I had a music slump earlier in the year and didn’t feel like writing, so I’m going to catch up on all the stuff I’ve been listening to with a couple quick posts.
The Weather Station – “Robber”
One of my lifelong hobbies is making fun of folk music, since I find almost all of it boring and it’s hard not to poke at the reverence its’s often held in by the snobbier types of listeners. The Weather Station’s Ignorance is the folkiest album I’ve liked in a long time because of songs like “Robber”: this is musically interesting, with creative rhythms, a dense saxophone-heavy arrangement, and lyrics that are thought-provoking instead of the usual woe-is-me stuff that often passes for depth because it’s sad (which equals good, as we all know). Tamara Lindeman’s vocals are the finishing touch — I think they channel Sarah McLachlan, adding to my ongoing thesis that she is a quietly influential figure in acclaimed indie music right now.
Cassandra Jenkins – “Hard Drive”
Along with “Robber,” Cassandra Jenkins’ “Hard Drive” is part of why 2021 is the year of women in their late 30s making saxophone-heavy folk. This song is kind of the oddball on her album, An Overview on Phenomenal Nature, as it goes with a primarily spoken-word delivery that plays over the saxophone and a repeating piano part, eventually growing into a stirring crescendo over the course of five minutes. The understated vocals allow the lyrics to shine; there is maximum wordplay from the phrase “hard drive” that refers both to the mind and her experiences of literally having a hard time driving (relatable).
Lia Ices – “Earthy”
Lia Ices’ Family Album rounds out this trio of folky albums I’ve been into, and I might actually like it the most of them all even though it slid under the radar with a zero hype January release. After a move to California, Ices went for the classic Laurel Canyon sound, adding a slight tinge of psychedelia (the perfect amount, really) to her piano-heavy arrangements in part thanks to production from the late JR White of Girls. The lyrics are often about her experiences as a new mother, as the title suggests, which is part of what gives this album a sense of warmth and optimism that is refreshing in this field. Given how successful Weyes Blood was with a similar sound a couple years ago, I’m a little disappointed that this album hasn’t reached more listeners.
Chelsea Wolfe – “Diana”
I haven’t been a participant in society’s superhero obsession and largely consider the DC and Marvel movies to be mindless military propaganda that is used to make hordes of viewers obedient slaves of the U.S. government, the Walt Disney Corporation, and Warner Brothers. At risk of sounding like a snob, I believe not enjoying these films makes me superior to others in matters of taste and intellect. That said, Chelsea Wolfe’s “Diana” is inspired by Wonder Woman as part of a DC Comics metal collaboration, and it actually makes the character sound interesting compared to the celebrity cosplay version on screen. I like Wolfe in this more aggressive mode, and she brings her usual tension between light and darkness here, presenting Wonder Woman as a more conflicted and ambiguous personality.
Cold Beat – “See You Again”
I feel like I’ve said all I can about Cold Beat over the years. They’re the best band and “See You Again” is the first single from another new album from them that will surely be great. It’s a slower, shimmering ballad, similar to “In Motion” from Chaos By Invitation, but this time Hannah Lew’s lyrics are the most simple and easily relatable they’ve ever been, a sad but hopeful reflection on drifting away from people that rings particularly true in COVID times.