“Light”: Haunting, hazy folk from Jon Bryant

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Leap days are in-between spaces, and it’s fitting timing for the release of a new album from Canadian folk artist Jon Bryant. Both lyrically and sonically, Twenty Something explores that liminal space between what is known and comfortable and what is in the hazy beyond.

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First the Whisper: Anthony D’Amato

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He’s shared bills with Josh Ritter, Justin Townes Earle, Rhett Miller, and Joe Pug. His songs are heartsore yet sure-footed, grounded in classic folk but modern in their buoyant rhythms and electric streaks. His name is Anthony D’Amato and his latest album, The Shipwreck From the Shore (New West), feels tailor-made for the season as we wend our way toward an idea of home.

“Good and Ready” gives off a crackling warmth as D’Amato sings sweetly on variations of doom, describing all the ways in which perishing would be preferable to waking up if it ain’t next to you. The album is fleshed out by the contributions of Bon Iver’s Matt McCaughan on drums, Megafaun’s Brad Cook on bass, and Sam Kassirer, of Josh Ritter’s band, on keyboard. (Kassirer also produced the album.)

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Landmark Music Festival Recap

Last weekend, the National Park Service partnered with C3 Presents (who also run Lollapalooza) to put on a weekend festival steps from the Washington Monument. Here are some photos & tunes for your audio-visual gleaning, including a peek backstage courtesy of the lovable hooligans of Vandaveer.

Last weekend, the Trust for the National Mall partnered with C3 Presents (who also run Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits) to put on a music festival in West Potomac Park, steps from the Washington Monument. A portion of the proceeds went toward restoring the National Mall (because Abe Lincoln doesn’t want to look out over cracked sidewalks and a tarp-covered Reflecting Pool, alright?). Stellar line-up, cool temperatures, Metro-accessible location, herbivore options aplenty, and a good cause — this basically checked all the boxes. It was remarkably well run, especially for an inaugural event.

Landmark Festival headliners included Drake, The Strokes, and CHVRCHES. Topping my list were Vandaveer, Lord Huron, and Ben Howard. I also caught some of Dr. John and Hiss Golden Messenger. Given infinite time/energy, I would have also seen Rhiannon Giddens, alt-J, Ex Hex, War on Drugs, and TV On the Radio (there will be other chances!). Here are some photos & tunes for your audio-visual gleaning, including a peek backstage, courtesy of the lovable hooligans of Vandaveer.

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I’ve seen this band seven times. If I’m so lucky as to increase that number sevenfold, I will still find each experience to be utterly moving. I think our subconscious has a way of registering the Cartesian coordinates laid down by exceptional songwriting. The music that’s exactly right at an exact moment in your life — you will forever return to those songs when you need to find your way again. Vandaveer is one of those bands for me.

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Some Chaos First: A Summer Playlist

This playlist is born of hazy treks under desert sun and misty climbs to mountaintops. Hope you enjoy.

DC playlistSummer — oh, summer. I am gripped in your sweaty, sordid embrace and seek escape in travels and tunes. This playlist is born of hazy treks under desert sun and misty climbs to mountaintops. Hope you enjoy.

Lord Huron ✦ Horse Feathers ✦ Joe Pug ✦ Elephant Revival ✦ River Whyless
The Mynabirds ✦ Belle and Sebastian ✦ Glass Animals ✦ Hannah Peel
Vetiver ✦ The Airborne Toxic Event ✦ Jay Troop ✦ Jesse Terry ✦ Ben Howard

1.  Lord Huron — World Ender

I’ve been a bit obsessed with Lord Huron’s second album, Strange Trails. The band is alternately labeled folk and rock. It’s both, and more — with reverb-laden vocals and swingy, hard-charging rhythms, we alternately meander and ride at an urgent canter through moonlit landscapes filled with ghosts, lovers, and fellow travelers.LH1

Lord Huron, 9:30 Club (May 3, 2015)
Lord Huron, 9:30 Club (May 3, 2015)

Frontman Ben Schneider’s time in Indonesia lends an eastern vibe to some of the songs (though it’s more apparent in debut album Lonesome Dreams, with its gamelan-esque chimes). Lord Huron’s live shows are cinematic, with moody lights and transitions narrated via a voice that seems to emerge through an old wireless that sits on stage. The band’s show attire seems to be an extension of the “movie trailer” teasers for the album (a sort of Tarantino aesthetic, with pulp-novel-jagged typeface and Japanese subtitles) — tastes of spaghetti western in bolo ties, of ’50s greasers in leather jackets and slicked-back hair.

The lyrics here feel tailor-made for the adventuring spirit (I borrowed a phrase for the title of this mix): Lord knows I should be pushing daisies /  I was 6 feet down, but something raised me up /  Sent back for to lift my curse /  Gonna get me a taste of some chaos first.ghostbook

Lord Huron started as a solo visual and musical project inspired by the adventure novels of George Ranger Johnson (b. 1946). The thing is, George Ranger Johnson doesn’t exist, except in the imaginings of Ben Schneider — and what a richly and meticulously imagined world it is.Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 12.03.09 PM

In the video for “Fool for Love,” our protagonist convinces a motorcycle gang to take on a musclehead who is his rival in love. In the ensuing bar brawl and chase scene, the characters run past a billboard that reads: “Feeling Lost? 1-800-774-1372.” Dial that number and you’ll enter a choose-your-own-adventure story.

The alternate reality created by Lord Huron is alluring because of the sense of disorientation that it fosters. If we take apart the word “sublime” and look at the root, limens — lintel, threshold — it becomes so very appropriate here. Lord Huron evokes the in-between territory of dreams and memories, dislocation and discovery. It’s a strange trail that you should follow.

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On the Road with Vandaveer

This is my day with Vandaveer, a music-making, life-observing, heartstring-bending group that I’ve followed since my first days in D.C. I join them for a jaunt up to New York City — my old hometown, the city of concrete and steel, where dreams are swallowed whole and dreams are set free, where restlessness is the only constant.

Vndvr BoweryTake notes, take photos, repeat to yourself: assemble, testify, preserve. But it’s not possible to be a detached observer. A single show is not a standalone thing but part of an organic whole. It necessarily embraces you. You feel like you’re moving through someone else’s strange, beautiful, ambiguous dream. The present is the past devouring the future.

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