Tag Archives: Anti

New Waxahatchee: Bored

Video: Waxahatchee – “Bored”

Directed by Corbett Jones and Nick Simonite. From Tigers Blood, out on March 22 on Anti-.

I love the Joey Santiago-style guitar that opens this song.

Katie Crutchfield says, “I feel like my comfort zone when writing songs lies somewhere on the emotional spectrum of sadness and heartache. Writing from a place of happiness scares me. Too earnest. Anger scares me even more. I wrote ‘Bored’ about one of those situations where anger was called for and was the only authentic place from which to write about what I was experiencing. It was a challenge for me and ‘Bored’ is the end result.”

Anger scares me too. I feel angry way too much lately. It sucks. But I’m not writing cool songs about it when I get angry. I just grump at my family. Crutchfield is dealing with her anger in a far more productive way.

Waxahatchee: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New M. Ward: Engine 5 (ft. First Aid Kit)

Video: M. Ward – “Engine 5” (ft. First Aid Kit)

Directed by Amber McCall. From supernatural thing, out now on Anti-.

Another song with First Aid Kit from M. Ward. I wonder if Zooey Deschanel stopped taking his calls. Remember when Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein roasted She & Him for being “blatantly uncool” and kitschy?

But kitsch — or what would have formerly been called kitsch — is cool and is part of the broader tapestry of music without being marginalized or made diminutive. So what has changed? For one, I think the sheer amount of references available to us at any given time is so abundant that it’s conflated — perhaps even negated — the concept of value. The notion of authenticity is practically obsolete, and the idea of realness is just another categorical index, devoid of meaning. When real is gone, then there is no longer a litmus test for that which deviates from it. It’s all real because it’s all “real.” We mined all the gold, and now we’re mining the gilded.

I wonder what M. Ward thought of that. Probably not much. She & Him released five more albums after that.

“Engine 5” doesn’t sound kitschy. But the video with its old school 8-bit graphics vibe might be.

New Sparklehorse: Listening to the Higsons

Video: Sparklehorse – “Listening to the Higsons”

From Bird Machine, out September 8 on Anti-.

In June 1982 Robyn Hitchcock recorded this b-side “on a portastudio in a barn in Sussex…on a full moon.” In the notes on the original seven-inch sleeve he wrote:

Your stereo may need a new needle but the vocal sound is intentional. At the beginning of the song I play a wok (Chinese cooking utensil) 1/3 full of water, tipped through an angle of 40 degrees to vary the pitching. Using my left forearm to cradle it against my chest, I struck it repeatedly with a wooden spoon.

It’s no surprise that Mark Linkous was drawn not only to Hitchcock’s song but to his recording methods as well. What seems a little surprising is that he recorded this cover with Steve Albini at Electrical Audio in 2009. Other than a couple of Daniel Johnson songs (“Hey Joe” on Good Morning Spider, “My Yoke Is Heavy” on the Distorted Ghost EP), Sparklehorse didn’t record many covers. It sounds like it was a blast to play though, and it’s nice to hear Linkous being a little silly and having fun.

Sparklehorse: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Sparklehorse: Listening to the Higsons

New Sparklehorse: The Scull of Lucia

Video: Sparklehorse – “The Scull of Lucia”

From Bird Machine, out September 8 on Anti-.

Jeez, every one of these new Sparklehorse singles that gets released just breaks your heart all over again. This one features a harmony vocal by Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle.

The sea I wade
And tried to fade
Spat me aground
Got found undrowned
And so I stayed…

I wish Mark Linkous would’ve stayed around a little longer. It feels like such a gift that we’re able to hear these songs, but you still can’t help from wondering how complete he left them and what he’d think of us hearing these versions, obviously lovingly finished up for release by his brother Matt and the rest of the team assembled by his estate. Would Mark have tweaked these lyrics? Or rewritten them completely? We’ll never know. But they absolutely sound like him. And the songs sound perfect. So maybe we shouldn’t look a gift Sparklehorse in the mouth?

“From the very first seconds of ‘The Scull of Lucia’, I was transported to a different time,” says producer Joel Hamilton who mixed Bird Machine. “The recipe is unmistakably Sparklehorse: the pace, the sounds, the overall texture of the voice. Every sound seems to support the voice and the lyric, which was always at the core of Mark’s genius. The weight of the world, floated on a rickety raft, across a sea of melancholy.”

That pretty much sums it up.

Sparklehorse: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New M. Ward: Too Young to Die (ft. First Aid Kit)

Video: M. Ward – “too young to die” (feat. First Aid Kit)

Directed by Holly Andres. From supernatural thing, out now on Anti-.

M. Ward is such a gentle songwriter. His songs are like a long hug from an old friend. Like a campfire on a chilly evening. I don’t follow him closely but every time he pops up on my radar I wonder why I don’t spend more time with him. But then another year or two or three goes by and he pops up again and I feel bad for not making more of an effort.

It would be easy to blame covid for not seeing much of my friends. But I was a hermit before the pandemic. And time is a motherfucker. You blink your eyes and you’re fifty and all your friends are scattered across the country and the globe. That’s something old guys say, I know, but it’s true. Wait, weren’t we talking about M. Ward? Sorry.

I first heard that from an old guy:
“I’m too young to die” –
Now it’s spray-painted on the half-pipe:
“Too young to die.”

And how great is First Aid Kit? Ward recognizes the power and beauty of sibling harmonies. He says, “It was a great thrill to go to Stockholm and record a few songs there. The sound from blood-related harmony singers is impossible to get any other way – The Everly Brothers, The Delmores, The Louvins, The Carters, The Söderbergs – all have the same kind of feeling in their vocals.”

It’s cool that he recorded with them in person. The video was clearly shot separately, but that reinforces the album’s idea of “picking up transmissions in a code from a host of foreign satellites.”

Anyway, we should all try to let our friends know we miss them and we should hang out more often.

New Sparklehorse: Evening Star Supercharger

Video: Sparklehorse – “Evening Star Supercharger”

From Bird Machine, due September 8 on Anti-.

I’m so happy this is coming out. A new Sparklehorse album, the project Mark Linkous was working on before he took his own life in 2010. But posthumous releases are always a little tricky, right? How close is it to what the artist would’ve actually produced had they been alive to see it through to completion? You can never really know. The best you can hope for is that the people involved in the process have the appropriate respect for the vision of the artist.

An example of a great posthumous release is Elliott Smith’s New Moon, assembled lovingly by Smith’s friend and producer Larry Crane. But the songs on that collection were mostly finished, as Crane told us in 2007, requiring “just balancing the mix and adding very simple, light EQ or compression to some tracks.” And even so, there were some questionable decisions, such as including an early version of “Miss Misery” with its clunky, unfinished lyrics: “It’s a comedy from the seventies about nothing at all.” Would Smith have wanted us to hear that? Who knows?

From everything we know so far about Bird Machine, it appears as though this has taken more effort to complete, but the team putting it together, led by Linkous’ brother Matt who oversees his brother’s estate, is taking it seriously and treating the material with the amount of respect it deserves. In the album’s press release, Anti- Records claims, “A number of the songs were close to completion, while others needed only careful encouragement – the addition of subtle instrumentation and accompanying vocals in some cases, another careful mix in others – to take flight. […] Most of the record was already in place. Mark had given it its title and a track listing in handwritten notes received by Matt.”

The first single from the project, “It Will Never Stop” came out before Christmas and was recorded by Linkous at his Static King home studio with additional guitar added by co-producer Alan Weatherhead at Montrose Recording where Linkous’ 1968 Flickinger mixing console now resides.

This new single hails from the Fall 2009 sessions at Electrical Audio with Steve Albini. We’ve heard that “More than half a dozen songs were tracked by the end of the session, including nearly all of the instrumental parts. But Linkous was unable to finish his vocals because of a scratchy throat.” Band members said that “Linkous only recorded scratch vocals and didn’t finish his lyrics during the Albini session.” Albini said he had been “looking forward to seeing him again and finishing the record.”

It’s possible that Linkous continued working on those songs up until March 6, but even if he never got to properly finish it, “Evening Star Supercharger” still sounds like a Sparklehorse song.

Peace without pill, gun or needle or prayer appear
Never found sometimes near…

Matt Linkous says, “It’s the hardest decision I’ve ever made. It’s difficult making a choice about someone else’s art, even if you’ve known them all your life and worked with them, even if they were your brother and best friend. We had long conversations about not wanting to take this into a different direction. We wanted to bring out what was there.”

Continue reading New Sparklehorse: Evening Star Supercharger

New Purr video: The Natural

Video: Purr – “The Natural”

Directed by Eliza Soros and Eliza Barry Callahan. Single out now on Anti-.

Purr is Eliza Barry Callahan and Jack Staffen, a couple of New York City kids who have been making music together since 2014 when they were teenagers.

Eliza Callahan says, “The song takes on growing up and getting older—that trope (and the truth) of trying to make it while you’re still young and the ways in which we seem to perform as we strive to project our authentic selves. Of course, there’s some love involved too…”

Ahhhh, trying to make it while you’re still young. Remember that? When I was in my twenties I was convinced that my friends and I were all geniuses, just waiting to get our shot. At what? Who knows. But it seemed like the opportunity was right around the corner.

You said I still look seventeen
“You’ve got a few years left to make it in a magazine.”

It’s sort of funny how young people are so concerned about growing up and getting older. You want to shake them and scream, “You’re still young! Enjoy it! Stop worrying about the passing of time and all of its sickening crimes!” But of course an 80 year old would probably say the same thing to me. So it goes. Hakuna matata.

But what a great song! Pedal steel flourishes, kind of a Topanga vibe, world-weary vocals. So good.

Callahan wrote that it was “recorded live with Jack on keys, Jonathan Rado on bass, and Dan Bailey on what some call skins. This song feels closer to my heart than other songs I’ve written perhaps because it includes topics such as impatience, my father, love, jealousy, winning, and boredom in the middle of the night. Play it on the open road—windows up or down.”

I will. And when I do, I’ll try not to beat my younger self up for wasting his youth worrying about the inevitable. These days, I feel lucky to be alive every morning I wake up. (Not really, but I should!)

New Cass McCombs video: Music Is Blue

Video: Cass McCombs – “Music Is Blue”

Video by Scott Kiernan. From Heartmind, out now on Anti-.

We all love music. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. And I definitely wouldn’t be. But here we are. Reading about, and writing about, and — most importantly — listening to music. Cass McCombs understands the obsession. And lives it.

Once upon a time, I told myself
Music was all there was
Like a ghost town in quarantine
No road in, no road out.

I like the bits about how music has kept him broke, “busking in the village” and eating “nothing but beer.”

But why is it blue? McCombs told Aquarium Drunkard that “color is like a splash, it’s a feeling. It can be this color, that color, color is just there for us to play with. I guess it kind of fit into my approach which has always been to allow the listener a certain amount of autonomy to interpret the songs according to their experience and what suits them. I think colors can do that. It’s kind of the word color. I chose a color, but it’s more like color itself. I think that’s what I was trying to say – color it yourself.”

Cass McCombs: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Sparklehorse song: It Will Never Stop

Audio: Sparklehorse – “It Will Never Stop”

Single out now on Anti.

Well this is certainly an early Christmas present: a previously unreleased Sparklehorse song! It’s so great to hear Mark Linkous’ voice again. This is the first “new” song released since Linkous killed himself in 2010.

No information yet on when it was recorded, but we know where: Linkous’ own rehearsal space Static King and Montrose Recording in Richmond, Virginia. It features Richmond-based engineer Alan Weatherhead on guitar. Weatherhead recorded and played on “More Yellow Birds” from It’s A Wonderful Life (Capitol, 2001) and “Return To Me” from Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain (Capitol, 2006).

We should all be thankful that Capitol isn’t claiming this recording as its own, as major labels are wont to do (see: Elliott Smith), but it’s coming out on the indie that Linkous signed with near the end of his life: Anti-. Hopefully there’s a lot more in the vault.

I’m still hoping we will eventually get to hear some of the stuff that was recorded with Steve Albini at Electrical in Chicago in the fall of 2009. We know that “More than half a dozen songs were tracked by the end of the session, including nearly all of the instrumental parts. But Linkous was unable to finish his vocals because of a scratchy throat.”

The cover art is from a piece that Linkous painted by on his 1960s Ampeg Reverberocket 2 amplifier road case.

Sparklehorse: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Christian Lee Hutson video: Age Difference

Video: Christian Lee Hutson – “Age Difference”

Directed by Nick Slye. From Quitters, due April 1 on Anti-.

Christian Lee Hutson writes poignant songs about characters you may or may not relate to. The narrator of “Age Difference” is sort of a pathetic creeper.

Hiding out in nice apartments, Catholic schoolgirl uniforms,
I think I was suicidal before you were even born.

Hutson says, “There’s a specific type of an older man that I have encountered a lot in LA. The aging rocker who hasn’t had a long relationship and they are the McConaughey-like character who is dating a much younger girl, and they have just stopped progressing.”

But are we rooting for this guy like we did for Wooderson? Nope. The character is self aware enough to realize he’s a man-baby bullshitter, but he can’t help himself.

Do my impression of John Malkovich critiquing food in prison
At first it isn’t funny, then it is, and then it isn’t.

Animator Nick Slye says, “1,100+ individual pencil drawings make up this 5 minute hand drawn dream. Christian’s style of lyricism and melody in ‘Age Difference’ lend themselves to vivid lucid dream-like imagery and create the euphoric feeling of falling fast asleep while listening to your favorite album, waking in a haze only remembering bits and pieces trying to decipher what was real and what was fantasy.”

Alright alright alright.

Christian Lee Hutson: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.