Thursday, April 29, 2010

think of them as an immense invitation

The Tango/Richard Zolan

So Gigbot and Fuel/Friends hosted a listening party for (my hero) Josh Ritter's new album So Runs the World Away, a few days ago. As we crowded around a dimly lit table at the Meadowlark, sharing pizza and jokes, the album that I had been listening to in my car just that day decided it wasn't done surprising me. And it played this song. I mean...more than played this sucked the reality out of the room and threw me into the story Ritter was ornately illustrating.

It's a folk tale about a mummy who wakes up and falls in love with his curator. A woman who brings him from the depths of the red clay back to the world and causes his heart to resume beating. But their love is cursed, and the life she gave him, he takes from her until she fades into a shell.

What makes my eyes constantly well up when this song is played is the sense of loss from both sides. The mummy was cursed, and yet his love for her was so genuine he couldn't bring himself to believe that it couldn't win out over it all. And she had brought him back to life; how could something so miraculous be so destructive? How could their timeless, fathomless love be their undoing?

Musically, it's played as a waltz, which conjures up images of a spinning Ingenue in a white flowing dress being led by a smoothly stepping mummy, aged bandages like ribbons stirring up dust in a room lit by sunrise or sunset.

He opens his eyes
Falls in love at first sight
With the girl in the doorway
What beautiful lines
Heart full of life
After thousands of years, what a face to wake up to

He holds back a sigh
As she touches his arm
She dusts off the bed where til now he's been sleeping
Under mires of stone
The dry fig of his heart
Under scarab and bone
Starts back to its beating

She carries him home
In a beautiful boat
He watches the sea from a porthole in stowage
He can hear all she says
As she sits by his bed
And one day his lips answered her
In her own language
The days quickly pass
He loves making her laugh
The first time he moves it's her hair that he touches
She asks "Are you cursed?"
He says "I think that I'm cured."
Then he talks of the Nile and the girls in ?bull rushes?

In New York he is laid
In a glass covered case
He pretends he is dead
People crowd round to see him
But at night she comes round
And the two wander down the halls of the tomb
That she calls a museum
But he stops to rest
Then less and less
Then it's her that looks tired
Staying up asking questions
He learns how to read
From the papers that she is writing about him
Then he makes corrections
It's his face on her book
More come to look
Families from Iowa
Upper West-Siders
Then one day it's too much
He decides to get up
Then as chaos ensues he walks outside to find her
She is using a cane
And her face looks too pale
But she's happy to see him
As they walk he supports her
She asks "Are you cursed?"
But his answer is obscured
In a sandstorm of flashbulbs
Rowdy reporters

Such reanimation
The two tour the nation
He gets out of limos
Meets other women
He speaks of her fondly
Their nights in the museum
She's just one more rag now he's dragging behind him
She stops going out
She just lies there in bed
In hotels in whatever towns they are speaking
Then her face starts to set
And her hands start to fold
Then one day the dry fig of her heart stops its beating

Long ago on the ship
She asked why pyramids
He said "Think of them as an immense invitation."
She asks "Are you cursed?"
He says "I think that I'm cured."
Then he kissed her and hoped
That she'd forget that question

It's a tragic story, one that lays me down so completely because it is not in any way trite, contrived, or cheesy. Josh Ritter just wrote a song about an Egyptian mummy and awoke this deep sense of lovelorn grief in me. No part of this song, or this album, or this artist, ceases to amaze me. It's a record that so blatantly and breathlessly showcases the indelible mark Josh Ritter can put on music, and on people.

So the World Runs Away is out already in Ireland, but will be released here on May 4.

The Curse- Josh Ritter

Monday, April 26, 2010

i wanna do right/but not right now

I have always had a crater in my heart that was first knocked out by this song. Originally by the sublime Gillian Welch, it's a pained, fitfully honest, fearless song about being young and reckless and choosing what might not be the predetermined road so you can let your hair stream out a rag-top on an unknown one.

While driving back from a BBQ a couple mornings ago I rolled down the windows in the early morning air and let the breeze bite through my dangling fingers the way this song's confessions do to my heart. If you happen to see a woman with her head tilted back, belting out this song at a traffic light, just know some serious soul satisfying is going on. Maybe offer me a high five if you can reach. Or just offer your own harmony.

Oh me oh my oh, look at Miss Ohio
She’s a-running around with her rag-top down
She says I wanna do right but not right now

Gonna drive to Atlanta and live out this fantasy
Running around with the rag-top down
Yeah I wanna do right but not right now

Had your arm around her shoulder, a regimental soldier
An’ mamma starts pushing that wedding gown
Yeah you wanna do right but not right now

Oh me oh my oh, would ya look at Miss Ohio
She’s a-runnin’ around with the rag-top down
She says I wanna do right but not right now

I know all about it, so you don’t have to shout it
I’m gonna straighten it out somehow
Yeah I wanna do right but not right now

Oh me oh my oh, look at Miss Ohio
She a-runnin’ around with her rag-top down
She says I wanna do right , but not right now
Oh I wanna do right but not right now

I think it's also worth mentioning that the few bands who have chosen this Gillian Welch song to cover have done so with utmost sweetness and aplomb. If you have the chance, head over to Fuel/Friends to check out Blind Pilot's. Israel's voice so perfectly captures the ache of this song.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

high violet is streaming (so are my eyes)

The new the National album, High Violet, is waiting for you...

First read fabulous article written by the New York Times and then stream the whole record for yourself on the article's page. It's a day stopper. It's a shifting, glowing soundscape bound together by Berninger's soul bruising baritone.

High Violet is officially released to the public on May 11.

("Sorrow" and "Conversation 16" have wrecked me in the best possible way.)

By the way, does it charm you like it does me that Bryan Devendorf described the band thusly:

"Basically the band is like this; Matt’s the dad. Scott’s the long-suffering wife. I’m the black-sheep uncle. Aaron and Bryce are the twin daughters who like to control their parents."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

there is a love that sleeps inside/the canyons of our deepest dreaming lives

Blitzen Trapper has always been somewhat of a conundrum for me. On one album they'll shift from rollicking alt-country to something resembling 90's anthem rock to reverb-laden and drifting shoegaze homages.

I like it, a lot of it. But it never came together, never gathered its strength and held me tight with an immediate sense of self or purpose.

Prepare to have your mind changed, if you thought like me.

Destroyer of the Void, out on June 8 through Sub Pop, is a completely awake and alive album. It is a working being, a string of pearls (which is how Roman Candle would describe a true album), and disarmingly sincere while not losing Blitzen Trapper's inherent grasp of how to make me have fun.

In their single release, "Heaven and Earth" Eric Earley's voice is earnest and naked with major piano chords introducing the melody. Blitzen Trapper has been so often compared to other artists, because they've been so scattered in their sound. From Wilco to Queen to the Beatles, Blitzen Trapper's identity has been footnoted below influences.

It's easy to hear a Beatles influence in this single and leave it at that.

But there's something else. I actually hear Earley's voice in this. It's patiently building a sound that I haven't heard already. And the words he says are new and real and make me feel a bit trembly when he sings close into my ears, "Heaven and Earth are mine says I."

The rest of the album varies, just like you expect from a Blitzen Trapper record, but it creates a story out of the many narratives. It's accessible, and absolutely a tremendous step forward in songwriting. I can't wait to see these guys at Lollapalooza, can you?
Heaven and earth are mine says I (x3)

Over the western world shadows fall
Under the kind and dying trees we call
Together still the feel the breeze
To shatter all these waking dreams we've told
Ourselves to keep us free and clean

Heaven and earth are mine says I (x3)

There is a love that sleeps inside
The canyons of our deepest dreaming lives
A shelter that cannot be lost
A name that is so deep and so far across
I know you that you know me
Your life is like a bolt of lightning seen
Across the sky, so high and clean

Heaven and earth are mine says I (x3)
Heaven and earth are mine

Over the western world shadows fall
Under the kind and dying trees we call
Together still the feel the breeze
To shatter all these waking dreams we've told
Ourselves yeah ourselves
Ourselves yeah ourselves

Heaven and earth are mine says I (x3)

Heaven and Earth- Blitzen Trapper

Saturday, April 10, 2010

new electric president

I don't know if you remember when I completely loved on Ben Cooper's, of Electric President, solo work Radical Face. Well now I have the opportunity to extol the talents of Cooper and his other musical half, Alex Kane, and Electric President's third and newest release, The Violent Blue.The album was released in February under Fake Four Inc., a switch from their previous German label Morr Music.

What astounds me about this young duo is their grasp of composition. On the single, "Safe and Sound," the song opens with nothing but echoing drum beats, and the occasional hint of piano. It builds with steady pace, adding layers of bass lines, vocal harmonies, and reeling in and out a piano melody that brightly contrasts the heavy distortion rumbling underneath it all. It's controlled, but in the same way a flock of birds seems to be; it flies with a purpose and a freedom.

I like it.

Safe and Sound- Electric President

Exciting news for those who were smitten with Radical Face! As of March 10, Cooper has finished recording the follow up album to Ghost. I will be waiting most impatiently, as is my pattern with wonderful things that I want immediately.

By the way! I was lucky enough to interview The Morning Benders for my friends over at Gigbot. Chris Chu gave eloquent and insightful responses, and Todd Roeth's photography is as stunning as ever.

Check it out.

Friday, April 9, 2010

gigbot wants you to make new friends...

Free beer? Good music? No way! Is this some Utopian society I'm illustrating?

Not unless you see the Gigbot Garage as Utopia. Which, come Monday April 12 at 7:30 pm it will be in a manner of speaking.

If you're around Denver, make it a priority to kick off the week in style, with the rollicking, rambling, rowdy, boot-scootin' good time of a band, These United States. And all proceeds (the 10$ cover) go straight to their starving artist pockets. Now that's a good cause.

In my humble, public opinion these guys put on one of the best live shows you can see. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

i want woodpigeon to remember me

Woodpigeon's front man and primary song writer, Mark Hamilton, is a man with a lot of stories to tell. As a band that has experienced success on more subtle levels (though is opening for Broken Social Scene, Iron and Wine, and Grizzly Bear that subtle?) than many others, the creative gambit that Hamilton has been able to run has led to some profoundly beautiful music.

Take his explanation for the name, Woodpigeon.

"I've always been in love with the word Woodpigeon for as long as I can remember. When you write it in cursive, it looks like a rollercoaster"

The rollercoaster that is the Calgary based Woodpigeon has released a new album in 2010, Die Stadt Muzikanten, and it has enchanted me. Written mainly while Hamilton spent time in Berlin, it's dedicated and written to his German immigrant grandparents who inspired him to turn his life over to music in the first place. And it's rife with quiet dignity. From the crackling fuzz of a turntable, to the careful and empyrean guitar composition, Woodpigeon's 3rd studio release spins with dusty, gossamer, unashamed emotions.

Empty Hall Sing-a-Long- Woodpigeon

Oh...and Woodpigeon was saddened by the passing of Alex Chilton as well.

Thirteen (Big Star)- Woodpigeon