Album of the Year: Hallelujah the Hills – I’m You

Hallelujah the HillsI’m You, out November 15.

It’s inappropriate for critics to project their own shit onto a work of art. But for music fans? That’s what we do. It’s how an album can become so entangled with a specific time in your life. Certain songs get scratched into our souls, you know.

Ryan Walsh gets this. From the opening lines of the new album by Boston’s Hallelujah the Hills, Walsh acknowledges his willingness to conflate the relationship between performer and audience: “Hello, I am the singer singing this song / And if you think that might be you, well I guess you might not be wrong.” This theme is even more explicit in the title track: “I’m you / Don’t freak out / I’m you.”

That warning is not unwarranted. It can be really easy to let yourself slide into a wormhole of reading too much into something and convincing yourself that someone is singing directly to you. Do you remember the scene in Imagine where John Lennon talks to the homeless dude who is freaking out and believes that the songs were written about him? “It all fits,” the guy insists. John shoots down his theory but invites him in for tea. Don’t freak out.

That’s the key, right? We’re all interconnected but the question is, “How do you keep those banjo-murder-love songs from becoming your fate?” The overlap between the music you love and your own persona is slippery and can be scary. “We know the dangers of one person using another person as a muse,” Walsh sings. The danger is that you might no longer be able to “be sure that you’re you, I’m me, and not the other way around.”

If that sounds heavy, you’re right. It is. This is a serious album that offers a lot to think about. That’s not to suggest it’s a slog to listen to. It’s certainly not. In fact, there are quite a few lines that are laugh-out-loud funny. My favorite is: “I was first in line at the solipsistic sad guy seminar / But inside it just turned out to be another bar.” Another one that cracks me up is: “Sometimes I did drugs I found on the floor / Kept the search on point evermore.”

“Born To Blow It” employs a bunch of dad jokes (“You might think I was an astronaut the way I’ve been acting so spacey”) to address the role of privilege in self-sabotage: “I wasn’t born to blow it / I’m just my own great destroyer.”

But there are so many lines on this album that hit so close to home, it’s hard not to freak out. “I’m alone / And I can’t stop looking at my phone.” “Prepared pianos and tape loops and the rarest of b-sides have absolutely ruined my life.” “I’m fine / But I’m not okay.”

You know? What the fuck? Are you me? Am I you?

Sometimes it feels like the entire goddamn country is in the middle of an existential crisis and this is as good a soundtrack to this era as any.

Continue reading Album of the Year: Hallelujah the Hills – I’m You

50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Issue 45

Rolling Stone issue #45 had a cover date of November 1, 1969. 48 pages. 35 cents. Cover photo of Tina Turner by Robert Altman.

Features: “The Rolling Stone Interview: Phil Spector” by Jann Wenner; “Johnny Cash” by John Grissim; “A2 Blues” by Jerry Heist; “The First Tycoon of Teen” by Tom Wolfe (originally published in New York Magazine in 1965).

News: Straight Dope on the Crisis; A Temple of Cannabis; “Big Heroin Scare Shakes France” by Ferris Hartman; The Band Goes On the Road; “Record Ads Hitting Below the Belt” by Ben Fong-Torres; Tragedy Strikes David Crosby; Park Protesters Camera-Shy; Zappers Zapped in New York, LA; Timothy Leary is a Democrat; Kids Do the Darndest Things; Seeds & Stems; “A ‘People’s Park’ In Copenhagen” by Carol Matzkin; “GI Joe Visits The Troops” by Ed Jeffords; “Hall of Fame for Rhythm and Blues” by Jerry Hopkins; “Texas Pop: Heat, But Not So Hot” by John Zeh; “Monterey Jazz: A Festival No More” by Langdon Winner; “Mt. Tam Energy Bash” by Michael Goodwin; Xmas Release Set for Masked Marauders. And Random Notes on Phil Ochs, Donovan, Jimi Hendrix, KRLA, Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane, Lulu, Newport 69, Timothy Leary, Desmond Dekker (“My wife and my children they fuck-off and leave me”), B.B. King, Mary Robbins, Syntonic Research, and Playboy vs. Soul.

Reviews: Arthur, The Kinks (by Michael Daly); Arthur, The Kinks (by Greil Marcus); Words and Music by Bob Dylan, The Hollies (by John Mendelsohn); Kozmic Blues, Janis Joplin (by Ed Leimbacher); Kozmic Blues, Janis Joplin (by John Burks); The Chantels (by Langdon Winner); Mother Earth Presents Tracy Nelson Country (by Patrick Thomas); Dusty in Memphis, Dusty Springfield (by Greil Marcus); Nothing But a Heartache, The Flirtations (by Greil Marcus); The Two Sides of Linda Gail Lewis (by Andy Boehm); Melanie (by Gig Lee); Sweet Linda Divine (by Chris Hodenfield); Stronger Than Dirt, Big Mama Thornton (by John Morthland).

Columns: “Books” by Langdon Winner (on The Making of a Counter Culture by Theodore Roszak; “Books” by John Grissim (on Trans-action magazine: The Anti-American Generation).

Poetry: “August 6, 1969” by Tom Clark; “February Landscape” by Gary Von Tersch.

Subscription offer: Fathers and Songs by Muddy Waters and friends, free with 50 cents shipping. $6 for 26 issues; $10 for 52.

Previously: Issue 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44.

New Culture Abuse video: Calm E

Video: Culture Abuse – “Calm E”

Culture Abuse – "Calm E"

From Bay Dream, out now on Epitaph.

Love these guys. There’s a sincerity in David Kelling’s lyrics that makes you want to, well, call him. Except for the fact that nobody ever actually calls anybody anymore, do they? Maybe they do. I don’t know. I’ve become so antisocial I can barely text my friends without debilitating stress, overthinking every nuance and getting paranoid about how every word will be perceived. Is it just me? Maybe telephony isn’t so bad after all.

¯\_(?)_/¯

Culture Abuse: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Automne video: La Désirante

Video: Automne – “La Désirante”

La Désirante – Automne

Texte : Mathilde Tixier. Musique : Automne. Réalisation : Joséphine Lajeat. Effets spéciaux : Juan Sebastian Sotelo. Étalonnage : David Haddad. Une production ATPD.

Shortly after we posted Marika Hackman’s latest video, my friend in Paris messaged me that his band Automne had just completed a video for a new song that dealt with the same subject matter. And here it is!

Even if your francais is as mal as mine you can still figure out what Automne is singing about. The video is a little racy, but they’re French so what do you expect? Ooh la la.

Automne: web, facebook, youtube, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Issue 44

Rolling Stone issue #44 had a cover date of October 18, 1969. 48 pages. 35 cents. Cover photo of David Crosby by Robert Altman.

48 pages this time, with tons of reviews to make up for the previous issue that had none. The funniest review is a spoof written by Greil Marcus under the pseudonym T.M. Christian for a non-existent album called The Masked Marauders featuring “the unmistakable vocals make it clear that this is indeed what it appears to be: John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, and Bob Dylan backed by George Harrison and a drummer…” The hoax created such a hubbub that the Rolling Stone editors actually hired a band to record the album! Rhino Handmade reissued it in 2001, and it’s currently available on streaming services. Now that’s a good joke.

Features: “Rock and Roll Revival Surprise: John & Yoko” by Melinda McCracken; “Great Dope Purge Of 1969”; “Big Sur” by Jerry Hopkins; “The Fifties” by Howard Junker; “Sha Na Na Na Yip yip Mum mum get a job” by Jan Hodenfield.

News: “Lennon on Toronto: ‘Bloody Marvelous'” by Ritchie Yorke; George Harrison On Abbey Road; “Mothers’ Day Has Finally Come” by Jerry Hopkins; James Brown Off His Night Train; “FM Hang-up: ‘You Can’t Say That…'” by Ben Fong-Torres; Split, Fight Over Woodstock Stock; A Pop Festival in The Mother Lode; Blues’ Josh White Dead at 61; Tiny Tim Loves ‘Miss Vicki’; Delaney & Bonnie’s ‘Super’ Friends; Band Opens Up Old Fillmore; “Harenchi” by Michael Berger; “Pachuko” by Rafeal Espinosa. And Random Notes.

Reviews: Original Golden Greats, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, Jerry Lee Lewis (by Bob Kirsch); Truly Fine Citizen, Moby Grape (by Ben Gerson); “My Guitar”, The Mothers (by Black Shadow); “Carry Me Back”, The Rascals/”Suspicious Minds”, Elvis Presley (by Greil Marcus); The Flock (by Langdon Winner); Fear Itself/Tons of Sobs, Free (by Ed Leimbacher); The Stooges (by Edmund O. Ward); Preflyte, The Byrds (by Lester Bangs); Green River, Creedence Clearwater Revival (by Bruce Miroff); Word of Mouth, Merryweather (by John Morthland); The Masked Marauders (by T.M. Christian); Santana (by John Morthland and Langdon Winner); Fathers and Sons, Muddy Waters-Paul Butterfield-Mike Bloomfield-Otis Spann-Duck Dunn-Sam Lay (by Pete Welding); Black and White, Tony Joe White (by Ed Ward); Karma, Pharoah Sanders (by Langdon Winner); Sssh, Ten Years After (by Ben Gerson); In the Plain, Savage Rose (by Lester Bangs); Through the Past Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2), Rolling Stones (by Greil Marcus); The Band (by Ralph J. Gleason); Direct Hits, The Who (by Ed Ward); “Curly”, The Move/”Something in the Air”, Thunderclap Newman (by John Mendelsohn).

Columns: “Astrology” by Ambrose Hollingsworth.

Poetry: “I Know What You’re Thinking” by Billy Collins; “Woke Up This Morning Feeling” by Robert Sundstrom.

Subscription offer: Love Man by Otis Redding, free with 50 cents shipping. $6 for 26 issues; $10 for 52.

Previously: Issue 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43.

New Marika Hackman video: Hand Solo

Video: Marika Hackman – “hand solo”

Marika Hackman – hand solo

From Any Human Friend, out now on Sub Pop.

Not the most subtle video ever made, but that’s okay. Sometimes you want your message to come across loud and clear: Diddlin’ is fun.

Hackman said, “I wrote ‘hand solo’ as a bit of light-hearted relief, a wank anthem for women everywhere. I loved the idea of playing on old wives’ tales about the dangers of masturbation and pushing the boundaries about what is socially acceptable. I met Sam and we came up with this playful, tongue-in-cheek idea about hands all over the world masturbating on everyday objects, and even places, and eventually the world. The hands were directed by the wonderful Evie Fehilly, a sex educator who runs sex-positive workshops in London at the famous sex shop SH!. Despite the video being quite fun, I wanted to make a serious point at the end, after the world explodes in its orgasm, that masturbation is still for many women perceived as something shameful and embarrassing – the moment of shame after the ecstasy. We asked for any female-identifying people to anonymously submit their experiences of shame relating to masturbation, and we received so many heart-breaking and heavy stories. I hope that when people see these accounts, they can relate and realize that there’s no shame in masturbation.”

She also told Apple Music, “One lyric that will get overlooked because I don’t think many people are gonna understand the reference, but the first half of the song is looking at old wives’ tales about masturbation. One of them I read is that you get hairy hands if you masturbate too much. There’s a line in there that says, ‘Oh, monkey glove’—it’s talking about having hairy hands. It’s quite abstract but it sounds sexual as well. It sounds like something you might call your vagina. And it’s quite gross, that song. ‘Dark meat, skin pleat’—it’s all quite visceral. My favorite lyric is obviously ‘Under patriarchal law, I’m gonna die a virgin.’ That is insane, that is crazy! I feel like people don’t take my sexual experiences as real. The song is also a massive f**k-you, because it’s very funny and empowered with a bit of sass.”

When I was 11 years old my recently widowed mother read me a book called Preparing for Adolescence by Dr. James Dobson. My mom’s heart was in the right place and she felt a great responsibility to steer me in the right direction. I no longer had a dad to teach me about puberty and sex stuff, but can you imagine anything more embarrassing than having to hear a chapter titled “Something Crazy Is Happening to My Body” read out loud by your mom? Worse, Dobson’s views weren’t designed to create a particularly healthy attitude about sex. The bits of advice I can remember include “never do anything on a date that you wouldn’t want someone to do with your sister” and to remember that Jesus is always watching you. Impure thoughts offend God. If you’re feeling a certain kind of way, it’s best to take a cold shower.

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t take any of this advice. But I felt a lot of guilt and shame about it and that’s a bummer. These were also the early days of AIDS when we were taught that sex can straight up kill you. Hopefully kids these days have a healthier attitude about sex, but who knows? There’s an endless supply of creepy stuff out there to warp young minds. Every generation gets its own hangups.

Marika Hackman: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Daystar video: Warped Reality

Video: Daystar – “Warped Reality”

Daystar – Warped Reality

Filmed by Joshua James Huff. From The Complete Recordings, out October 25.

Full disclosure: Daystar’s Derek Phillips is a co-founder of Glorious Noise, and he was the best man in my wedding, as I was in his. We’ve been pals since we were 15 year old dorks who bonded in art class over our budding obsession with the Beatles. I listened to Abbey Road for the first time at his house. It was an exciting time, discovering new stuff as quickly as we could, which was tricky in the pre-internet age (pre-CD even!), especially when you’re too young to drive yourself to the record store and too broke to afford much even when you got there. It was work being a fan.

After we exhausted the complete Beatles discography we moved on to their solo years, side projects, and bands they produced or influenced. In the early days of usenet newsgroups and tape trading I remember inquiring if anybody had a recording of Paul’s demo of “Day After Day,” the Badfinger song. “Unlikely,” came the reply, “since it was written by Pete Ham.”

Well, it’s thirty years later, and my homie has a band that has recorded an album’s worth of material that’s the direct result of all those years of obsessing over classic sounds. And now they’ve released their second video. DP told Indie Band Guru, that “Warped Reality” is “about those screw-ups in all of our lives who we just can’t give up.” (I hope he’s not talking about me!)

And have you ever noticed
You are always all alone
Holding on but hopeless
Homeward-bound but never home

Their album release show is on Saturday, October 19 at Bunk Bar in Portland with the Resolectrics and Messimer. I’ve already got my copy and it’s a thing a beauty. Dig it.

Daystar: web, fb, bandcamp.

New Kim Gordon video: Hungry Baby

Video: Kim Gordon – “Hungry Baby”

Kim Gordon – "Hungry Baby"

Directed by Loretta Fahrenholz. From No Home Record, out now on Matador.

You’ll never be as cool as Kim Gordon. It’s stupid to try. She proves it’s possible — although extremely rare — to be arty and rockin’ at the same time. Seriously, how many other musicians can pull this off without coming across as a totally pretentious dingdong? Her secret is that she confident and capable in both worlds. Plus she digs loud guitars noisy enough to blow the wine and cheese out of any art snob’s trembling hands.

Let’s make music
All day long
But not today
Some other time

Her debut solo album is out today.

Kim Gordon: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Kim Gordon video: Hungry Baby

New Amy O video: Crushed

Video: Amy O – “Crushed”

Amy O – Crushed (Official Video)

Directed by Anisa Curry Vietze. From Shell, due October 25 on Winspear.

Last time we checked in on Bloomington, Indiana’s Amy Oelsner she was ripping it up Shocking Blue-style with “Lavender Night.” This time around she’s more subdued and nostalgic, remembering “taking pictures without phones.”

Oelsner says her new song “is about looking back on that time in late adolescence/early adulthood when you don’t have much of a place of your own in the world, so you find spaces that are yours in the public sphere. Abandoned roads, parking garages, suburban hideaways–somewhere to discover yourself and each other. The video was directed by Anisa Curry Vietze and animated by Hadley Gephart. Not too long ago, Anisa attended the teen center where I worked with her friends (who were also featured in the video.) It was special to work with them on this project as it tied together my own personal memories of adolescence with my present self, who works to empower young people in their creativity as an Arts Educator and Organizer.”

We’re all for empowering kids to strip down and splash around in flooded roads. One of my most vivid childhood memories is riding bikes around Riverside Park when it flooded one year. That’s probably not a particularly smart or safe thing to do and my mom probably would have freaked out had she know I was doing it, but it was a warm spring day and the water was up past my pedals and there were no grownups around to tell us not to do it. The sun was shining and the cool water seemed still enough. The resistance made it hard to pedal but we could build up some speed on the shallow parts, water spraying behind us and all up our backs. We were soaked. And it was fun.

Amy O: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Atonal Apples, Amplified Heat: Ginger Baker, RIP

There are some people who, it seems, endure long after others would have collapsed in a dissolving heap, people who, even with the deck stacked against them hand after hand, stay at the table, albeit often moved to a table that is somewhere in the darkness, away from the brightness that they once helped generate.

And so we learn of the death of Ginger Baker.

By and large, Baker is known for his superb drumming and awful singing when he was a member of Cream, a band that lived just 2.5 years but which has an afterlife like musical carbon 14.

Of the three members of what is often cited as the first “supergroup,” when there were such things, now having given way to recordings by a given “star” who is performing “with” another “star,” who may or may not be of the same genre, Eric Clapton is really the only one who continued to have a career in the broad public eye. Immediately post-Cream Clapton created Blind Faith, which included Baker, but it really didn’t make much of a stir—brilliant music notwithstanding—as it was mired in controversy because the original cover of its debut album was a color photograph of a topless 11-year-old girl. It was soon replaced with a sepia-toned photo of Clapton, Baker, Stevie Winwood, and Ric Grech, but the proverbial damage was done publicly and given internal acrimony the band lasted a year.

Baker went on to other things like Ginger Baker’s Air Force, which made it to the close out bins at record stores faster than he could hit a tom-tom. (Speaking of which: Baker’s “Toad,” from the “Wheels of Fire” album—incidentally the first double album to go platinum when this was truly the result of people buying physical artifacts—was undoubtedly played on desktops (as in physical classroom furniture) by more teenage boys than any other rhythm before or since.)

Continue reading Atonal Apples, Amplified Heat: Ginger Baker, RIP

Rock and roll can change your life.