Sharon Van Etten – “Your Love is Killing Me”
Are We There

Having heard the instantly and unforgettably catchy “Every Time the Sun Comes Up I’m in Trouble” at a coffee shop, I knew I liked the artist, but it wasn’t until I heard this song that I understood her real power as a songwriter. Van Etten uses the lower limits of her voice’s register and the belly notes swell operatically, working alongside epic arrangements that reminded me of Weyes Blood. The love she sings of is thankfully fictitious for her, but as she noted in an interview, that doesn’t make it any less real for some. (bandcamp)

https://coldewey.cc/2020/07/4183/ »

Songs: Ohia – “Travels in Constants”
Travels in Constants

Reading the Chicago Reader’s heartbreaking account of Jason Molina’s long, troubled career, I was surprised to see no mention of what is by far my favorite work of his, the supremely intimate and evocative untitled three-part track recorded for the Travels in Constants series. Unadorned, uncut, and unsurpassed in my opinion on lyrical genius for a songwriter famed for lyrical composition, this is to me the essential and eternal Molina.

https://coldewey.cc/2020/05/4166/ »

Angel Olsen – “Lark”
All Mirrors

One of the best album openers I’ve heard in some time, “Lark” puts Olsen’s almost Parton-esque crooning in juxtaposition with orchestral strains, backed by pulse-like percussion that promises a heart attack and delivers one about a minute in. (artist website)

https://coldewey.cc/2019/11/angel-olsen-lark/ »

 

Anenon – “Mansana”
Tongue

A lonely, quietly wild wind solo metamorphosizes into something more layered and yet also more delicate. When I’m not paying attention and this track comes on, it always arrests my attention halfway through and I can never remember how the transformation took place, or when. (bandcamp)

https://coldewey.cc/2018/05/anenon-mansana-tongue-a-lonely-quietly-wild/ »

Big Thief – “Paul”
Masterpiece

The lonesome peaks and valleys of the verses in “Paul” call out to me to whistle them, but they sound incomplete without their gentle harmonic backing and lyrical punctuation; the richly layered yet monotone chorus likewise defy reproduction without every component. That’s the sound of truly excellent and cohesive songwriting. (bandcamp)

https://coldewey.cc/2017/01/big-thief-paul-masterpiece-the-lonesome/ »

La Luz – “Easy Baby”
Damp Face EP

Channeling Roy Orbison on the closing track, this was La Luz in their early but impeccable surf-sway mode instead of the sparking, driven surf-psych of Weirdo Shrine. (bandcamp)

https://coldewey.cc/2016/12/la-luz-easy-baby-damp-face-ep-channeling-roy/ »

The Shadows – “See You In My Drums”
The Shadows

A few of The Shadows’ surfy ‘60s tunes may sound familiar, as songs from that era often do. But there are otheres where they hit their stride and do something they like and you feel they wish they could jam on it forever. This is one, with a wonderful extended drum solo by Tony Meehan.

https://coldewey.cc/2016/11/the-shadows-see-you-in-my-drums-the-shadows/ »

The Blue Rondos – “Little Baby”

Produced by Joe Meeks, this and a handful of others were all this short-lived British band put out in the early ‘60s. Still, “Little Baby” is note-perfect: very much a bouncy pop song, yet ever so slightly bent. (official site – watch for autoplaying music)

https://coldewey.cc/2016/11/the-blue-rondos-little-baby-produced-by-joe/ »

Cue – “Wedding Song for Living Things and Dead Things”
Wedding Song

This energetic instrumental has the feel of a frenzied, multi-species jig. The combination of piercing violin, crashing percussion, and noisy guitars could easily have been muddled but it’s done well here, especially the quiet moments that have you waiting for the return of the jangly fury. (myspace)

https://coldewey.cc/2016/10/cue-wedding-song-for-living-things-and-dead/ »

Imprints – “The Sea & Electricity”
Data Trails

The sparkling conclusion of a lush, dark, and beautiful album, this track’s cohesive sound stands in stark contradiction to the fact that the whole LP was recorded over just three days. Another excellent record from Serein. (bandcamp)

https://coldewey.cc/2016/07/imprints-the-sea-electricity-data-trails/ »

Teebs – “Shoouss Lullaby”
E s t a r a

The incongruity of this song being played loudly at a nearby dive bar caused it to stick in my memory. Its warbling, jangly meandering is a good primer for the rest of the record – and indeed, the Teebs discography. (Ninja Tune)

https://coldewey.cc/2016/03/teebs-shoouss-lullaby-e-s-t-a-r-a-the/ »

La Luz – “Sleep Till They Die”
Weirdo Shrine

Weirdo Shrine is one of the most end-to-end-solid records I’ve heard in a long time. The band’s surfy psychedelia is equally good in quiet and explosive modes, always tonally consistent but never repetitive. The closing three tracks (not distant from this opening track; the album is a tight 31 minutes) demonstrate this especially well, so listen all the way through. (bandcamp)

https://coldewey.cc/2016/01/la-luz-sleep-till-they-die-weirdo-shrine/ »

Elvis Depressedly – “A Bible in a Bath of Bleach”
Mickey’s Dead

A minimal yet tone-rich album that sounds like it was recorded in a bedroom, Mickey’s Dead finds a middle ground somewhere between Sparklehorse and Midlake circa Bamnan and Silvercork. And despite the sad-sack trappings of the band’s name, the album’s name, and the song’s name, this isn’t some weepy tale of woe. (NB: be prepared to turn down the volume for the wash of distortion at the end) (bandcamp)

https://coldewey.cc/2015/12/elvis-depressedly-a-bible-in-a-bath-of-bleach/ »

Bing & Ruth – “And Then It Rained”
City Lake

One of the most melancholy tracks I’ve heard in ages, “And Then It Rained” is part of a very surprising spread of music offered by this incredibly talented group. Their two ambient/classical/noise albums are equal parts Stars of the Lid, The Wind-Up Bird, and perhaps Hauschka, and entirely worth your time. (artist page)

https://coldewey.cc/2015/11/bing-ruth-and-then-it-rained-city-lake-one/ »

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Debbie Wiseman – “The Smallest Compliment”
Wolf Hall

I was struck by this little lute (?) and harpischord suite whilst enjoying the excellent BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall, particularly the second movement and its spare, shadowy plucking. (artist page)

https://coldewey.cc/2015/10/debbie-wiseman-the-smallest-compliment-wolf/ »

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Briana Marela – “Friend Tonight”
All Around Us

This Seattle singer-songwriter worked with Sigur Rós’s producer on All Around Us, and it shows – or rather, sounds. Gauzy, pitch-shifted, multi-layered vocals, reverse echoes, and muted, and heartbeat-esque beats are found all the way through — so if that’s not your style, keep on walking. The quieter moments strike a Julianna Barwick tone, while the poppier songs (like “Friend Tonight”) lean more toward the Hundred Waters/Sylvan Esso side. (jagjaguwar)

https://coldewey.cc/2015/10/briana-marela-friend-tonight-all-around-us/ »

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Battle of Mice – “At the Base of the Giant’s Throat”
A Day of Nights

This post-metal group’s creditable but unremarkable compositions are merely a noisy nest in which to cradle the unique voice of Julie Christmas. Switching between childlike whisper, death-metal scream, and breathy song in the recitation of lyrics rich in darkly poetic imagery, Christmas packs a frisson-inducing wallop. The 911 call that forms the coda of this song, apparently the climax of the spectacularly dysfunctional relationship behind the album, had me hovering over the pause button in terror. ACTUAL TRIGGER WARNING. “Sleep and Dream” is another, less disturbing standout. (neurot)

https://coldewey.cc/2015/03/battle-of-mice-at-the-base-of-the-giants/ »

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Tennis – “Never Work For Free”
Ritual in Repeat

If this record had released in June rather than September, “Never Work For Free” would have been the Song of the Summer, no question. It’s Madonna-tier Pop with, as you can see, a capital P. You can’t unhear it, and you won’t want to. (insound)

https://coldewey.cc/2014/11/tennis-never-work-for-free-ritual-in-repeat/ »

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Radar Brothers – “Change College of Law”
Eight

The sleepy, strummy crooning of Radar Brothers has been on my playlist ever since 1999’s The Singing Hatchet, but Eight may as well be from a different band (15 years will do that). The rich, shifting phases and varied tones of this track, to say nothing of the almost Grails-like crashing drums and descending bass, were a huge and pleasant surprise, and there are plenty of others worth listening to on the album. (merge records)

https://coldewey.cc/2014/10/radar-brothers-change-college-of/ »

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White Lung – “Down It Goes”
Deep Fantasy

I’ve been waiting for years for someone to pick up where Hot Snakes left off, and White Lung gets closer to doing so than any band I’ve encountered. Savages got close, but their sound was never desperate enough, and their singer was clearly going for something. Blood on the Wall had some of the attitude, but their best songs were their quietest. This is fast, raw, and brutal, approaching speed metal levels on “I Believe You” but generally striking a happy (and furious) medium with tracks like “Face Down” and this one. Bonus points for having no song reach 3 minutes. (insound)

https://coldewey.cc/2014/09/white-lung-down-it-goes-deep-fantasy-ive/ »