You could call his music punk or call it country, but you’d be better off forgetting the categories and just giving Cory Branan a listen.
My first encounter with Cory Branan‘s music was through browsing the Bloodshot Records catalog — the label that signed the Old 97s and Neko Case can do no wrong. Branan had just released his third album, Mutt, and I wound up listening to “Survivor Blues” on heavy, heavy rotation. The song is a combo punch to the heart and gut. It encapsulates Branan’s potent cocktail of fierceness and finesse — a touch of grit in his voice, rawness and urgency in delivery, and vulnerability beneath.
Lydia Loveless performs at DC9 on Wednesday, September 24.Get your tickets here. Photos from her DC9 show after the jump.
Her voice is like a good whiskey — a warm, tantalizing smoothness followed by a fierce kick that reveals potency and fire. Lydia Loveless delivers punk-inflected and country-infused songs that are a bit Loretta Lynn and a bit Replacements, but ultimately and undeniably her very own brand of swagger and smarts. It’s an addictive combo, and it’s no wonder Rolling Stone named her as one of “10 New Artists You Need to Know.”
Following a tour with the Old 97s this spring, Lydia Loveless is back on the road.Over the weekend, she answered a few questions via e-mail.
Q. I read that “Hurts So Bad” was inspired by a book you read about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Are there other stories — from novels, films, poems, etc. — that have found their way into your music?
Yes, Verlaine and Rimbaud for instance. I wouldn’t say anything I write is strictly about one thing, but inspired briefly by things I observe or read and then stretched as far as I can take them.
The sweet languor of summer days pairs perfectly with the mellowness of indie folk. This playlist features some of my favorite new albums from the first half of 2014. Hope you enjoy.
The sweet languor of summer days pairs perfectly with the mellowness of indie folk. And when the road beckons — when you roll down the window and taste the freedom in the air — those moments call for sunny, glossy indie rock. This playlist includes some of my favorite albums from the first half of 2014. It starts with shades of folk (Americana, folktronica, folk-pop), makes side a excursion into pop and neo-soul, and closes with ebullient, sunshiny rock. Hope you enjoy.
We Could Stay Gold — Summer 2014 Mix First Aid Kit • Damien Jurado • Sylvan Esso • PHOX • Vandaveer Lake Street Dive • Conor Oberst • South Rail • Mimicking Birds • Ha Ha Tonka Beck • The Rosebuds • Damon Albarn • Hamilton Leithauser
If you like this music, please support the artists by purchasing their albums. Just click on the track listing to go to the online store.
The Swedish folk duo’s charming, ambling song may be my theme for summer. It seems so fragile on first listen, but the lilting vocals convey lyrics of surprising heft. To borrow from my favorite Byronic hero: “I did not then know that it was no transitory blossom, but rather the radiant resemblance of one, cut in an indestructible gem.”
Sylvan Esso is the Durham, North Carolina folk-electro-pop project of Amelia Meath (Mountain Man) and Nick Sanborn (Megafaun). Meath’s voice is warm and weary as she takes us on fast-forward through the seasons, sketching vignettes: Wild winters, warm coffee / mom’s gone, do you love me / Blazing summer, cold coffee / baby’s gone, do you love me? Sanborn provides the electronic texture — the skittering synths, the chimes between verses. There is something different about Sylvan Esso. Something delightful.
The folksy indie rock band is as adept with powerful electric guitar riffs as with pensive bluegrass-tinged harmonies. Earlier this week, they took a moment to chat about life on the road and the inspiration behind their new album, “Lessons.”
07/22/2014 update: Scroll down for photos from Ha Ha Tonka’s July 20, 2014 show in D.C.
Hey Washington — Ha Ha Tonka is playing this Sunday, July 20, at Rock & Roll Hotel (tickets here). When they’re not making music, these guys listen to NPR. Now what’s more D.C. than that? You have to check ’em out.
Ha Ha Tonka’s “Lessons” is a beautifully-crafted reflection on middle age and middle America, on ambition and regret. With evocative harmonies, a dynamic mix of electric and acoustic instrumentation, and lyrics that are smart, honest, and accessible, this is music that is as rousing as it is revelatory.
The Missouri band’s sound can be likened to early Wilco, the Avett Brothers, Old 97s, and Kings of Leon — but the comparisons don’t quite do Ha Ha Tonka justice. The band (named after a Missouri state park) takes driving guitar riffs, bright mandolin, saloon piano, thumping bass and drum, and four-part harmonies, and transmutes these elements into something quite addictive. Lead singer Brian Roberts has a voice that lends itself equally well to raw, anthemic rock and forlorn, confessional ballads. If you appreciate nuanced storytelling through the medium of a Southern rock song, “Lessons” should be on your summer playlist (CDs & vinyl here, digital download here).
Earlier this week, the band answered some questions by e-mail about life on the road and the inspiration behind their latest record.
Q. What was your earliest music memory — do music prodigies start out banging pots and pans on the kitchen floor like the rest of us, or did you go straight to strumming chords?
Brett Anderson (keys, guitar, vocals): Mostly pots and pans at first. Then a conscious effort to play something later. I started playing guitar when I was 13. It devirginized me as a musician.
Q. What was the first record you owned? If you were to name a handful of albums that captured your attention, say at ages 10, 15, 20, and 25 — what would those be?
Brett: I owned a tape of Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA. Played it till it wouldn’t play no more. 10 — Michael Jackson’s Thriller. 15 to 25 — everything Pixies.
Cowboy boots are not typical Washingtonian footwear, but they made an appearance at the 9:30 Club last night when the Old 97s blazed through town. The indefatigable alt-country standard-bearers are touring on their tenth studio album, Most Messed Up, and delivered an energetic performance that included old favorites like “Barrier Reef” and “Hitchhike to Rhome” and new offerings such as “Guadalajara.”
This was my fourth Old 97s concert, and the Dallas-based band is in as fine form as ever. The rollicking tunes and Rhett Miller’s wordplay, by turns sincere and sardonic, sweetly wistful and bawdy, are core elements of what we’ve come to love and expect from the band. Most Messed Up is wryly reflective, but not nostalgic — Miller and his crew contemplate middle-age and a life spent on the road, playing songs, getting drunk, and getting up the next day to do it all over again, giving it all they’ve got and hoping it’s enough.