Up until 2014 I was an investigator's assistant in a public law office. I can't tell you exactly what my job was on account of I signed a shut your mouth agreement around the time I quit for stress related reasons. But what I can say is that I dealt with corruption and badness perpetrated at the highest levels of authority, daily. I clocked all these leads and I made a file. Because these aren't things you keep in the dark. You shine a light on the badness and you strive to understand it.
From a dossier on all things delicate and beautiful and sadly human. crimes of passion and victims of love. All contained in 10 hot songs. Who's the culprit? I've got my inklings and you can get your own. But first you need to listen to the thing, take it all in, stick photos to your walls and connect them with string, measure footprints in the yard, wear a suit made of reeds, track the migration patterns of birds, intercept whispered transmissions, learn to eat spiders with a hunting knife, sleep in air ducts, make the case.
Here it is, my album: Forced Witness.
'Spear in the City' is the fourth album from Los Angeles' Bodies of Water, and their first release since 2011. Since then, they've played with different friends in different guises (Music Go Music, Physical Jerks, The Confessions, The Coast), and recorded a trove of mostly unreleased music. "Before we dove into putting out another record," says singer David Metcalf, "we wanted to make sure we had a set of songs that felt like they needed an audience, which took a while to happen."
'Spear in the City' is an album of expansive and apocalyptic gospel music, pulsing baritone-led chansons Ã¡ la Jacques Brel and Scott Walker, but with the rhythmic groove and vocal polyphony that's been the group's signature since its beginnings. Metcalf elaborates: "When I tell people that it's a gospel record, what I mean is that the songs are about the world and work of the Spirit. It's not worship music. Since I've never felt the need to connect with religious culture or institutions, songs are a way to keep my eyes trained on the world inside the world, and the movement of the supernatural dimension into ours.
The songs on 'Spear in the City' are a continuation of a narrative that Bodies of Water began writing long ago. Songs of experience informed by lives entwined with faith. Songs that revel in the unknown, and the mysteries at the heart of that faith. 'Spear in the City' is not dogma, it is a reckoning.
What you hear on Fly is Yoko Ono's disarming combination of opacity and visceral, personal transparency in full bloom. It's one of the most unbridled, most captivating soul albums ever made.
And that's right where she wants you: vulnerable, wide open to any-and-everything, ready to have your world tipped onto its head. She's a master of spinning your head around. First, you get the Bar Band from Hell of "Midsummer New York" to kick things off. It's about the last thing you'd expect from Ono coming off Plastic Ono Band. But here you are, listening to Ono channeling Elvis. Why am I all of a sudden bopping along to it?
At 16-minute-plus, the tranced-out, motorik-inspired boogie "Mind Train" is rough-and-ready for your next basement get down. Movement and perspiration required. Then, we have the absolutely gutting blues of “Don’t Worry, Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking For Her Hand in The Snow)." Full of ache and raw emotion, the song is a love note, a plea for forgiveness, to her estranged daughter Kyoko shot across the universe on a flaming arrow.
Ono follows this stampede of emotion with the self-referential torch song "Mrs. Lennon," a wounded song that gets right into the Universal Loneliness. And so here you are. You're devastated. You're exhausted. You're exhilarated. And you're only 1/4 of the way up the mountain that is Fly. Dig deep, traveler, it’s worth the climb.
If you've listened to Feeling the Space, Yoko Ono's personal-is-political 1973 album, it should come as no surprise that the once-reviled artist is inspiring a new generation of activists in 2017. On such songs as the righteous chant "Woman Power," the empathetic ballad "Angry Young Woman," the hilarious proto-grrrl "Potbelly Rocker," and the satirical "Men Men Men," Yoko sings in surprisingly straightforward fashion about the burdens carried by women and the mandate for feminism. Supported by such skilled studio vets as guitarist David Spinozza, sax player Michael Brecker, and drummer Jim Keltner, this is perhaps Yoko's most accessible album, and her most intimate. Feeling the Space was recorded during the time when the avant-garde visionary artist became estranged from her rock-star husband John Lennon. He plays only briefly on the album (billed as Johnny O'cean); she produced and wrote all the songs.
The result is a definitive soundtrack/document of the era of consciousness raising and of radical critique of the family structure. Yoko and company deliver this hard message soft rock style, or as soft as Yoko could get. Yoko was on the front lines of the women's liberation movement. Dedicated "to the sisters who died in pain and sorrow and those who are now in prisons and in mental hospitals for being unable to survive in the male society," it's an emotional exploration of the psychological toll of oppression.
Ever since they wrote Light Upon The Lake as Chicago froze around them during winter 2014, Whitney have tried to make the kind of songs they'd be jealous of if someone else got there first. "You've Got A Woman," released on the B- side of Dutch duo Lion's 1975 psych-pop 7" But I Do, is precisely one of those songs. "As soon as I heard it, I wished I'd written the vocal melody; it's so catchy and powerful," says singing drummer Julien Ehrlich. Whitney's version is rich, instantaneous, and deep in groove. Much like Whitney's singles "No Woman" and "Golden Days" off last year's debut, "You’ve Got A Woman" is brushed with longing, nostalgia and serves to slow down time. Unlike Lion, Whitney made it their A-side. Flip the 12" and you'll find Dolly Parton's "Gonna Hurry (As Slow As I Can)," a short, tearful love song hewn from piano, brass, guitar and Julien's falsetto. Things have exploded for Whitney in a year, and time on the road meant that even Chicago feels different now—relationships have changed, friendships have drifted. But they can still retreat into their songs, snapshots of changing seasons that will always be comforting.
If She-Devils is an art project, then Audrey Ann Boucher and Kyle Jukka's hauntingly brilliant self-titled debut is a bright, impressionist painting. Swapping oils and brushes for primitive gear and heart-swelling vocals, the album constructs a bleary-eyed world of beautiful chaos, one driven by Dee-Lite-meets-Suicide sonics, and the romantic longing of '60s girl groups.
The revelry of 2016's Hopelessness helped reinvent Anohni (f/k/a Antony and The Johnsons) in the mold of staunch political agitator. Self-aware and self-flagellating, Anohni speaks of deep concern for our very livelihood, as a species and as a civil society. With critical acclaim from The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker, FADER and many more, Hopelessness came to represent a new and necessary musical language.
Anohni's Paradise EP is the extension, into 2017, of a language of protest and distress. The songs on here - already featured in her arresting live performances - were made during the same sessions as Hopelessness, but rather than trimmings or bonus material, they are, instead, unique touch points for old problems and newly minted geo-political crises writ macabre.
Society would deem a prodigious girl can't be in a progressive rock band while also being in complete control of its creative vision, business plan and social messaging. Society is wrong. Clementine Creevy, a 19 year old teen Queen, dreamed up Cherry Glazerr in her LA bedroom alone and is perhaps more capable of figuring a music career out than anyone who attempts this treacherous life path.
Back in 2014, much-loved Cali imprint Burger Records released Cherry Glazerr's intoxicating debut Haxel Princess. The New York Times called "Grilled Cheese" one of their Top Songs of 2014 alongside heavy hitters such as BeyonceÌ, Taylor Swift and Future. The band toured across the country and abroad, between Clementine's acting responsibilities on the award-winning show Transparent, and gained fans everywhere with their wild lives shows. On their upcoming sophomore album, Apocalipstick, the band worked with "rock'n'roll wizard" Joe Chicarelli (White Stripes, The Shins, The Strokes) and Carlos de la Garza (Bleached, M83, Tegan and Sara). With their help and the band's newfound self-discipline and motivation, Cherry Glazerr has evolved into a wildly complex, hugely guitar heavy, and unapologetically loud machine.
Jens Lekman describes his new record, Life Will See You Now, playfully, but also honestly, as "a midlife-crisis disco album; it's an existentialist record, about seeing the consequences of your choices". It's a typical Lekman album in several ways: sly humour is key to its heartfelt nature; it inverts pop's writing norm by making songs with sad concerns sound happy and songs with a happy subject sound sad; and it plays with notions of identity and the self. But, as the title suggests, it also represents a significant move forward, as if across a threshold. It's the more expansive, upbeat sound of a revitalised Lekman, who is just one of many characters in his new stories about the magic and messiness of different kinds of relationships.
Society would deem a prodigious girl can't be in a progressive rock band while also being in complete control of its creative vision, business plan and social messaging. Society is wrong. Clem, a 19 year old teen Queen dreamed up Cherry Glazerr in her LA bedroom alone and is perhaps more capable of figuring a music career out than anyone who attempts this treacherous life path.
Back in 2014, much-loved Cali imprint Burger Records released their intoxicating debut Haxel Princess and Suicide Squeeze released the Had Ten Dollaz 7-inch. On Apocalipstick the band worked with "rock'n'roll wizard" Joe Chicarelli [White Stripes, The Shins, The Strokes] and Carlos de la Garza [Bleached, M83, Tegan and Sara]. With their help and the band's newfound self-discipline and motivation, Cherry Glazerr has evolved into a wildly complex, hugely guitar heavy, and unapologetically loud machine.
Over the weekend of August 21-22, 2010, not long after Damien Jurado and Richard Swift first collaborated to produce Damien's 2010 record, Saint Bartlett, the pair hunkered down with a 4-track recorder and one Coles 4038 ribbon microphone to record a collection of cover songs that run the gamut from John Denver to Chubby Checker to Kraftwerk.
The timing was perfect. On Other People's Songs Vol 1, we can see the scaffolding of what would become a creative turning point for the pair - later seen with the release of Damien Jurado's Maraqopa, the first record in his Maraqopa trilogy - less than 2 years later. The opening drum hits of "Be Not So Fearful", the falsetto vocals of "Sweetness", and the Spaghetti-Western swing of "Radioactivity" are, by now, hallmarks of the Jurado/Swift sound, but Other People's Songs Vol 1 is a transitional fossil, a marking of the pair's collaborative evolution.
Turns out the very sound of falling in love is just as abstract, subjective and loopy as the concept itself. Yoko Ono and John Lennon are two of history's greatest lovers, and Two Virgins is the document of the pair falling in love in real time. The album is a curious and amazing suite recorded over one weekend in Spring 1968 at Lennon's Kenwood home: Distant conversations; comedic role playing and footsteps; laughter, birdcalls and plunking piano lines; silly songs and space; tape delay stretching shrieks, bass rumbles and moans to the moon and back again.
The now-iconic cover (featuring Ono and Lennon standing nude together) notwithstanding, nothing about Two Virgins is safe. It would be a risky move today for artists in the larger, pop-culture conversation just as it was a risky move in 1969. But this is an uncomfortably private, two-person dialogue about - and celebration of - experimentation, inspiration and play. And these two souls bravely let us look through the keyhole.
Life with the Lions is the sound of Ono and Lennon validating their love as something impenetrable and timeless. It's when we, the listener, begin to fully understand that the scope of their recording efforts was much more than a recording collaboration, and something closer to a performative documentary, a declaration of "Our life and our love is our art - every nitty, gritty part of it."
A Hand Through the Cellar Door is, in many ways, Temple's most straightforward collection of song-storying tunes to date. There are tales of dysfunctional, broken homes and of dysfunctional, broken people. "Birds of Late December," with its fluttering, nimble fingerpicking, paints an exacting but impressionistic portrait of divorce through the eyes of an exceptionally wistful child. In both "Maryanne Was Quiet" and "The Case of Louis Warren" we follow two characters whose lives unravel in very different ways, though their central question is the same: After you shed all the things you think make you who you are, what is left? Temple is creating small, confident stories with a massive scope. Yes, while the tales Temple weaves are bleak, the aura of hope never quite fades from the picture. He turns the tragedies of human folly into a celebration of our eccentricities.
This long-overdue vinyl reissue of Yoko Ono's seminal, but massively under-appreciated Plastic Ono Band has all the makings of a classic rock nostalgia trip: Ono, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman and free-jazz legend Ornette Coleman. All the pieces are here to stir up a dangerous amount of nostalgia. But once the needle drops, the record achieves something exactly perpendicular to nostalgia.
Released in 1971, the album not only influenced the approach of other musicians for decades, it also sounds absolutely modern 44 years out, eternally fresh despite the forward march of time. Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band not only predicted the intersection of the avant-garde and rock that would take place in the second half of that decade, the album would sound right at home at where that intersection is happening today.
My name is Alex Cameron and I won't waste your time. When you're talking about me and my business partner, Roy Molloy, you're talking about the online cowboys in the wild-west days of the World Wide Web. And if you want to know what we're really about just look at all the things you wish you'd done differently. All the things you stopped yourself from doing on account of the fear of failure, or rejection. Weigh that up against your ambitions. Think about your work ethic. We're reclaiming failure as an act of progress. An act of learning. Something to celebrate.
A word's meaning can change depending on who utters the thing; and so we present characters - shapes are morphed and stories are delivered. This is a collection of 4-minute tales written to provide you with insight into the inner workings of failed ambitions and self-destruction. Unedited, uncensored, and without inhibition. I've learned to reveal what I want to unlearn. I cast a light on the darkness and in doing so understand love and compassion. Fear is to be confronted, and to learn strictly requires failure - over and over. Celebrate failure with Jumping The Shark.
The crowd at the Wilbur Theatre gives Tig Notaro the standing ovation she both intimates and deserves. The audience's roaring laughter ends Tig's one hour set in Boston as it's taped and recorded for her HBO special, and, sure enough, concertgoers rise and applaud, an example of Tig's ability to connect to her fans through a sharp, dry wit and the hilarious payoff of her deadpan jokes.
The special, now available as Boyish Girl Interrupted, on Secretly Canadian, is the follow up to her Grammy nominated second album, Live. Her HBO special, a first, draws highly on personal experiences, speaking frankly and incisively about her fight with cancer, the death of her mother, her family and her wife.
Known for her distinctive storytelling and offbeat sense of humor, Notaro often draws on her highly personal experience with no-holds-barred honesty. Over the course of the show, Notaro tells stories about a number of subjects, including: performing in Las Vegas; the search for the perfect Santa Claus; her favorite laugh noises; bringing her wife to meet her Mississippi family; TSA screening; flying in small planes; unusual public signs; and - again - standing ovations; and much more.
Just Putting This Out There retains a warm, broad appeal as it progresses, inviting listeners into Aparna Nancherla's own personal headspace. Her frank discussion of mental illness is both self-effacing and revealing.
Formed from the core of guitarist Max Kakacek (ex-Smith Westerns) and singing drummer Julien Ehrlich (ex-Unknown Mortal Orchestra), to say that Whitney is more than the sum of its parts would be a criminal understatement. The band itself is something bigger, something visionary, something neither of them could have accomplished alone. Their debut, Light Upon the Lake, marks the culmination of a short, but incredibly intense, creative period for the band.
Chicago's Whitney arrive as a fully formed gang of outsiders, their album rich in the musical history of the classic bands of the 60s and 70s. "I'm searching for those golden days." sings Ehrlich, with a subtle ripple of something that sounds like hope, on the track "Golden Days". It's a song that defines Whitney as a band. "There's a lot of true feeling behind these songs," says Ehrlich. "We wanted them to have a part of our personalities in them. We wanted the songs to have soul."
Classic and modern at the same time, they revel in concrete details, evocative turns of phrase, and thorny emotions that don't have exact names. These ten songs on Light Upon the Lake sound like they could have been written at any time in the last fifty years.