Glory by Essie Jain

I know I’ve heard this song somewhere else, but for the life of me, I can’t place where. I do, however, know where I was (re)introduced to it: this afternoon, driving home from work, Essie Jain came into KEXP for a live performance and interview, and I immediately became enamored with this young lady from London. Her interview was delightful and personable, and the music was simply stunning. She’s currently touring for the release of her first album, We Made This Ourselves, of which “Glory” is the first track.

If you’re looking for layers or technical complexity, then you’re looking in the wrong place. “Glory” is primarily a vocalist and guitar, with another guitar accompanying, adding texture to the melody. That’s about it. Despite this simplicity (or perhaps because of it), “Glory” manages to capture a particular mood and atmosphere that simultaneously reminds me of walking in the summer twilight as the day’s heat cools off, and spending an evening curled up by a fireplace with a good book and hot chocolate as the snow falls outside. It may seem odd at first to have these two images juxtaposed, but if you think about it, they both depict the same sort of mellow, dreamy state of being. It’s a great feeling to have, and that essence distilled into a song is equally great to listen to.

[“Glory” by Essie Jain Free MP3]

[Official Site]

[Essie Jain on MySpace]

Gone for Good by Morphine

Today I’d like to go back to an old favorite, Morphine. On this day in 1999, Mark Sandman, front man of Morphine, died of a heart attack while on stage in Italy. While I’m sure he would have preferred to not die, I suspect that he would have appreciated going out playing as he did. Sandman (and his compatriots in the band) was a consummate musician, often playing unique, heavily modified instruments to create an unparalleled, interesting sound. Given the circumstances, the song I selected seems perhaps a little morbid, but appropriate: “Gone for Good” off Yes.

It’s a quiet song, just sparse guitar work and Sandman’s deep, resonating vocals. The lyrics paint a clear picture, and really conveys a sense of loneliness and rejection, the unrequited lover coming to terms with the realities of a situation. “Never gonna walk up your walk and ring your bell and feel you fall into my arms. No, never gonna see you again — you’re gone for good.”

At various points in my life, this song has really struck a personal chord with me. I won’t say all, but I imagine most of us have gone through one of these periods, where friends or family are dying, or you’ve been rejected by the love of your life, or hell, all of the above. You feel fragile, right on the hairy edge of breaking, as you realize the loss. This song perfectly captures that. This may, perhaps, depress some, but I hope that listeners will be able to appreciate the craftsmanship inherent in capturing that emotion and distilling it in a song regardless of the mood it may direct you to.

[“Gone for Good” on iTunes]

[Morphine on Wikipedia]

Tomato Song by PWRFL POWER

I’ll admit it: I’m a big fan of KEXP, and often end up raiding their fine selection of Song of the Day Podcasts for songs to review. I also, however, read their blog, where they often link to some really interesting independent artists, alternative tracks, remixes, and things you might not always hear on the radio. That would be the case with “Tomato Song” by PWRFL POWER. I haven’t been able to find info on buying an actual album, but he (yeah, it’s one guy, Kazutaka Nomura, a 22 year old Japanese International Student, currently living in Seattle) is apparently touring a fair bit (mostly in Japan). He’ll be at the Capitol Hill Block Party at the end of the month, but I’ll still be in Vermont. Ah well.

It’s an interesting song: acoustic guitar with an interesting progression, and simply sung lyrics, which gives a sort of childlike feel to the song that belies the nuances within the lyrics. There’s nothing grandiose or overly complex about the song: it’s simply good. I imagine he would be a great live show, so those of you on the east coast or in Japan, go check him out while you can (tour dates and locations are on his MySpace).

[“Tomato Song” by PWRFL POWER Free MP3]

[PWRFL POWER on MySpace]

We Do Not Fuck Around by Viva Voce

Welcome to the modern epic rock ballad. No, I’m not kidding. Off Get Yr Blood Sucked Out, Viva Voce’s “We Do Not Fuck Around” starts softly, before breaking into a marching, explosive chorus that brings back the best elements of the rock ballads of the late 70s and 80s, but with a flavor that is a bit more modern while staying true to its roots. When the guitar breaks out and the chorus begins, you can’t help but want to get up and shout the lyrics along with them: “Hey ya’ll, we do not fuck around!”

We’ve all had those days: the days where the shit is hitting the proverbial fan, and you wade into it with both arms swinging. You’re there to get things done, and you’re not going to put up with any drama or bullshit from anyone or anything. There is a white hot passionate fury behind your eyes, and people scatter to avoid your path, because when the hammer falls, it’s going to be a 500 megaton bomb on whatever you’ve set to task. It’s getting to a work site to discover a seemingly insurmountable amount of work before you… and then powering through it before lunch. It’s getting assigned a 5 page essay and handing in a heavily researched 50 page dissertation. Your enemies shall be utterly destroyed, and your allies shall be protected from damn near anything.

That’s this song. An anthem to that idea, that fire that burns away all the cruft and gets to its core with laser precision. This is a song to play LOUD, before marching in to quit, or ask for that raise, or to ask that girl you like out, to remind yourself of that fire, and that you, too, do NOT fuck around.

[We Do Not Fuck Around Free MP3]

[Viva Voce on MySpace]

[Official Site]

Caved-In Heart Blues by Nels Cline Singers

I’m a firm believer in maintaining an eclectic breadth of music, so now I’m going to dive into some Creative Jazz with “Caved-In Heart Blues” by the Nels Cline Singers, off their JUST released Draw Breath. If the name sounds familiar, that would be because Nels is also the lead guitarist of the band Wilco (who are excellent in their own right, though wildly different than this sound). The Nels Cline Singers is an experimental/creative jazz trio he does on the side.

“Caved-In Heart Blues” is an instrumental piece, which is primarily a steady, deep drum and bass at a slow, steady interval, accompanied by some really fantastic guitar work that plays around with several elements often found within the blues. As the song progresses, other instruments are temporarily added, before returning to the core elements, creating a nice shift that serves as a refresh within the song. On the second of these shifts, it sounds like some atmospherics were added, which left me vaguely feeling like it was a good synthesis of ProjeKct Two’s Space Groove, and the quieter soloist guitar work of Mark Knopfler. This, to me, is a very good thing. I’m quite well pleased with this discovery, and I look forward to picking up the rest of the album in the future.

[“Caved-In Heart Blues” Free MP3] (You may need to enter the ID3 tags manually… I had to, at least.)

[Nels Cline’s Official Site] (Tons of good info and free MP3s)

[Draw Breath on Cryptogramophone] (Label’s Site)

[Draw Breath on iTunes]

The Turnaround Road by Diane Cluck

I was introduced to Diane Cluck through my brother*, and her album, Oh Vanille / Ova Nil. Selecting a single song to talk about off this album was, well, difficult. They’re all excellent, intimate, spells woven with softly sung words and acoustic accompaniment. I ended up opting for “The Turnaround Road,” thought I was also sorely tempted by “Telepathic Desert”. As a way of a general introduction: Diane Cluck is a New York based musician who is considered part of the “anti-folk” movement (which, despite the term, is actually a genre of folk… musical genres and sub-genres often end up with bizarre titles, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it: you either like it, or you don’t). I’ve listened to Diane Cluck through a variety of means, and I must say that I think I like it most via headphones: her music is complex and nuanced, and headphones seem to work best to create that intimate, personal experience that so suits her music.

One of the most notable things about this song (and the rest of her work) is the use of strong imagery within the lyrics, with a spiraling progression created through revisited images as the revelation continues to grow. This creates a wonderful wave of images, with each connecting to the next, then revisited to tie it back to the beginning once more. As an example, the song opens with “Cars’ three point turns make pentagrams in the dirt at the end of the road where I sit in the morning.” Then, towards the end of the song, this same image is revisited, but altered, which suits the progression of the song: “Cars’ three point turns make mandalas in the dirt at the end of the road where I sit in the morning.” It’s a small alteration, but it’s a strong one: it creates a connection and relation between the start and the end, yet shows nuance and change, that the song had meaning and personal revelation for the author and, hopefully, the listener as well.

I wish there were more samples around to make available to those who might be interested: she really is well worth the listen, but currently there are very few methods to discover her work without spending at least a little money. (It makes me appreciate the KEXP song of the day arrangement even more… as well as Warren Ellis’s “for review purposes” policy: he posts it via a private server for 7 days, then deletes it, and will pull it immediately if requested by the artist.) Go listen. You’ll be glad you did.

[Oh Vanille / Ova Nil on iTunes]

[“The Turnaround Road” on iTunes Pay MP3]

[Diane Cluck on MySpace]

* – In turn, I think he discovered her through one of our former roommates, Kate. I could be wrong about that, though.

Atlas by Battles

Pure, unadulterated, energetic play. That would be the best way to describe “Atlas” by Battles. They categorize their music as “Other”, and honestly that’s as good a descriptor as any. Think what would happen if you took Primus, and mixed it with Animal Collective, and that would probably give you a pretty good idea for what I’m talking about: the song operates as a cascade, with everything occurring within a set rhythm and cycling scale, adding and dropping instruments throughout in response, with a real feel of a call and response happening between one musician and another. I can’t even begin to describe how awesome that can sound when it’s done well, and in this case, it’s done quite well indeed.

“Atlas” conjures up images some sort of giant, lumbering beast, bouncing around the room like a dancing buffalo. Intrigued by the image? Go take a listen.

[“Atlas” by Battles Free MP3] (KEXP Song of the Day)

[Battles on MySpace]

Jacket by David Vandervelde

Sometimes you feel like listening to songs with significance and meaning that resonates with you on a personal level… and then sometimes, you just want a really great rock groove that gets your foot tapping. We’re covering the latter tonight, with “Jacket” by David Vandervelde, off his album The Moonstation House Band. (It seems especially timely in that he released a new EP yesterday called Nothin’ No.) The song has a lot of texture to it, reminding me of a mixture of indie, glam, and 60-70s rock a la Creedence Clearwater Revival. That might sound like an odd amalgam (or maybe not), but it totally works. There’s a strong rhythm carried across multiple instruments, with lyrics that augment the song without really being necessary to listen to to appreciate the song. It’s the summer: download the song, put it in your car, and next time you’re driving around with the windows down, put this on and tell me that it isn’t exactly the right song for that moment.

[“Jacket” by David Vandervelde Free MP3] (KEXP Song of the Day)

[David Vandervelde on MySpace]

[David Vandervelde on Secretly Canadian] (Record Label)

If I Ever Leave This World Alive by Flogging Molly

Some of you are probably already familiar with Flogging Molly, but some of you aren’t, and it’s high time this was corrected. “If I Ever Leave This World Alive” by Flogging Molly is off their Drunken Lullabies album, which came out in 2002. The easiest way to describe Flogging Molly is if you combine Irish sessions and a punk band (I think they call it “Celtic Punk”), and the result is simply fantastic. If you like either genre of music, you should check them out, as you may be pleasantly surprised at how well these two styles blend together. What it really comes down to is that both genres rely heavily on the passion and energy of the musicians.

“If I Ever Leave This World Alive” has a strong Celtic influence, and relates an anthem for remembering friends present and past. I end up feeling a real connection with the sentiment: friends and family are incredibly important to me, and this so exemplifies how I feel: I’m here, and as long as I am, I’ll be there for the people I care about, even when things get weird. It’s hard to put into words, but I think this song gets the right vibe.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate a legal version online to link you to. That said, their various pages (see below) have a number of songs and videos available (there’s also a YouTube Dr. Who montage using the song if you google for “If I Ever Leave This World Alive”), so I guess it will have to suffice. Still, it really is well worth the time to look up.

[If I Ever Leave This World Alive on iTunes Pay MP3]

[Official Website]

[Flogging Molly on MySpace]

[Flogging Molly on Side One Dummy (Record Label)]

Going to a Town by Rufus Wainwright

I’m not really sure where to start when it comes to “Going to a Town”. The rendition I’m listening to right now is a live recording from KEXP, though the quality and polish of the performance and recording would make you think it was from a studio album — which I think describes Rufus and his work: polished, refined, but passionate and throaty. It’s a relatively quiet, simple song, with Rufus Wainwright singing and playing the piano. His vocals are confident, with a really excellent range and variety in his tone. It feels melancholy, and lyrically relates a sense of disillusionment and frustration. All together, you’re left with a bittersweet mood by the end of it, like that aching cathartic feeling after crying in great heaving sobs, cheeks wet with tears. The feeling when you’ve begun to collect yourself, the catharsis having done its work.

[“Going to a Town” by Rufus Wainwright Free MP3]

[Official Website] (Worth going to if only to see an actually navigable band website.)