Jim White gets around. When he's not releasing his own critically acclaimed solo albums he splits his time producing records for other songwriters, exhibiting his visual art in galleries and museums across the USA & Europe and publishing award winning fiction. His sixth solo studio album, the bizarrely titled Waffles, Triangles & Jesus, is a mind-bending joy ride of sonic influences featuring a bevy of his hometown Athens' roots musicians, plus west coast indie darlings Dead Rock West, and rock and roll maverick Holly Golightly. Prior to Waffles, Triangles & Jesus, White released five eclectic, totally uncatagorisable albums plus another six even stranger side projects. Numerous songs from his back catalog have appeared both in film and television, with his Primus-esque "Word-Mule" being featured in Breaking Bad, and more recently his cautionary rocker "Crash Into The Sun" appearing Ray McKinnon's highly praised Sundance Channel series Rectify. UK fans may recognize White as the narrator and defacto tour guide for the award winning BBC documentary, Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus, a road movie set in the rural South, which the LA Times described as "Decidedly strange, delightfully demented." Prior to becoming a musician White led an aimless, diverse life, working countless menial labor jobs: dishwasher, landscaper, lifeguard, cook, surfboard laminator, road builder, culminating with thirteen long years driving a taxi cab in New York City.White is presently at work completing a memoir, Incidental Contact, based on a series of uncanny coincidences that befell him during his days driving that taxi in New York City. Two chapters of Incidental Contact, The Bottom and Superwhite, have been published in the literary music journal Radio Silence, with Superwhite being awarded a Pushcart Prize for short fiction. White was a pro surfer. He served as literary commentator for the National Endowment of the Arts. He was a European fashion model. Samuel Beckett once played a practical joke on him. There’s lots more non linear information that doesn’t really fit the usual bio format. But that’s Jim - he gets around.
Few Traces surveys Mark Renner's scarcely released and unreleased material recorded from 1982 to 1990, embracing and evoking wordless translations of the individual's musical experience, and the poetic expression of being here. Something of a rust-belt Brian Eno, Few Traces places the Baltimore artist's ambient explorations, composed as soundtracks to guide his visual work, alongside his guitar-centric, vocal driven songs traversing terrains similar to Cocteau Twins or The Durutti Column.
New Zealand's Marlon Williams has quite simply got one of the most extraordinary, effortlessly distinctive voices of his generation-a fact well known to fans of his first, self-titled solo album, and his captivating live shows. An otherworldly instrument with an affecting vibrato, it's a voice that’s earned repeated comparisons to the great Roy Orbison, and even briefly had Williams, in his youth, consider a career in classical singing, before realizing his temperament was more Stratocaster than Stradivarius.
But it's the art of songwriting that has bedeviled the artist, and into which he has grown exponentially on his second album, Make Way For Love, out in February of 2018. It's Marlon Williams like you’ve never heard him before-exploring new musical terrain and revealing himself in an unprecedented way, in the wake of a fractured relationship.
In early December, Williams and his longtime girlfriend, musician Aldous (Hannah) Harding, broke up. While personally wrenching, the split seemed to open the floodgates for Williams as a writer. "â€¦I wrote about fifteen songs in a month," he recalls. Sure enough, while Make Way For Love draws on Williams' own story, in remarkably universal terms it captures the vagaries of relationships that we’ve all been through: he bliss (opener "Come To Me"); ache ("Love Is a Terrible Thing"); nagging questions ("Can I Call You"); and bitterness ("The Fire Of Love", whose lyrics Williams says he "agonized over" more than any).
And there’s "Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore", a duet with Harding, recorded after the two broke up, with Williams directing Harding's recording via a late-night long distance phone call. "We finally got to talk it out," he adds. "We still love each other very much."
If "breakup record" is a trope-and certainly it is-then Marlon Williams has done it proud. Like the best of the lot, Make Way For Love doesn’t shy away from heartbreak, but rather stares it in the face, and mines beauty from it.
There are a million songs dressed in white t-shirts and American denim, songs that drift through open spaces in some busted sedan, over lost highways that become tributaries to eventual static, crawling traffic and stifling density. There are a million more songs about being wild and green in the cities and outside them: a song about love for every person on this earth. Another Age, the debut album from Robert Earl Thomas, avoids inhabiting these cliches even as it embraces their personal influence: this is an album about small moments with big emotional footprints, told humbly and honestly. Thomas is not new to making records. A founding member of Brooklyn-based indie outfit â€ªWidowspeakâ€¬, he's previously lent his talents as a lead guitarist to that band as well as the experimental pop group Vensaire. He began writing and home-recording songs two years ago, gradually and purposefully in moments of solitude between tours, between stints working in a Seattle woodshop and at a hotel in the Catskills, and during weeks couch-surfing back and forth across Brooklyn. For Another Age, Thomas combined these intricately layered demos with tracks from a two-week studio session in the winter of 2016 at Marcata Recording in New Paltz, NY with producer Kevin McMahon (Swans, Real Estate, Widowspeak). â€¬ It's a debut that plays the part without succumbing to it, more pastel romantic comedy than sepia historic drama. There are stylistic nods to Springsteen and â€ªDire Straitsâ€¬, â€ªArthur Russellâ€¬'s more folk-leaning output, the various collaborations of â€ªTom Pettyâ€¬ & â€ªJeff Lynneâ€¬. But Thomas seems intent on conveying his specific take on these things over emulating them; you get the impression that he's just as inspired by karaoke renditions of "I'm On Fire" or "Romeo and Juliet" as he is by the originals. And the stories he tells are full of intimate moments and observations: a walk home from a lover's apartment, a long night drive back upstate, a quiet â€ªWednesday morningâ€¬ existential crisis; musings as to the significance of a Winona Ryder portrait on the wall of a stranger's bedroom; the sense of discovery that comes with being young in a city with a new person, and the sense of loss when that novelty is gone. Another Age is indoor music at its most expansive, rock and roll held at arm's length. â€¬â€¬â€¬â€¬â€¬
Sometime in 2001 - sandwiched between the release of Ghost Tropic and its follow-up, the cryptic classic, Didn't ItRain - Songs: Ohia recorded an EP for Temporary Residence's distance-themed subscription series, Travels InConstants. The untitled EP consisted of a single 18-minute song - performed live by Jason Molina in his living room,recorded directly to 4-track cassette as the sounds of a typical Chicago night bled through the air. Built solely from anacoustic guitar and Molina's familiar melancholy croon, it's a hauntingly intimate track. Molina once remarked that itwas "probably too out there" for a proper Songs: Ohia album, which is perhaps why is felt right at home in thiscontext. Scarcely available in its original CD-only edition of 1,000 copies, Travels In Constants has finally beenremastered and reissued for vinyl and digital formats. Completing this reissue is "Howler," another unusually lengthySongs: Ohia track that, like Travels In Constants, was recorded and released in 2001 in an edition of only 1,000.These tracks are amongst the most abstractly beautiful and alarmingly delicate music that Molina ever committed totape. It's an honor to finally make it properly available for the world.
Gearing up for their third album for FatCat, Tal National look back on a fertile period spent further honing their sound and touring the US several times - leaving audiences sweaty and stunned time after time. They've laid down incredible sets at WOMAD and Roskilde, bringing the same intensity and jubilance to the festival set as they would a crammed club, converting the staunchest wallflower into a dancer for the night. At their core, that’s Tal National's intent, to make the people dance. Performances at their Niamey nightclub (yes they operate their own nightclub) are regularly raucous 5-hour non-stop dance parties for 300 people a night. With Tantabara the band continues their ongoing quest to translate that energy to tape, bottling the party for personal use.
The grooves are the backbone of the album, and the intent is to create a trance-state that overwhelms conscious thought and lets the listener be surrounded by the energy and emotion of Tal National. Brimming with the band’s complex, intense spirit, the album is a continuation of the balance of tradition and innovation that have driven their previous albums. It’s a joyous celebration and euphoric epiphany all in one complex package. We'd expect nothing less at this point from Tal National.