Twang in South Carolina

Although we twangers are located all across this great United States of America, and while Boston often gets a little more recognition on this blog thanks to the tireless efforts of Mayer, little ole’ me takes up residence in the capital city of South Carolina. Being a college town, we get our share of young bands putting their mark on the city and beyond. Here are a few that have caught my ear of late and links for you to check out their music. If you are so inclined, purchase an album or two, as I’m sure they’d be much obliged.

Cancellieri – Simple instrumentation and, what feels like honesty, bring Ryan Hutches’ catchy melodies to life.

RIYL: Iron and Wine, M. Ward, IPAs

Elonzo – More in the vein of Wilco than say, Gram, Elonzo, hailing from Rock Hill, South Carolina, punch out tales of everyday life in a small Southern town.

RIYL: Wrinkle Neck Mules, Old 97s, Coors

The Restoration – If Daniel Machado’s biting lyrics on New South Blues don’t win you over, I’m not sure what will.

RYIL: The Low Anthem, Carolina Chocolate Drops, whiskey sour

Stagbriar – The brother/sister duo of Emily and Alex McCollum feature chilling harmonies mixed with colorful storytelling on their first full-length.

RIYL: She and Him, Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion, merlot

The Dunder Chiefs – I could like this band just for the fact that their name is from a misheard AC/DC lyric, (dunder chiefs/done dirt cheap) but, they happen to sound pretty damn good as well.

RIYL: Avett Brothers, The Lumineers, Guinness

Water Liars

Water Liars/Water Liars
When listening to new bands these days I usually don’t do much “research” on the artist in fear that I’ll find something about them that pisses me off.  Like they used to cover John Mayer or something…  No seriously, sometimes I just like to be introduced to an artist through their music.  So, when a friend recommended the new Water Liars, I did no research, and just got the album.  And I’m glad I did.
The opening “Cannibal” begins with Nirvana-like distortion, but as the vocals enter, you realize you’ve got a different animal here.  It’s almost as if the ghost of Jason Molina is crooning over the speakers, and Magnolia Electric Co. was the band that I kept coming back to when listening to this album over and over for about 3 weeks.  There isn’t much new or tricky going on in the songs, just nice, familiar sounding melodies surrounded by mostly dark lyrics.  “Swannanoa,” which I was singing to within two listens, opens in a heroin soaked dream and features my favorite line from the 11 song collection in:
“I looked death in the face/It was only my father/If I’d known all along/I wouldn’t of bothered/Of being afraid/Of being a coward/And trying to fool/Some mysterious power.”
 There is the bright beautiful acoustic track “Let It Breathe,” but the album mostly seems to come from a place of loss.  Maybe from a man that is searching for something and hasn’t quite put his finger on it.  Whatever it is, and wherever it came from, it seems to work.

RIYL:  Vitamin Water, cold sheets, hard floors

Damien Jurado/Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son

Damien JuradoI once made my fiancé a mix CD of Damien Jurardo songs that she refused to listen to because of the songs of his I’d played for her before. She liked a lot of them, but stated they were “so sad.” A few months later I was having a discussion with her dad about Jason Isbell’s “Elephant” and how I loved to listen to “sad and powerful” songs and he agreed, and even sent me a link to a New York Times article that showed how, for some people, listening to sad music can elevate their spirits (article link). While much of Jurado’s catalogue would fit the “sad” description, I’m not quite ready to place Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son in that category. In fact, I’m not sure quite what to do with it but enjoy at the moment.

Beginning with the ever building “Magic Number” it is clear that Jurado and producer Richard Swift are heading in a more psychedelic direction than before. Jurado’s last release, Maraqopa, hinted at this with the opening track “Nothing Is The News”, but the remainder of the tracks were tame in comparison. That’s not the case here. From the full and floating Lou Reedish “Metallic Cloud” to the Beach Boyish “Suns In Our Mind” Jurado’s ever-haunting vocals are surrounded by lush soundscapes and spacey sounding effects.

The liner notes make clear biblical references, as do many of the lyrics (roll the stone away), but I can’t exactly discern what Jurado is singing about. Is God coming to take us away to another planet? Are “Silver Donna”, Silver Malcolm” and Silver Timothy” saints? I’m sure there’s a vague answer out there in Google-land, but for this review I’ve avoided reading anyone else’s thoughts on this record, including the artist’s.

The deluxe edition features stripped down versions of many of the songs featuring the “Sisters of the Eternal Son” and the bonus track “Plains To Crash” which is quite catchy.

RIYL: the sun (my favorite planet), long white robes, Battlestar Galactica

Todd’s Tops of 2013

A little more rockier than most twangers, but here’s what’s been lighting up my ears for the past year.  Happy New Year!

1. Jason Isbell – Southeastern – Just damn fine songwriting with minimal production shows a sober, reflecting Isbell at his best.
2. BRMC- Specter at the Feast – This band keeps getting better and spilling out some of the best true rock and roll being made.
3. The Flaming Lips – The Terror – A bit harsh upon the first few listens, but after the initial jarring of the tinny guitars, it feels just like home.
4. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories – Every other year or so one of “these type” records seep into my brain. My friend Kyle turned me on to this one and it had some of the best hooks of 2013.
5. The Olms – The Olms – Pete Yorn shines on this homage to the Zombies while singable melodies abound.
6. Mark Kozelek &Jimmy LaVelle – Perils From The Sea / Mark Kozelek & Desertshort– Mark Kozelek & Desertshort – These two were probably my most streamed albums of 2013 on Spotify in a playlist with other Sun Kil Moon releases (including the excellent 2012 release Autumn Leaves). Kozelek tells it like he sees it (or feels it) without pulling any punches.
7. Sigur Ros – Kevikur – A luscious soundscape of goodies equals a mix of Pink Floyd with Flaming Lips.
8. Kasey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park – Good country.
9. The Shouting Matches – Grownass Man – A hell of a lot better than Bon Iver in my opinon and definitely a lot more fun.
10. Butch Walker – Peachtree Battle EP – A tribute to his dying father, Butch plays 3 chords, sings the truth, and adds sugary sweet production.
11. Slaid Cleaves – Still Fighting the War – His unique voice and straight-up songwriting get it done once again.
12. Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart – While I wasn’t a fan of side B of this record, side A is classic Turner with more one-liners than you can shake a stick at.
13. Phosporescent – Muchado – Haunting and beautiful.

Butch Walker, Peachtree Battle-EP

I like Butch Walker.
His new EP is good.
It is very fun.
One time I shot a squirrel too.

Oh sorry, I’ve been reading my daughter’s 1st grade journal. I’ll try to be a bit more sophisticated, as this EP does deal with death and Butch rushed the release so his father could hear it before passing. Not that you can tell that it was rushed, as it has the normal sparkle and sheen of a Walker production. And considering the circumstances, the lyrics and upbeat melodies left an optimistic feeling after a few listens. None of the lyrics are that straight forward, and are open to interpretation from a variety of perspectives, which in my mind is a good thing.

One thing that this record did, and it’s probably a first for me from a Walker release, is it made me think about my own family, my relationships with my friends, and the fleeting nature of life and how life and death are both incomprehensible to me. Just the other day I had a conversation similar to this with my oldest daughter who’s 6 ½.

Her: What is all of this?
Me: All of what?
Her: This! Like us being here and this world. (as she waves her arms around)
Me: I really don’t know, but isn’t it pretty cool? Don’t you think we should enjoy all of it, love each other and have fun?
Her: Yes.

My favorite is probably the leadoff track, “I’ve Been Waiting for This” but honestly there isn’t a bad song on this too short release. I’ll be waiting for more Butch.

And about that time I shot the squirrel while hunting with my dad…I felt bad too.

RIYL: Georgia peaches, Hairbands, Scythes