Thursday, June 22, 2017

Amythyst Kiah and Her Chest of Glass -- Amythyst Kiah and Her Chest of Glass

It's not every day that an artist will make you stop in your tracks and fell their music in your gut. Amythyst Kiah is going to be that person for you today. On her recent EP, Kiah brings together her band to showcase her blues and soul chops. Kiah's voice alone is enough to make a room stand stock skill but the Chest of Glass will set it on fire with their tight grooves. The band turns older songs, like Vera Hall's "Another Man Done Gone" (a personal favorite of mine) into the anguished, not-so-suppressed expressions of sexual fire that modern-day purists can render as hokey or vehicles for self-congratulatory guitar solos.

Kiah's original songs are defiant statements that deserve to be canonized in their own right. "Hangover Blues" is a raucous celebration of last night's debauchery. "Myth" is a raw performance that should cement Kiah's place on anyone's list of best vocalists. "Wildebeest" is a foot stomper with an irresistible groove. If you ever get a chance to see Kiah (hopefully she'll come back up to Queer Country Quarterly soon!) you should cancel all of your plans to do it. She's a voice to listen to and an artist to watch.

Amythyst Kiah -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Music Roundup!

Due to various technical snafus, I've got a couple of songs as separate SoundCloud files. Nevertheless - enjoy!

Lak Path has a powerful voice and isn't scared to use it. "Afraid" is a bracing jazz pop piece that could easily fall into R&B. The rolling drums give the song a silky quality.

Berlin-based Babyalligator combines an ethereal detachment with roots in electronic music and a strong folk melody to create the dreamy "False Starts."

Light the Air's "Gold Rush" mixes approachable melodies with intricate, literate lyrics that make for an arresting song.

Native's "Ocean" is a beautiful meditation on the nature of opportunity. Thomas LaVine embellishes his happiness with delicate guitars and unearthly harmonies in "Happy."In "Not Enough to Go Around," The Brothers Strong deliver a Dead-esque finger-picking porch stomper. Germany's Broken Radio proves that an old-fashioned, brooding Gothic-country song knows no borders. Architect the Destroyer delivers "Cherry Wine," which delivers a strong flavor of folk with an intriguing pop punk bouquet -- perfect for summer evenings. As a former educator, I can't help but love the band name Victims of the New Math. The cheekiness extends to their lyrics in "You Can Be My Brian Wilson." Hannah & Maggie are one of the best (queer) folk duos out there, so it's only fitting I give them a nod right before NYC Pride. (They split their time between Northampton and Brooklyn. Natch.) You'll hear more about them when their album is out in a few weeks, but for now check out "When You Get There," which I highly recommend you avoid at work as there are a swears. Michael Gaither has a quirky sense of humor, and that's in full force on "Somewhere I Went Right." You'll hear more about his inventive Hey Karma in the coming weeks.

INTERVIEW: The Good Graces

Singer-songwriter Kim Ware, the central force behind roving collective The Good Graces gave me some insight into her incredible upcoming album, Set Your Sights. It'll be out on July 7 and you'll hear more from me about it then! For now, see what Kim has to say.

1. It seems like the Good Graces is a mostly rotating cast of characters. How did that help your recording process and did that also hinder it in any way?

I think it helped because it made things a little more open to possibilities. Nothing was ever set in stone when we started (and some things weren't until the 11th hour), as far as instrumentation or who would do what. That made it fun to construct (and then sometimes de- and re-construct) the songs. It all felt really organic, like the songs evolved as they were supposed to. That said, it did mean recording took a lot longer than I think it could have, and it can be a little stressful for me - as I tend to like to overplan - to work in a way that's less structured. 

2. You've described Set Your Sights as your "midlife crisis" album. Was there any event in particular that sparked this theme for you?

I wouldn’t say there was an event in particular. I think for me it’s mostly about my age and things I’m experiencing or reflecting on, and how I’m processing all of it. I’ll be 45 in a couple of weeks. I think for women (or at least for me, and well, probably men too), when we hit 40 or so we start to take stock and question where we are, if we’re spending our time on the things we want to be, etc. I’ve been doing a lot of that and I think that might have come out in some of the songs. But also, and this might sound cheesy, but I kinda feel like I lost and then found myself through making this album. We spent 4 seasons on it. So it’s like that thing about relationships, it’s important to spend 4 seasons with a person to know if they are right for you? I agree. And in 4 seasons, you go through a lot. I did a lot of processing while making this album. It’s basically a record of that. 

3. The songs here are pretty bleak (but in the best kind of way, of course) -- would you say you're a glass half-full person who uses your music to process the low times, or are you a glass half-empty person and this is just the way life is?

I’m definitely a glass half-full person. I’m a really happy person who happens to write a lot of sad songs. I once took a personality test that concluded that I’m “drawn to sad things”. I always have been - be it songs, movies, stories, etc. The sad stuff just speaks to me, I think maybe because it often comes across as a little more honest and real. And I think happy or sad, it’s just all part of the same equation. The yin and the yang. You have to have the bad to appreciate the good, and part of my dealing with the bad is attempting to turn it into art, I guess. I think there's something important about acknowledging challenging times and confusing feelings and at least trying to put them into words. Maybe it's part of my nature to try to deconstruct things and figure them out. Writing the songs does help me sort through it. 

4. In "Too Old For This" you sing that you're "much too young to regret things I've missed." At what age do you think it's appropriate to start, because I know I'm full of 'em already. And when you get to feeling like this, what do you do to pull yourself away from these thoughts?

That’s an interesting question! For me, I’m far more likely to regret something I did than not ever do it in the first place. I think that’s part of what I’m trying to say there. When it comes to major life changes or big experiences, I like to think I take calculated risks. I’m not to a point yet where I’m looking back and thinking “I wish I would have …”; and I can't imagine I'll have a lot of those — if I think about doing something for long enough I’m pretty stubborn and I figure out a way to at least attempt it. I do have some things I’d like to do before I’m on my death bed (mainly places I’d like to travel to). If I never get to, I guess that will be a bummer, but I’ll bet it won’t be because I didn’t try. It’ll be because of some sort of outside circumstance. And I’m ok with that. If I do get to feeling regret about something I’ve done or didn’t do, I guess I write a song about it! But I think as part of my whole glass-half-full thing, I try to think of it as something I needed to go through in order to grow. 

If you're in the Atlanta area, you can catch the Good Graces' album release show at Avondale Towne Cinema this Saturday at 8 PM!

The Good Graces -- Official, Facebook 

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Fairbanks & the Lonesome Light Announce New LP Nothing to Escape, Share Title Track

Austin, TX duo Fairbanks & the Lonesome Light (nee Erik Flores and Amelia Rose Logan) have cooked up a real zinger with Nothing to Escape. Originally hailing from Austin, the pair reunited in LA and found kindred spirits in both their songwriting sensibilities and stamina for partying. Having moved back to Austin, the duo has sobered up. However, Nothing to Escape is no raucous party. It in fact addresses Flores' efforts to kick his drinking habit. While the band can surely shake the walls, the title track, "Nothing to Escape," showcases Flores and Logan's effortless harmonies. Flores' wordy lyrics are not a hindrance here; in fact, it feels as if the pair has transformed hard-hitting prose into song. The unhurried pedal steel guitar leads to an emotional climax as a newly sober narrator comes to grips with confronting his depression without the aid of substances. The song arrives at a bittersweet conclusion, suggesting an emotional complexity that will make the rest of Nothing to Escape a treat for repeat listeners. It's certainly a stunner on the first go-round.

Fairbanks & the Lonesome Light -- Official, FacebookYouTube

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Float Here Forever -- Inexhaustible

This one might be a little heavier than you're used to hearing on Adobe & Teardrops but Float Here Forever's Inexhaustible is not your typical rock album, so I wanted to share. The title track will draw you in easily. The lumbering hum of Andrew Murray's bass and the golden rumble of Darrell Bazian's voice -- seemingly more suited for an alt-country bar room than a hard rock band -- give "Inexhaustible" an inviting warmth in an otherwise intense experience.

I like that Float Here Forever restlessly pushes the boundaries of the kind of act they could easily be shoehorned into sharing a bill with. The EP itself takes off into instrumental tracks that successfully avoid needless noodling. Inexhaustible is an expansive little EP that'll rearrange some of your own ideas about what's possible in alt-rock.

Float Here Forever -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Music Roundup

While doing this playlists can sometimes feel like a chore -- getting in touch with ten different artists to follow up concerning information is a bit of a pin -- I've found myself enjoying these because it allows me to feature music I wouldn't otherwise write an entire review about. In today's list, there are instrumentals, pop, alt-rock, and of course some roots music. I think the one thing that binds them all is the conviction behind this set of songs.

Danny Starr's invigorating "Elixir" (definitely works better with British pronunciation) will get you dancing early in the morning. Chilean dream pp band Adolscentes sin edad serve up some summertime shimmer in "El Bosque." You Bred Raptors? delivers a beautiful, 6-minute instrumental with "Smithereens." Queue's charged "Frontier" delivers Brit pop with a twang. Adobe & Teardrops alumnae The Bergamot return with a psychedelic edge to "Periscope." This live version highlights the band's undeniable chemistry. In "Corner Store," David Gale takes us back to simpler days and times. Identical twins The Drury Brothers deliver a sugary punch with "Day In Day Out." Electric Zebra's heavy bass riffs and climbing vocals lead to a soaring climax for this set. British singer-songwriter Dan Presencer slows us down with "Hold Me Honey," a James Taylor-esque ballad. Bringing us home is Paul Sweeney's "Memories," a lilting acoustic guitar instrumental that absolutely lives up to its name, blending nostalgia and sweet licks without, refreshingly, erring into the maudlin.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Jenny Don't and the Spurs -- Call of the Road

I think the first thing you need to know about Jenny is that, according to the band's press materials, she can actually ride a horse. And ride it well. It occurs to me that in the five or so years of running this blog, I haven't seen too many would-be country singers convincingly pose with, on, or near a horse. So that should tell you something about the band's music.

This is country. Through and through. Meat and potatoes. There's no posturing or fetishizing the music. The Spurs are as on-point as a backing band can be, with a furious rhythm section and a tastefully eloquent slide guitar. While Jenny's voice would be at home with many of the indie bands in their native Portland, there's only one type of song it's meant for: cracking open that first PBR at the honky tonk. The band never slips into irony here: Jenny's heartbreaks and triumph are pure, filtered through the requisite veneer of propriety and sincerity of a 60s country singer flirting with a possible step over the line into outlaw music. Remarkably, it works. Jenny Don't and the Spurs proves that country is only as dead as we let it be.

Jenny Don't and the Spurs -- Facebook, Bandcamp

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