Listen to this track by autumnally inclined indie folk concern from Melbourne Australia, The Paper Kites. It’s “Bloom”, a single that would later appear on their initial EP, also called Bloom released in 2010.
The band started the year before that, slowly building up an audience through old-fashioned word of mouth. In the meantime, the band made the EPs themselves making them very limited editions. But this was not before band members Sam Bentley and Christina Lacy met during high school, playing as a duo initially at local venues, weddings, and festival shows in and around Melbourne.
The band have since filled out into a quintet with Bentley and Lacy each singing and playing guitar, bolstered by, Josh Bentley on drums, Sam Rasmussen on bass, and multi-instrumentalist Dave Powys playing guitars, banjo, and lap steel.
Actually, this “make your own EP by hand” gambit was tried and true for this band on a number of occasions since their birth as a band. They eschewed the making of a full length record at one point, opting for another EP and more touring before putting out 2013’s States. So with all of this local word of mouth traction in Australia, how did they move the needle to being heard on CBC Radio One by me recently? (more…)
Listen to this track by stylistically diverse and under-the-radar-influential trio from Phoenix, Arizona Meat Puppets. It’s “Swimming Ground”, a single released in advance of their 1985 album Up On The Sun, and eventually appearing on that record, too.
The band originally started out as a Southwestern representative of the west coast hardcore scene. But, their interests in roots music and in psychedelia helped them to forge a style of their own beyond that. Yet, even if they weren’t really a punk band in the end, they certainly took some very important notes from the punk ethos.
One of those things is singing about what’s around, writing about subjects that are perhaps not the most tried and true when it comes to popular songwriting, and using what’s on hand to do it, including the limitations of one’s own voice. This song is a good example of that, exemplifying a DIY, make your own rules approach with which punk is associated.
But, in this case, it was seen to be in opposition to the aesthetics of punk at the same time. (more…)
Listen to this track by wise beyond his years Canadian singer-songwriter and eventual radio broadcaster Murray McLauchlan. It’s “Child’s Song” as taken from his 1971 record Song From The Street, his debut album. The song was famously covered by fellow folk performer Tom Rush the year before on Rush’s 1970 eponymous record, where it tends to be better known outside of Canada.
As for McLauchlan, he would be among the first signees to True North, a label based in Toronto that is loosely the equivalent of Asylum in that it was meant to be a place for singer-songwriters. In this case, it was the artists coming out of the Yorkville folk scene there in Toronto in the late 1960s, songwriters with emotive and introspective points of view and with roots-oriented sound and arrangements that would characterize the True North stable for many years afterwards. Murray McLauchlan was certainly among the finest early examples, along with fellow signee Bruce Cockburn who was the first artist on the True North roster before McLauchlan joined him.
By the time McLauchlan wrote and recorded this song, he was a tender 23 years old seemingly with something of an old-soul and keen sense lyrical detail and emotional undercurrents. It seems to tell a very personal story about outgrowing the place where one grew up. But this song distinguishes itself in a way that standard “I wanna be free” songs written around this time do not. (more…)
Listen to this track by one-time Orange Juice frontman and second-wind Brit-pop singer songwriter Edwyn Collins. It’s “Losing Sleep” the title track to his 2010 record of the same name, and its first single. The song and its accompanying album represents an important phase in Collins’ career. It was a comeback. But, the term takes on additional layers of meaning when one considers the road that led to its creation.
In 2005, Edwyn Collins suffered two brain hemorrhages that left him severely debilitated. He couldn’t walk, write, or read. He lost strength in the right side of his body, and suffered aphasia, which is a loss of connection between thought and speech. At one point, the only things he could say was “yes”, “no”, “Grace Maxwell” who is his wife and manager, and finally and very tellingly, “the possibilities are endless.” For Collins, that last statement seemed to be pretty unrealistic given his condition. But, he went to prove that assumption wrong.
How did he do that? Well, for one he lived through it. But for another, he went back to work. (more…)
Listen to this track by Northern Irish pop concern with a rotating line-up, The Divine Comedy. It’s “National Express”, a single and a top ten hit in the UK as taken from their 1998 album Fin de Siècle. I say “their”, but perhaps I should say “his”, given that The Divine Comedy is steered by the central figure of singer and songwriter Neil Hannon, working with other musicians in the creation of his albums when not playing multiple parts himself.
Hannon’s general musical neighbourhood is centered around the minutiae of British life that is both real as well as that which is steeped in cultural myth. His approach also owes a debt to that which Ray Davies took in the 1960s with the Kinks, with his well-respected men about town, dedicated followers of fashion, and Village Green Preservation societies that populated a decidedly British landscape. Maybe that Kinksian connection is why The Divine Comedy are very often included when the subject of Britpop comes up.
But, I think Hannon’s work went one better than most. (more…)
Listen to this track by East Village ’60s scenester and folk and folk-rock interpreter Karen Dalton. It’s “In My Own Dream”, a track as taken from her second, and last, album In My Own Time released in 1971.
That album title was apparently very apt for Dalton, who was never comfortable in a studio setting. In some ways, she was the polar opposite of all those artists who are creatures of the studio, trying to perfect a recording for posterity. Dalton wasn’t about posterity. She was about the performance in the moment, never to be repeated again. This proved to be pretty trying in the studio when she came to record, a place where multiple takes in order to find “the one” is the common goal.
But, what was clear was the power of her voice, a favourite on the scene when she traveled north from the sepia dust of Oklahoma, eventually to New York City like so many others. Where others were students of American folk traditions, reproducing their studied interpretations on the stages of Cafe Wha?, Gerde’s Folk City, The Gaslight, and many others, Dalton brought only her voice, her 12-string guitar, and her banjo. And that was more than enough. She was the real thing. No study necessary. (more…)
Listen to this track by Montreal-born poet, novelist, and singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. It’s “Almost Like The Blues”, the first single from his new record Popular Problems, released this year on the anniversary of his 80th year on earth; September 21st. The record follows 2012’s Old Ideas, which was the highest charting release of his entire career along with extremely positive reviews across the board; not bad for a guy in his late seventies at the time.
By then, there’d been an eight-year gap in releases. So, this new record and its single has enjoyed some momentum in terms of its creation riding the wave of his previous one. Yet despite this success, Cohen is still dealing in the shadows when it comes to subject matter.
And where does this new song fit into to things where Cohen’s intimidatingly potent back catalog is concerned? (more…)