British songwriter and photographer J.C. Wrightson’s stark songs are instantly ear catching. Deceptively simple on first listen, they are minimalist in nature, and grainy in texture, and it is there, in that bit of a blur, that you feel the rub: Wrightson’s songs are not as simple as they sound, not simply sad, not simply vulnerable. They are those things, but they are also something more. A finger crooking, not so much in invitation, but to indicate direction: it is here, look here, in the seam of the song. Listen to the words, and also, listen to the words that are missing.
Something existential this way comes, disguised as an emo neo folk song.
J.C. Wrightson’s brief Twitter bio mentions that he’s living in Stockholm, but that’s pretty much all I know about his personal life. I started this post months ago, and tonight Wrightson’s website is down, so I can’t include the bio that I’d made a note about, the one that I apparently thought was, “as romantic as they come.”
Hopefully I can find out more about J.C. Wrightson in the future and update this post, but I’ve already waited too long to get this song up. Here’s The Tree, recorded live in Carlisle, UK. After you listen to it, you may want to check out the music video below. Nothing is Forever had me holding my breath, waiting to see what would happen—and so much happens, and nothing happens. Beautiful, and heartbreaking, and like The Tree, the video for Nothing is Forever is deceptively simple, and a killer.
Possibly due in part to Dan DelVecchio’s above mentioned guitar effects, last September I was seriously s w o o o n i n g over the New York based alternative band Face The King and posted their amazing song The Stage. If you checked out that post, you’ll understand why I was so psyched when the band uploaded their new single, The Sea, to the Sirenstories SoundCloud.
The Sea is an anthemic song that will serve Face The King well this summer when they join the Warped Tour on its twentieth anniversary. (Yep, the Warped Tour is turning twenty, scary, right?) It’s a song that brings to mind U2 at the pinnacle of their fame.
The lyrics to The Sea are gorgeous. Beautiful and darkly romantic. They add so much to the sweeping sound of this epic song—just take a listen. Let the sound waves of The Sea break over you.
The avalanche . . . The perfect place to hide The rolling fields Beneath the quiet and the white
And if you leave you know I’ll follow Hold onto me and I won’t let go
Here comes the wave . . . It’s crashing over me Immovable against the moving sea
I turn to the sea The water is coming in And every day A chance to end or to begin
And if you leave you know I’ll follow Hold on to me and I won’t let go
Here comes the wave . . . It’s crashing over me Immovable against the moving sea Here comes the wave . . . It’s breaking over me Unbreakable against the breaking sea
Am I sinking, am I swimming? Standing still and in between (Am I sinking, am I swimming?) The surface rises to my knees (Am I sinking, am I swimming?) Should we stay or should we leave? (Am I sinking, am I swimming?) Don’t be afraid, hold on to me… Hold on to me Hold on to me Hold on to me . . .
PS Here’s a pic of Dan DelVecchio, because I knew you’d want to see the guy who uses those effects . . .
To see the rest of the band and find out more about them and their fantastic music, visit their website, or connect with them on fb and twitter.
Little Heart is a subtle Valentine. Beautiful in its simplicity, the song grows more poignant and profound with each listen. Topping out at a minute and a half, Little Heart is short. To catch the full meaning of this delicate, minimalist piece, I recommend that you play it over and over, like I did.
An impressionistic wisp of a song, Little Heart consists only of a lead vocal and evocative background vocals, sung in pure tones and whispers. Vocals that sigh with yearning, even as the lyrics scold.
Lisa West, a songwriter from Denton, Texas who records under the name Faerytale, found her inspiration for Little Heart in the writings of Tolkien, and in the idea that, “we tend to be hardest on ourselves”.
How cold of you, little heart
How sweet and liquid you tried to deceive
Did you honestly believe my eyes did not see?
Now backtrack, little heart, now run
Do you honestly believe you run from me?
Try to find those paths by which you came
And be careful, little heart, you are lame
Cold, grey, victim of your own sway
I was not, we were not
Equals, little heart, friendly, kind
My eyes bore into your motive and we both saw
Run, little heart, run
Read more about Lisa West on EaRiE. Connect with her fb.
SoundCloud, where the Sirenstories SoundCloud lives, is apparently a great place for collaboration. From what I can gather, among other things, it’s like . . . online dating for musicians, or rather, online making.
With Valentine’s Day fluttering towards us on ickle cupid wings, it seems like a good time to post one of the collaborative pieces submitted to the Sirenstories SoundCloud. There have been quite a few uploaded recently.
Roses is a gorgeous song full of yearning, with a guitar track from Telefan and lyrics and vocals by Linde Sagen.
I’ve listened to Roses over and over for about twenty minutes. There’s something elusive about the song. The form sounds loose, feels organic. The lyrics seem a little loose as well, as far as rhyme, and at times, even reason. And yet . . . I love the lyrics. Love the surprising sentiment of the song: Hold your roses back.
Jim M from Philadelphia, who goes by Telefan, is a guitar player who has collaborated with dozens of artists on SoundCloud. He was the one who uploaded Roses, so I looked him up to find out a bit more about the song, but found only this lovely note: “Linde Sagen created some amazing vocals and lyrics for my music. It was an honor to work with her again.”
I’m sure Linde Sagen would say the same about Telefan. His jazz inspired guitar playing has a beautiful, clean tone. I look forward to listening to more of his collaborations.
Do you remember our very first night; we were busy chasing green lights Time was raining on with crazy love, holding hands, dancing with a free mind And the smell of green grass was never greater
Hold your fancy roses back, don`t buy me with a bunch of fancy crap Hold the speed of your words, what does it matter now, wrong or right Hold your roses back, I don`t need them anymore See whatever that comes around, you’re begging me for more I said hold your fancy roses back, I said hold your fancy roses back I don`t need them anymore
Dazzled away by roses, dazzled away by a bunch of fancy roses It’s hard tonight, imagine what the world would be without you Just a bunch of fancy roses (those days are over)
Hold your fancy roses back, don`t buy me with a bunch of fancy crap All I know it’s better than before, all I know his living for the moment Roses, all I know he`s breathing on me now. This boy never read the weather All I know he`s breathing on me, don’t you ever stop I see you holding back the future, I see us falling back to pieces Hold your fancy roses back Where does he run to, where does he run to now I`ll never lay me down in his bed of roses . . .
Linde Sagen – lyrics, and vocals.
Telefan – guitars, and bass.
The availability of digital recording software, apps, and dyi culture, coupled with the constant state of flux of the music industry, has allowed the process of home recording to become just as sophisticated and creative as studio recording. These days, plenty of talented musicians make their records at home.
And then there are the musicians that make their records sound like home.
That’s the case with Michelle Held—whose name is a speck of a song all its own, go ahead, say it aloud—a singer songwriter from Detroit, who “has a big heart and a guitar” and whose gorgeous song, God Damn I Don’t Know, (which she recorded at home),is a thing of beauty and provocation.
Somebody said I should believe in you And somebody else said that you’re just not true And the other guy he claims it’s just a vibration between the two He said we’re always in motion And the other guy says that’s just some magic notion he made up To fill in the gaps
Everybody’s walkin along at their own accord tryin to get some sort of award Cause they think it means somethin But I don’t know I don’t know what it means anymore I’m tryin to clear my head I’m just walkin along thinkin about people who’re passed and dead And I don’t know where they gone to
Thinkin about em makes me sad and blue And it makes me wanna stay so damn true But I don’t know I don’t know who to stay true to Everybody’s right and singin their own song and if they sing it loud enough They’ll be able to prove you wrong But I don’t know I don’t know anymore
And the other guy says that I do know And I got all I need to prove it’s so But I don’t know I don’t know if he knows what he’s talkin about Everything now seems strange to me You seem weird too but don’t take that personally Cause I don’t I don’t know what I’m talkin about
And if it’s true if it’s true that I do know And I got all I need to prove it’s so Well if that’s true if that’s true then why do I feel so God Damn blue And now I’m afraid I just offended you But those are just some letters that somebody threw together And who’s to say who’s to say they have to remain that way
Maybe all that was once tried and true has grown And what was set in stone has been blown it ain’t new no more but old And all the stories we were sold how can you be sure that they still hold Maybe the person who said it was black or white or good or bad Was just as sad and blue as you and me and Maybe he was trying to find his own way tryin to find a way to break free too
And the other guy said just take the time commit your mind And sooner or later you’ll be fine But I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know if he’s right But I hope he’s right I hope what he’s sayin is true And I hope this fight takes me from here to you Cause if it don’t take me somewhere well that don’t seem fair
And you gotta remember the joy’s in the journey But does the joy end after they wheel you out on that gurney I don’t know I don’t know anymore . . .
Michelle Held has contributed several songs to the Sirenstories SoundCloud and God Damn I Don’t Know is my favorite. Although there are plenty of differences in style, for example Held’s voice is unparalleled when it comes to vibrato, Michelle Held makes me think of Rickie Lee Jones, early Michele Shocked, and Elizabeth Cotton—quite an aural cocktail.
God Damn I Don’t Know is a song written out frustration with life; not knowing what to do with it. Think Held’s figured it out, yeah?
Love the tags she used on SoundCloud: Indie. Folk. Tired of the Bullshit. Question Everything.
Coal, Pressure, Time is the latest musical effort from Bandleader, a talented indie group fronted by Vermont singer songwriter Patrick McCormack.
When Patrickcontacted me and said he was kickstarting a new project, I was super excited and immediately became a supporter. The campaign was a success, and Coal, Pressure, Time, was released earlier this month. Today I’m psyched to share my favorite track from the CD, Can, Have, Will, a beautiful song that starts with a perfectly recorded guitar part and a vocal that brings Nick Drake to mind—a Nick Drake who isn’t so detached.
The casual, conversational vocal style of Can, Have, Will also reminds me of one of my favorite records of all time, an alt/country CD called Trace, from Son Volt.
Can, Have, Will is full of sweetness. The tune is uplifting, and the lyrics are both a promise, and an apology.
Trust in me I’ll be your first
Drop the reigns, girl I can take your worst
I can take your worst
Speak to me, I’ll lend an ear
Tell me things like no one else should hear
You know it’s crystal clear
I owe your body and your soul for being so cold
I mistreated you, but I can make it right again
I can, I have, and I will
Seagull bones and stones you keep
Take them home, reminds you of the beach
When you went with me
Make it known our souls will keep
Spoken code scripted underneath
I owe your body and your soul for being so cold
I mistreated you, but I can make it right again
I can, I have, and I will
As someone who once recorded in a converted barn in upstate New York, I can imagine what it was like for Bandleader to set up a temporary studio in an old hunting lodge in the wilds of Vermont. Two words: Dream Session. Love this description from Bandleader‘s press kit:
“About an hour from familiar territory, the hand constructed hunting lodge sat cold in the remaining snow beside its recently thawed brook. Only here could the band escape cell reception and all responsibility to focus solely on the task at hand. They recruited trusted collaborator and Chicago based engineer, Jamie Carter. With a mutual dedication to the same ideals, they kept an unbroken focus on distilling a moment, and preserving expressions . . . The release of Coal, Pressure, Time marks the dawn of a young, ambitious band with a solid and determined path. With both eyes on the horizon, Bandleader carries on in search of new and fertile grounds on which to rest their amps.”
Nearly two years ago Sirenstories featured Ovenbird, one of the songs Patrick McCormack recorded as a solo artist. It remains one my favorite songs on the blog. Please check it out here. As far as the band, “Bandleader came together as a result of front man Patrick McCormack‘s quest to bring his singer/songwriter material to the stage. After recruiting three other like minded musicians, the band quickly outgrew the notion of playing backup, and instead, an unpredictably colorful sound took life.”
In our back and forth, Patrick explained, “The group consists of myself, Jordon Chamberlin, and Alex Cseh. Our bassist, Dan, is no longer a part of the band, officially. Though he is filling in at our next show, we are currently searching for a new bassist. At the moment, we consider ourselves a three-piece, that’s the core group. No hard feelings whatsoever with Dan, he just had too much on his plate, and lives 40 minutes away from us.”
Dan? You might want to rethink that commute.
Please follow Patrick McCormack on twitter and Bandleader on fb.
PS Isn’t the album art gorgeous? I’ll share info if I get it. Meanwhile, who wants a t-shirt? Yes, please.
I knew if I said French, you wouldn’t be able to resist . . .
Born into a family of artists and musicians, French composer Jonathan Mayer studied violin as a child, then in high school moved on to electric guitar. But it was when he first heard the music of John Williams that Mayer discovered his passion for film music. Movies like Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park inspired Mayer first, and only a few years ago, he discovered that he “could play an orchestra” by himself with soundbanks.
In our back and forth, Jonathan Mayer told me that originally, he composed for fan films—which made me think of authors who’ve honed their writing skills on fan fiction. Then he wrote music for companies who needed it for educational trailers. Now, he’s branching out into commercials and Android video games, and recently an agency in New York contacted him about using his music for TV.
Love this screen shot of To Defeat Them All
We’re quite lucky to have caught Jonathan Mayer at this stage. He ended our last email conversation by saying,
“Here i am now, very busy, but that’s what i looked for.”
Then he apologized for his English, but I found it charming.
Mayer was generous enough to contribute several pieces to the Sirenstories SoundCloud and he sent me a couple of tracks privately, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time listening to his music. Epic, mysterious, bold, moving—it’s all deep and dramatic. In other words, excellent writing music.
SInce it was so hard to decide what to post, I’m adding one more of Mayer’s pieces for your listening pleasure—the name alone made me love it: Biocode.
Those who speak geek might like to know that on Biocode, Mayer uses Spectrasonics omnisphere, Projectsam orchestral brass, EWQL stormdrum 2, symphobia 2 and cinematic strings.
I’m a musician and all but—yikes.
Musicians and composers, please connect with Jonathan Mayer on his facebook page.