Daughter isn’t an easy album. Sure, the album has some strong and engaging melodies, not to mention the wonder that is the singer’s commanding voice. Yet it is also a lyrically and musically dense album, one that finds Loveless continuing to evolve as an artist and songwriter.
Loveless doesn’t shy from emotional conflict, but rather digs into it with a approach that is both circumspect and raw. These are songs about exploration, encompassing both thought and action. While she doesn’t always reach resolution to what is being considered, it certainly isn’t from a lack of candor or consideration.
Many of the songs explore the arc of a relationship, from trying to define what makes one successful to reflecting on what happens when they aren’t. “I can’t think when I’m in love, it’s never good enough,” she sings on “Can’t Think” before asking “why can’t I just close the door and let the work be the reward.”
“I shouldn’t have to break you down to build me up,” she says as she considers a failing relationship on “Love Is Not Enough”. Later, on “Never”, she looks back and reflects “But I know that I’m not ever gonna get you back, let me tell you I regret it cuz I owe you that”, adding:
I carry around this pain I live with all the mistakes I made
I carry around this pain knowing you don’t care that I went away
I carry around this pain wonder what you’re doing every day
Musically, Loveless expands her sonic palette in a way that furthers the poignancy and impact of her songs. In some cases, as on the piano ballad “September”, she leans into their delicacy. On others, such as the 1980’s indie pop “Wringer” or the percussion and synthesizer laden “Don’t Bother Mountain”, the arrangements intensify the anxiety.
Daughter isn’t an easy album. Then again, great art isn’t always meant to be easy.
Matthew Ryan makes no secret of his love for fall, from the colors of the landscape to the chill in the air. Hence it shouldn’t be a surprise that he, in conjunction with his Strays Don’t Sleep collaborator Neilson Hubbard, have created the perfect soundtrack for the season.
The appropriately titled A Short Film for a Long Story that is a 4 song EP is a welcome return after a 15 year hiatus. While one may be tempted to read the band’s story into the song arc, that doesn’t do the music justice. The collection is a broad reflection on encountering despair and turning towards happiness. As many have experienced, it is often an excruciating and anxiety-filled process. Ryan emphasizes the point in the opening “I Walked Away”, singing “I got so fucking close to the edge that I thought I’d never see myself again.”
After the atmospheric instrumental “A Woman Running”, the attitude shifts. “Couldn’t Be Happier” mixes a brooding tone before opening up into a Simon and Garfunkel-esque “la la la” laden chorus.
I couldn’t be happier
My god I can’t believe our luck
It wasn’t that long ago
When I was absolutely certain
That we were fucked
The duo close with the tense but assured “Hope Is a Love Song”. An insistent acoustic guitar juxtaposed with an unsettled and distant piano creates a wondrous musical landscape as Ryan quietly suggests “hope is a love song.”
A Short Film for a Long Story is an autumnal beauty.
The mention of Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires makes me incredibly nostalgic for the days when we could see live music. Anyone who has ever seen Bains and the Glory Fires would surely relate. The group’s live shows are the stuff of legend, a glorious onslaught of rock and roll fury.
As Bains & Co. ride out the figurative and literal storm – a devastating blow to artists whose income is primarily tied to touring – they are treating us to a glorious new EP. It kicks off with a full band cover of Tom Robinson Band’s 1977 rock anthem “2-4-6-8 Motorway” before settling into three solo acoustic takes on recent Bains gems.
As good – and cathartic – as the full band performance is, it’s the acoustic songs that are the revelation. They shine an incredibly bright and worthy light on Bain’s lyrics. The Alabama-reared artist paints a stark picture about gentrification and economic disparity, offering up a considered portrait of the South’s past, present, and future.
What happens when you take a group of English indie rockers and turn them loose on a collection of 1960’s pop and R&B classics? You get supreme goodness. Think 1960’s UK mod with a 1990’s/20-aughts bite. The group share electrifying takes – both figuratively and literally – on songs that range from the Four Tops “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” to the Sonics “Have Love Will Travel” to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell On You.” These songs more than rock, they snarl.
The back story is as engaging as the music. Originally formed to play Beatles covers at a birthday party in LA, the group continued to play periodic gigs for the love of the music. When the pandemic effectively shut down live music, the members needed some musical positivity. With the band spread across three continents, they passed the tracks back and forth until they were satisfied.
I say it every year but every year I get at least one email about a previously unknown to me artist that catches my attention and then my ear. This year’s selection (so far) is Minneapolis-based J.E. Sunde. One can hear many 1970’s touchstones in his music, from the laid-back arrangements to songwriting that recalls Paul Simon’s early solo outings.
There’s an inherent charm to the songs, even with the sense of wistfulness that inhabits them. Electric bass plays a prominent and often melodic role, a quality that adds to the throwback allure. It’s particularly noteworthy on the lumbering “Love Gone to Seed”.
“Love Makes a Fool of Everyone” and “I Don’t Care to Dance” have a beguiling pop appeal that recalls Harry Nilsson. That connection also carries through on ballads like “We Live Each Other’s Dreams” and “I Love You, You’re My Friend”, with Sunde’s voice mirroring the combination of fragile beauty and vocal purity that was a Nilsson hallmark.
Hot on the heels of fall 2019’s Social Media Anxiety Disorder, Dan Israel is back to confront a whole new set of issues. And if you thought Israel was frustrated with the state of modern society on that release, wait until you hear what he has to say on Social Distance Anxiety Disorder.
Song titles like “Wit’s End” and “Bewildered” just about say it all. Those two songs open the album, the former ripe with deceivingly relaxed lyrics that are actually heavy with frustration while the latter conveys the singer’s exasperation in both musical and lyrical form.
He explores anxiety in various forms in the subsequent tracks before closing with a more promising outlook, or at least his desire for one, on “Vision in my Dreams”. “I need to make myself a second chance,” he sings against an enthusiastic backdrop of acoustic guitar and piano.
I’m a sucker for a good musical and lyrical hook and Nashville by way of Dallas singer-songwriter Colton Venner has got his fair share. He shares a few of them on his new EP Walk Through Fire. He opens with “Liar Out of Me”, an upbeat a tale of restlessness tamed by love. It is followed by the heartbreak of “Where It’s Blue” that finds him lamenting “I guess the fire burns the hottest when it’s blue.”
He takes a more mixed view on romance with “Rock Bottom” and the closing “You Can’t Do Enough”. The two songs consider the adversity one can encounter while building a relationship and the benefits one gets when facing life’s challenges with a companion.
In the studio, Jared Putnam – aka The March Divide – uses a broad range of instruments to craft songs that mix power pop and emo to glorious perfection. On the road, however, he’s generally a one-man band armed with an acoustic guitar. His recently released live album, solo acoustic of course, is a wonderful sampler of the prolific songwriter’s output. As a special bonus, it also includes some of his entertaining between song banter and a pair of enjoyable covers (“Manic Monday” and “High and Dry”).
You had better bring your A game if you head into the studio with the legendary Paul Kelly’s band as your studio musicians and have Steve Earle join you for a duet. And that’s exactly what young Australian singer-songwriter Angus Gill did.
Not surprisingly given the title, Three Minute Movies has a fine cinematic quality. The title is a farfisa organ-laced pop gem while “Acquainted With the Night” uses percussion and horns to create an ominous musical vibe. Earle joins Gill for “The New Old Me”, a song that seems to echo the rougher periods of Earle’s early life before evolving into a dialogue between mentor and mentee.
It’s also worth noting that most of the songs are, in fact, in the three minute range.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.