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Friday, April 6, 2012

April is the Cruelest Month

And I will show you something different from either 
Your shadow at morning striding behind you 
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you; 
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
-T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland

As a student of literature and a disciple of words, April always calls The Wasteland to mind.  "Memories and desire" of a Modernist sensibility, it's a foreshadowing of darker times; a discontentment with fellow man, art, and religion. A call to an earlier time, or perhaps a return to it's classical binds and mythologies.
I can't help but turn contemplative as April arrives, and think about our current zeitgeist.  I recall a professor once speculating if we would ever be able to rise from the depths of post-modern thought.  I'm not sure we have.  Perhaps we stripped down so far we've removed the context for what came before.

Let us not forget our fathers.

This is collection of a few artists I've been enjoying lately. There's nothing essentially  particular that ties these songs or artists together, but a feeling I have when I hear them.  There's an ambitious quality, a conglomeration of sounds, and a return to innocence and wonder.  
In a time when popular music makes one question our intellectual curiosity, its delightful to know that there are artists making music that borrows from the past, overreaches conventional music trends, evokes mythology, and reveals fear. In them I hear the shape of the future in the same breath as the past.  It was Eliot himself who said that "the conscious present is an awareness of the past in a way and to an extent which the past's awareness of itself cannot show."1

Blake Mills, Wintersong
This song is reaching all over the place, like eager hands in the night.  It's smooth and unhurried, but also  rough and sporadic.  With sounds this varied, it easily could easily be broken into a few songs of it's own. But it's just structured enough to come together to create one freakin'-un-real song.  In my book, you'll never loose points for overreaching.  It's fresh and fun and ends in a thrill of sounds and voices.
Mills is an acclaimed guitarist and at just 24 years has already toured with Band of Horses and Andrew Bird, among others. Wintersong was released on Breaking Mirrors in 2010, but it's hard not to keep coming back to this song, and the album for that matter.

Patrick Watson, Into Giants
If you aren't yet familiar with Patrick Watson, now is the time.  In 2007, Watson lent his vocals to The Cinematic Orchestra's album Ma Fleur on the song To Build a Home, and subsequently stole my heart.  In case you're currently soul searching, this song will change your life.  For real.  Try it.  His new album will be released in the US on May 1st.  Mark you calendars.
Even on it's own, Watson's voice is reminiscent of another era.  It floats with lazy, sexy ease and is tinged with falsetto.  Layered with female harmonies and symphonic instrumental magic (more trumpet, more trumpet!), this song practically sends telegrams to a long-ago time when music was wide-eyed and playful.  Yet it still grounds and moves in a way that only modern music can.  I can't wait to hear the rest of the album.

A.A. Bondy, Skull & Bones
Believers was one of my favorite albums of 2011, and highly underrated in my opinion.  With his haunting, synthetic vocals, darker tales; and overall minor tonality this whole album was mesmerizing.  It's so chill you might sit back and smoke it, but so entrancing you might believe it would play as the world quietly burned to an end.

Middle Brother, Mom and Dad
Another great album from last year.  2011 was hot.  Middle Brother is a super-group of members of Deer Tick, Dawes and Delta Spirit (true story kids).  If this group and song doesn't call to another time and place, I don't know what will.  The super-group (not to be confused with the boy band) was made stellar by Crosby, Stills, & Nash (you tooYoung) - and this takes me least to my dad's vinyl collection.

The Lumineers, Ho Hey
Do you know how catchy that Fun. song is and you can't get it out of your head for days and just want to "set the world on fire" all the time?  I hope that's not just me...
This song is equally as catchy and contagious,  but has more heart.  It's troubadour-esque.  It makes me believe in something.  In case you missed Medieval Literature, the contextual message of the Troubadour is exaltation of the chivalric code and courtly love.
Their sound is a bit reminiscent of Typhoon, but with a more definitive lead vocal and more experimental range.  On their self-titled album their sound ranges from Bob Dylan to 1920's nostalgia. Check out Flowers in Your Hair and Flapper Girl.


1Tradition and the Individual Talent, T. S. Eliot, 1919

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