New Amanda Shires video: Deciphering Dreams

Video: Amanda Shires -- “Deciphering Dreams”

Deciphering Dreams

Animated by Delaney Royer. Single out now on Silver Knife.

Warning: This will get stuck in your head. “Deciphering Dreams” is a rifftastic new wave disco jam with melodic hooks galore and powered by Jason Isbell’s unrelenting guitar. The frantic drums, played by Chris Powell, remind me of Kevin Barnes’ work on “Holland, 1945” or Mike Joyce on “The Queen Is Dead.” It’s badass.

Last night I was standing with you in a purple waterfall
You opened your mouth trying to speak
But your voice was just a flutter moths

Psychedelic!

No word on when the album is coming out, but she’s calling her current tour “Atmosphereless” so that would be a pretty good guess for a title.

Shires co-founded country music supergroup the Highwomen last year with Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, and Maren Morris, and while “Deciphering Dreams” contains pretty much the same instrumental personnel who played on The Highwomen, the sound couldn’t be more different. I guess that’s why those Nashville cats are such pros; they can play anything and make it sound great.

Amanda Shires: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Amanda Shires video: Deciphering Dreams

New Daystar video: Fade Away, Love

Video: Daystar -- “Fade Away, Love”

Daystar - Fade Away, Love

From The Complete Recordings, out now.

Hey hey it’s another video from GLONO co-founder Derek Phillips’ band Daystar! I’d recognize that handwriting anywhere. I’ve got pages of it in yearbooks and letters and stories in the archives.

When I was a teenager I was convinced that my group of friends was destined to be important and famous like the Beats or the Algonquin Round Table, which — combined with my hoarder genetics — required me to save everything anybody produced. So I have every letter, postcard, photo, flyer, cassette, 7-inch, poetry collection, etc., that any of my posse was involved in.

And while the teenage sense of self-importance is undeniably over-inflated, I am still consistently impressed by the creative work of my pals. Adulthood, as it tends to do, quashed the dreams of fortune and celebrity, and now we all have standard day jobs that pay the bills, but most of these folks still do cool stuff on the side.

“Fade Away, Love” is a pretty acoustic ballad played on Phillips’ 1966 Epiphone Texan. If the tone reminds you of the Beatles, that’s not a coincidence. “It’s the same make and model McCartney used on ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Blackbird’ and still records with today,” he recently told Rock & Roll Globe. “His is a ’64.”

DP and Daystar lead guitarist Joel Roth talk a lot about gear and influences in that interview so check it out. They totally nerd out.

Daystar: web, fb, bandcamp.

In Memoriam: The Iowa Caucus 1972-2020

We’ve now officially begun another election year cycle, a testament to the privileges of our nation, but one that reflects an increasingly polarized climate where many voters have already cashed out on our great American Experiment. The manner in which we nominate Presidential candidates continues to evolve and mirror the reality of our country–for better or worse–while allowing a much needed discussion about the process itself.

Many voices from this self-reflection wonder if having two small and predominately white states (Iowa and New Hampshire) remains the best first-step for this effort, particularly when much of the divide in America is rooted in the lack of tolerance toward one another. Should we continue to allow two states that don’t accurately represent the demographics of our country the privilege of determining a suitable voice for this critically important effort?

Front and center was the 2020 Iowa caucus. The “first in the nation” state proved to be a complete shit show, mired in chaos from the ineptitude of Iowa Democratic Party leadership, the lack of effective training for local party volunteers assigned with the task of running their precincts and the failure of a smart phone reporting app that was rushed-to-launch days before the caucus itself.

When the dust settled and Iowa was still not any closer to providing the rest of the country with results days after the caucus ended, the calls to initiate changes to the process began ringing with more intensity and with greater resolve.

How was Iowa blessed with their first in the nation status? The answer originated in a different time. It was a world in which the backroom deals of our two major political parties created a process of selection that would be obediently followed for decades, without much dispute.

This began to unravel in 2016 when Iowa caucus-goers seemed to split evenly between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The moment our state was unable to declare a candidate’s decisive victory was when those frustrated began to try to learn more about the process, perhaps with the intention to help us dumb yokels provide the results in a manner that was easier to explain and more efficient to report.

In their discovery, they began to learn about the informality of our caucuses. Our process lacked real transparency in terms of how delegates were appointed and it was filled with antiquated methods like raw vote counts and coin tosses. The entire event was hard to understand and even harder to explain among the journalists and reporters who flocked to our state with barely hidden resentment at having to spend the winter with a bunch of hayseeds, flipping quarters between Bernie and Hillary.

It was the Sanders camp that first approached the Democratic National Committee with their apprehension about the Iowa caucuses. The DNC then met with Iowa State Democratic leadership to introduce their concerns and request the first real meaningful changes to our process since 1972. Iowa responded positively to these suggestions, even telling our national party leadership of an aggressive initiative to transition our antiquated caucus process into a digital platform that allowed party members to vote from their smart phones.

When questions about the access and security of such a reporting method arose, state leaders backpedaled and considered a more measured solution. Iowa would implement a paper process for their candidate selection, but enable precincts to report the results of their caucus through a phone app. This app would help calculate the raw votes into appropriate delegate numbers while providing the state party with immediate, real-time results. The paper trail would provide a way to audit and verify the results if there was any uncertainty.

Continue reading In Memoriam: The Iowa Caucus 1972-2020

New Sharon Van Etten video: Beaten Down

Video: Sharon Van Etten -- “Beaten Down”

Sharon Van Etten - Beaten Down

Directed by Nicky and Juliana Giraffe. Single out now on Jagjaguwar.

Gee, has it really been a year already since Remind Me Tomorrow was released? That album’s “Seventeen” still kills me, especially as I deal with parenting a teenager and all the shit that goes along with that. And I think back to the decisions I made when I was my kid’s age and how they continue to affect my life. It’s terrifying.

Sharon Van Etten’s got a new single out now and she says, “This song is about love, patience and empathy. It’s about making life-changing choices and remaining strong enough to see them through.”

Life has a tendency to beat you down. It’s not easy to maintain love, patience and empathy in this world. But it’s important to try.

Your big old heart takes a lot on
Shoulders the world
It takes a lot to unfold

I encourage my son to be kind, honest and hardworking. I’m not sure if that’ll help him make it through life without getting beaten down, but I hope so.

Sharon Van Etten: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Hallelujah The Hills video: It Still Floors Me

Video: Hallelujah The Hills -- “It Still Floors Me”

"It Still Floors Me" - Hallelujah The Hills [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

From I’m You, out now on Discrete Pageantry.

With its prominent flute and plucked viola, “It Still Floors Me” is a highlight of Hallelujah The Hills’ I’m You. Of all the tracks on the album, this is the one that most explicitly references frontman Ryan Walsh’s not-so-secret identity as an expert on Van Morrison’s 1968 classic Astral Weeks.

It doesn’t hurt that the guy playing the flute and soprano sax on “It Still Floors Me” is John Payne, the same guy who played those instruments on Astral Weeks. So the similarity in vibe is clearly intentional. There is a swath of pure beauty and mystical awe that cuts right through the heart of the work. *

That idea of “mystical awe” is the theme of Walsh’s song. What is it that still has the power to move us in this era of science, technology, and access to all of the world’s information? That question remains unanswered. “When you solve the mystery you become one yourself.” Is that why we makes gurus out of anybody who convinces us they know the way?

It’s astonishing to realize that even the most impressive art and literature and philosophy throughout history wasn’t beamed down to earth by gods but created by mere mortals like me and you. “Confused by classics, mistaken for miracles.” Who are these people who write The Illiad, or paint the Sistine Chapel, or come up with the guitar solo in “Louie Louie”? It seems miraculous, but it’s not. It’s entirely human. And that’s mind-boggling. Overwhelming, really.

Hallelujah the Hills: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

* Yeah, I confess I totally stole that line from Lester Bangs. You got me.

Continue reading New Hallelujah The Hills video: It Still Floors Me

Time Is(n’t) on My Side

Given the most-recent Macaulay oeuvre on this site and the absence of same, some of you might have been thinking (if you thought about it at all), “Hmm. . .he kept writing about dead people; maybe he’s joined them.”

Nope.

Still here.

And not another piece about dead people.

Well, not exactly. They could be zombies, but. . . .

That is, Friday, February 7, I saw on the front page of the Detroit Free Press a piece about the Rolling Stones coming to perform at Ford Field, the football stadium named for (and owned by) the family that built it (and a few million other things every year), in mid-June as part of its North American tour, the tickets for which are becoming available on February 14, a.k.a., “Valentine’s Day.”

Here’s the thing: I’ve seen the Rolling Stones twice here in Detroit. Once in 1969 at Olympia Stadium, which no longer exists. The opening acts were B.B. King and Terry Reid. Everyone knows B.B. More people ought to know Terry Reid, but that’s a story for another time. That tour included Jagger, Richards, Wyman, Mick Taylor, and Ian Stewart. That was the tour where Jagger wore the Uncle Sam hat and a onesy.

The tour that was to end up at Altamont.

The second time was in 1972 at Cobo Arena, which also no longer exists. This time the aforementioned lineup was supplemented by Nicky Hopkins, Bobby Keys, and Jim Price. Stevie Wonder was the opening act.

I graduated high school in 1972. That was 48 years ago. I hate to do the math.

In subsequent years, I have had several opportunities to see the Stones. And I’ve never pursued those opportunities for the simple reason that I believe you can’t catch lightning in a bottle, and what was once there, sparking, hasn’t. Isn’t.

Continue reading Time Is(n’t) on My Side

Hey Nineteen: Happy birthday to us!

She thinks I’m crazy
But I’m just growin’ old…

Sure, when you’re a grown-ass adult, 19 seems impossibly young. But when you’re a website? Well, 19 is old as dirt. C’est la vie.

2001 was a long time ago. A lifetime, really. It’s freaky to think how different the world was before Facebook, before Twitter, before YouTube, before iPhones…

Nineteen-year-olds today have no memories of life without a phone in everybody’s hand all the time.

But we do. And here we are. Still going. Still finding good music and sharing it. Occasionally still digging deep into something we care about. Mostly, we’re trying to stay positive and convey joy in an environment where that’s getting increasingly difficult.

But music helps. And whether it’s the thrill of discovering some kid’s debut single or the comfort of replaying something you’ve heard a thousand times, music provides a salve for our battered souls.

Skate a little lower now…

Audio: Steely Dan -- “Hey Nineteen”

From Gaucho (MCA, 1980).

Continue reading Hey Nineteen: Happy birthday to us!

New Cornershop video: St Marie Under Canon

Video: Cornershop -- “St Marie Under Canon”

Cornershop 'St Marie Under Canon' - ample play records

Directed by Chris Curtis. From England is a Garden, due March 6 on Ample Play.

Another single from the upcoming Cornershop album, this one “praising St Marie for all of our battles that she has overseen and adjudicated, ending with the modern day warfare of the public address sound system: amplifier, echo chamber, microphone and speaker. Music through the sound system is the weapon (or should be).”

Battle on!

This is what Tjinder Singh and his crew do best. A catchy riff with a relentless Motown beat and McCartneyesque fiddly bits on bass. The groove reminds me of their “Lessons Learned from Rocky I to Rocky III” from 2002’s Handcream For A Generation. What’s not to love?

Cornershop: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Cornershop video: St Marie Under Canon

New Brandy Clark video: Who You Thought I Was

Video: Brandy Clark -- “Who You Thought I Was”

Brandy Clark - Who You Thought I Was [Official Video]

Directed by Claire Marie Vogel. From Your Life Is A Record, out March 6 on Warner.

There’s a line in a Wilco song that has gotten to me since the first time I heard it over twenty years ago: “What you once were isn’t what you want to be anymore.” People, especially those of us who are prone to nostalgia, spend a lot of their time looking back and thinking that life was better when they were younger.

At some point, maturity and a little self-awareness tend to kick in and you realize that your younger self was kind of a dipshit. At best, a lovable dipshit. But a dipshit nonetheless.

And then you might come to the conclusion that you’re still not quite the human being you’d like to be. And there’s a lot of work left to do. It’s humbling. And daunting.

Brandy Clark, who wrote my favorite song of 2018 (“Pray to Jesus” by the Oak Ridge Boys), gets it.

Now I wanna be honest
Now I wanna be better
Now I wanna be the me I should’ve been when we were together
I wanna be at least almost close to worth your love
I wanna be who you thought I was

Right? These are lyrics that will stick with you for the next twenty years.

John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, who is certainly no slouch when it comes to writing lyrics, shared this song and said, “Brandy Clark once again making the other songwriters, present company included, look like amateurs.”

A songwriter’s songwriter. I’ve been really getting into these lately.

Brandy Clark: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Brandy Clark video: Who You Thought I Was

New Badly Drawn Boy video: Is This A Dream?

Video: Badly Drawn Boy -- “Is This A Dream?”

Badly Drawn Boy - Is This A Dream? (Official Video)

Directed by Broken Antler. Single out now on AWAL.

First new Badly Drawn Boy song in several years. And it sounds…highly compressed and terrible. Maybe it’s just YouTube but the mastering gives me a headache before the end of the video. (Update: the version streaming on Apple Music sounds slightly better.) Which is a shame because the song is a scootin’ little ditty about our current dystopian reality.

Welcome to the tragedy
It’s not the way it’s supposed to be, I know

The video is an appropriately psychedelic collage of absurdities. The whole thing is a lighthearted take on a subject that’s easy to be sour about.

Like a lot of Americans, I was introduced to Damon Gough’s music via a Christmas 2000 Gap ad. It’s hard to imagine now, but twenty years ago the use of good music in television commercials was a cause of great consternation. We were very concerned about “selling out” back then, which might seem quaint and naive today, but it used to be a very big deal. Volkswagen had made waves earlier in the year by using sadsack sacred cow Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” in a spot for its Cabrio.

My generation of rock snobs suddenly realized our people had infiltrated the big ad agencies. Those of us who still identified more with Ethan Hawke’s character in Reality Bites assumed that these corporate stooges were all a bunch Ben Stillers intent on cashing in on the coolness we had cultivated so carefully. (It would be a long time before we accepted the biting reality that Troy Dyer is equally if not more douchey than Michael Grates… Either way, Winona forever!)

But I’m thankful to the young professionals at Modernista! for turning me on to Badly Drawn Boy. Glad he’s back…and let’s all hope he gets on the right side of the Loudness Wars.

Badly Drawn Boy: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Badly Drawn Boy video: Is This A Dream?

Rock and roll can change your life.