Category Archives: +++ melancholy

Orla Gartland

I needed something special to lift my spirits after five days of the USA’s new narcissist-in-chief, and all the horrible, horrible things that have already happened, and all the horrible things that I’m sure still will…

Folks, this is how it’s done, musically. This is how it’s done. You wanna be great? This is how it’s done vocally/melodically. This is just how it’s done. This is the sound. This is the shit. That is all that can be said.

Orla, you will go FAR.

 

Seldom Family

Take a listen.

Youtube playlist of ten videos/songs:

 

7-song album from Spotify:

 

75-minute instrumental ambient record, inspired by the first Dogme95 film, Festen, from 1998:

 

 

Engineers

I know hardly anything about this band. Probably the most underrated band, ever. Currently, they have 5,800 listeners on Spotify. That really isn’t much. Seven albums under their belt. Do not sleep on ANY of them.

 

 

 

Liz Phair (circa 90s)

lizp

I am so sick of stupid hipsters of 2016. I’m sick of the lo-fi, “bedroom pop” sound, even though I do love a lot of artists who are in that genre (truly). I’m just sick of the hipster bullshit (yeah, I’m starting this off on a very personal note but, I feel the need to get it off my chest)….. 2016 hipsters (aged 19-24, respectively) are some of the most elitist, too-cool-for-school assholes I have ever met. I see a lot of holier-than-thou bullshit daily, in my facebook feed, and it makes me feel nauseated. Young people…. you think you know good music? So far, the 10s (2010-present) hasn’t bred a lot of good music. I knew about true, good music 25 years ago, you attitude-riddled fuck-bags (phew! Do I feel better? No! I don’t! But thankfully, I’m about to talk about Liz Phair).

Twenty-three years ago (yes, that’s 1993 for the mathematically-challenged…. and yes, 23 years. That’s over two decades!)………. I bought Liz Phair’s Exile In Guyville CD after reading a glowing review about it in Rolling Stone (remember when people used to take a chance on music, before being able to hear it?) It was the third CD I ever bought. It took me two weeks to get together the $15 for it, because I was poor as shit.

Liz Phair was the original DIY punk girl. Every song on Exile In Guyville is written entirely by her, and produced (with additional instrumentation) by Brad Wood, who also recorded Ben Lee’s brilliant solo debut Grandpaw Would, and Ben Lee’s second record (my favorite of his), Something To Remember Me By.

I am reminded of Liz Phair tonight, as I saw a facebook post by a former guitar student of mine, who I started teaching in 2008 (she’s now 18). She was absolutely raving about Liz’s music, and specifically Exile In Guyville. She said she wished she’d gotten into Liz Phair’s music sooner. I told her she got into it at the perfect age (I was 17 when I bought Exile and spun it to fucking death).

Liz hasn’t ever, and will never, top the brilliance of her debut record. The second album Whip-Smart is alright, but the lead single from the album “Supernova” is absolute shit. It’s her worst song, in my opinion. But the actual song “Whip-Smart” is super-good.

Liz’s 3rd record, the initially-rejected (by the major label who she went to) Whitechocolatespaceegg, is super good, and is reminiscent at times, of Exile. I have the initially-rejected version in my collection, and the commercial release that die-hard Liz fans know (her 3rd album was mostly ignored).

Fast-forward a few years, and Liz sold out, with “Why Can’t I?”. It’s a lovely little pop song, but co-written by professional songwriters, so it loses its credibility, and fast. I haven’t touched any of Liz’s music beyond that song, after one listen… as I don’t think any of it is worth listening to, more than once. It’s just over-produced pop garbage.

But man.. that first record. WHOA.

Enjoy it… and fuck this 2010-2016 hipster bullshit. A lot of it is entirely forgettable. But this record certainly isn’t. This record is everything RIGHT about the 90s, and female-fronted (and female-written) alternative rock/indie. PERFECTION. Don’t you ever forget it.

side note about the very first CDs I ever bought (all of which, I still own): The first, and second CDs I ever bought were The Smiths’ self-titled album, and Dinosaur Jr’s Bug. Other CDs I bought after Exile In Guyville include Juliana Hatfield’s Become What You Are, Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream, and Louder Than Bombs by the Smiths.

Laura Gibson

The music usually speaks for itself…

 

Kings of Convenience

They’ve been around for almost two decades, but I hate how these guys barely get any love….. I love their gorgeous music and it totally calms me down. Tremendously beautiful acoustic guitar layers and arrangements… stellar harmonies, great lyrics, too. “Quiet Is the New Loud”, indeed. Scandinavian songwriting…. is there anything better? Not usually.

I’d love to see these guys live someday… (sigh)

 

KEANE (ONLY the 1st two albums)

After Keane’s second record, I was done with them. I tried to give the third record a chance…. and I was like “uhh, no.” Then all the records that followed…. ugh, and more ugh. I heard a newer song of theirs in the grocery store a few weeks ago and I was like “what the HELL is this?” What happened to them?

I saw them in 2005, and was blown away. They played Saturday Night Live right around that time, too, and it was killer. Hopes and Fears is a timeless friggin’ record. The second one lost a bit…. but still good. Then…. third record, I was like “da fuq?” Then I just stopped following their work.

Go back to your epic, melancholy piano roots, guys. The top 40 dance/R&B thing is NOT working for you.

 

Bad Bad Hats

God, I want to hate this band. But I can’t.

It’s that damn “indie pop voice” that haunts my every waking moment (this voice is basically everyone trying to copy Leslie Feist or Nataly Dawn of Pomplamoose… or hell, Cat Power). It’s charming. It’s great.

You’ll love it.

From Minneapolis.

Velocity Girl

Not sure if I wrote about them already, but…. yeah. Pretty much a staple of my music-listening, since 1994. Sadly they weren’t together long… but man, did they leave a powerful impact. From College Park, Maryland / Washington DC area. A lot of people prefer their earlier work, such as “My Forgotten Favorite” or the album Copacetic, but I think their best work is their last stuff, specifically the Gilded Stars and Zealous Hearts record (1996).

Sarah Shannon (vocalist) now does solo stuff as her own name. Worth your time, if you like her voice (and how could you not?)

Porches

porches-live

Aaron Maine is the voice (and main songwriter) of the band “Porches”, from Brooklyn, NYC. The music of Porches has been described as “bummer-pop”, “sad rock”, etc…… but I feel whatever category they might fit into is largely irrelevant (even though it does help to describe the brilliant music). It’s catchy as hell, but it’s also heavy on the melancholy.

Let’s stick with the word “heavy” for a bit….  Aaron’s voice, to me, sounds incredibly “heavy”, and what I mean by that is… there’s a LOT of emotion/depth/pain in his tone and overall vocal sound (not to mention the great lyrics which are loaded with heart-on-sleeve honesty and soul). I think that’s one of the things I love most about Porches. They just have a heavy and thick sound…. no other words to describe it.

Aaron’s arrangements and chord progressions also are far from garden-variety…. chosen instruments, well-placed dynamics, and liberal use of “space” (and drastically slower tempos, to emphasize certain lyrics) in the songs cannot be understated…. few artists can pull this off effortlessly without sounding contrived.

 

Important side note— Several members of Porches also perform and tour as Frankie Cosmos (Porches bassist/vocalist Greta Kline is the main songwriter/singer/guitarist in Frankie Cosmos). It’s hard to write about Porches without mentioning the music of Frankie Cosmos, and likewise, it’s impossible to write about Frankie Cosmos, without mentioning Porches (Aaron is the drummer and occasional backing vocalist in Frankie Cosmos). You’ll be reading about Frankie Cosmos in my next entry here (most likely in the next few hours).

frankie cosmos01

 

Without babbling any more… enjoy the wonderful “bummer-pop” of Porches:

 

the video below is one of my all-time favorite live performances of them: