July 2011

‘Smoke Up’ by Sweet Sweet Moon (aka, as his PR rather wonderfully refers to him, “onepalband” Matthias Frey) is in the curious position of being a song I’d very much like to tell people about, but don’t have a great deal to actually say with regards to it. I mean, I can tell you that it’s an upbeat folk-pop gem, it stays just the right side of twee to sound joyous but not cloying and that it could be the soundtrack to morally ambivalent teens joyriding in a convertible. Also, Matthias appears to be a boat captain. Would that be enough? It’ll have to be.

Sweet Sweet Moon – Smoke Up (YSI)

Sorry, I’ve been in Germany.

However, the upside to that is that the fact that I’m finally going to write about this track becomes “fitting” as opposed to “indicative of my singular laziness when it comes to listening to what I’m sent on the blog email” (please keep sending me stuff!). German Error Message is the work of Paul Kintzing, Louisiana native, Widowers collaborator and bedroom art-folk maestro. ‘Reaching Out’ is the track I’m allowed to let you download from his most recent album (the German Error Message Project has apparently been around since 2004) and is, quite simply, abolutely wonderful.

I’m a big fan of the rise of so-called bedroom artists. I love the sparser sounds necessarily caused by having to record alone in a cramped, acoustically unsuited space, and so the fact that Mr. Kintzing seems to be of an ilk with that particular musical trend was enough to pique my interest. He did not deliver on that front. Beyond the gentle hiss of the recording process, ‘Reaching Out’ is a brilliant (and essentially misleading) piece of production, layered with mandolin, acoustic guitars and Kintzing’s own slumberous tones. Each gently complements each other whilst never quite letting you forget that there’s more going on throughout than you can quite get a grip on. If I were to use a song/dessert metaphor, this is a trifle. I fucking love trifle.

‘There’s something in the marrying of what is a pointedly relentless use of strummed instruments with the hazy glow of the finished piece, and the track’s refusal to have a proper intro or outro that makes this an incredibly easy song to get lost in and simply listen to over and over again. Luckily, my trance has been broken by the presence of a whole, FREE album, that I’m downloading as I type. If it’s as good as this track, I may be away for even longer until my next post.

German Error Message – Reaching Out (YSI)

If this blog were actually human, it would be walking, talking, self-actualising and probably crying quite a lot quite a lot by now. Apart from self-actualising (WordPress’ pingback system makes me think I have comments when actually it’s just me writing about my own posts. META), it seems blogs follow a rather quicker life cycle. After a promising growth spurt, and a plateau of postage, there have been times in the last year when I’ve though ol’ MFAGW (which is fun to pronounce phonetically) might just be on its last legs.

A combination of university, musical disinterest and laziness has meant my previous prolificity has ebbed somewhat and, with it, reading figures plummetted. Hype Machine is a fickle mistress. But this was always a personal project and those gaps mean just as much as my posts, really. When I want to write about music, I love it and I truly hope that that want returns to its former glory now that graduation (and thus unemployment) has happened. For now, I’ll plug away as and when I want to and to those who keep wanting to read, I thank you very, very much.

The Beach Boys – When I Grow Up (YSI)
The Young Knives – Part Timer (YSI)

Today, whilst simultaneously walking the dog and ploughing through the ever-increasing number of mp3s I needlessly download daily, I came across a song that was perfectly apposite for the view I was experiencing, and vice versa. A.A. Bondy’s ‘There’s A Reason’ came to me through the medium of the powerfully tasteful James, writer of Pop Headwound, and immediately struck me as the kind of song I had to explain through the use of a visual metaphor.

That hastily taken cameraphone shot above is the best I could do on short notice.

You see, ‘There’s A Reason’ is as functional a track as the weather, a gently plodding Americana-inflected folk track – unembellished, almost invisible. That is, unless you listen closely. Those shards of wonderful sunlight against dark clouds and green fields are as thrilling to me as hearing lines like ‘the bar room is filled with the joy of making old friends‘, perfect moments of clarity set against what could otherwise be barely noticeable. Mini-moments of transcendence like that are what make some music better than the rest, and sometimes it takes something other than your ears to work that out.

A.A. Bondy – There’s A Reason (YSI)

Fresh from serenading my ears for yet another summer, Mountain Man have emerged not once, but twice in different forms for me in the past few days. Alongside the announcement of a new live album comes a track that sees the trio apply their already atmospheric vocal style to a completely lyric-less piece. ‘Vision’ was written alongside a story about a US coast guard tower turned industrial-strength bird killing machine and is just about the best distillation of why Mountain Man are so wonderful that I’ve come across. The best thing about the group has always been just how much feeling they can cram into ostensibly extremely simplistic arrangements, and ‘Vision’, with its overlapping a capella vocals, denotes that perfectly. This is pure atmosphere, reduced to its barest essentials and yet, as vocals become melodic and rhythmic simultaneously, still remains complex enough to wonder over.

And yet just as Mountain Man are exemplified, Molly Erin Sarle has revealed her part in BOBBY, a new Vermont group who couldn’t seem more different. Their debut single, ‘Sore Spores’ is a wonderfully tacked together mix of skewed pop, complete with whistling B-movie sci-fi synth, and a downbeat, heavily-strummed indie chorus that resolves itself into a single, airy pattern by the end of the song’s runtime. With vocal duties alternating between Molly’s tremulous, beautiful style and (I think) band founder Tom Greenberg’s laconic American drawl, the tone is far removed from what I’ve come to expect from a Mountain Man member, but is no less intriguing. Apparently, they have an album out, and I’m definitely going to make it my mission to track it down. So should you.

Mountain Man – Vision (YSI)
BOBBY – Sore Spores (YSI)