Three-Lobed, Clipper Ship. The album arrives in May and is preceded by the gorgeous new single “Mexican Coke,” a sighed country ode to having to supplement income with side hustles. The album marks a shift away from Toth’s last few, stripping back to more of the sing-songwriter countenance that permeated his lone album for Rykodisc under his given name. The album boasts an impressive supporting cast of players ranging from Wilco’s Glenn Kotche to session stars like Darin Gray, Ryan Norris, Jim Becker, Luke Schneider, Zak Riles and Jim Elkington. All the players have contributed to accomplished visions of folk and country over the past few years and they bring that drive and finesse to Clipper Ship. Its been a touch since Toth had a Wooden Wand album out and it feels good to have one on the way for sure.


The announcement makes the news doubly good today because while we were all wrapped up in the tail end tail spin of 2017, James and a few friends slipped an album out under the name Carlos The Second. It features some nuanced instrumentals from Ryan Norris (who also appears on the new album) and sets Toth’s honeyed croon agaist some starker than usual settings, and even a smattering of beat driven tracks. Its new territory for sure, but fits well into a catalog that never shies away from collaboration. As an added bonus, Langhorne Slim swings by for a flat-out wonderful country rocker that has both singers at their best. Check out “Hall Of Mirrors” below:

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