Is it too hyperbolic to say this is already my favorite song of the year, and I haven't even heard the whole thing yet? Every note sung out of Neko Case's voice has been pure gold, and this new song - whatever it is - already appears to be no exception.
That would be the extent of this post, but because things are a bit slower in GTI land these days (although I prefer to say we take extra time to be thorough...), it gave Case the few extra days she needed for a much bigger reveal. Yesterday we got to hear "Man," the first single from the album (now confirmed with the title above), along with a release date - September 3 via her label ANTI-.
Check out the non-video for "Man":
Josh Tillman, the man behind the moniker Father John Misty, sets a high standard for us bearded folks. After seeing his new video for "Funtimes in Babylon" (particularly around the 3-minute mark), I've decided that I need to lose about 40 pounds, buy a gray suit, and learn some sweet dance moves. I'm sure writing my own songs will be the easy part.
Check it out:
Today, Laura Marling released her fourth full-length, Once I Was An Eagle (yesterday in the UK). With an over 63-minute runtime, there's a lot to take in here. It's Marling's longest album, and it contains some of the finest material she has ever recorded.
Partially because of its length, but also its structure, Once I Was An Eagle is an album whose contours will be best appreciated over time. The first 16 minutes, collected in the short film "What Brave Bird Saved," all flow together into what sounds like one (gorgeous) track. They are like an album-within-an-album, separated from the greater whole by the aggressive single "Master Hunter." Within the bounds of folk music (which Marling frequently reinvents or discards entirely), it's like musical equivalent of a punch in the face. "Little Love Caster" and "Devil's Resting Place" employ beautiful Spanish guitar work to send the album down to its darkest moments, before an interlude rescues the mood and finds Marling occupying a much brighter space for the album's second half.
"The beast," Marling's anti-muse that repeatedly appeared throughout 2011's A Creature I Don't Know, makes a return in the very first line of the new album, as the subject of opener "Take the Night Off." The Beast is a storytelling device that Marling has employed often - sometimes manifested a lover, sometimes as herself. Here, as she asks it to "be gone from me / be gone from my mind at least," it's not quite clear if Marling knows whether the Beast is within or without.
Indeed, while much of Once I Was An Eagle's first half sounds like invectives flung at a former lover, a closer reading reveals that these songs could just as well be directed at Marling herself. If Once I Was An Eagle is about anything, it seems to be a firm rejection of starry-eyed relationships. There's so much barely restrained bitterness as she declares, "I will not be a victim of romance / I will not be a victim of circumstance" in the almost-title track. In "Little Love Caster," Marling admits, "I saw a lady dance yesterday / She was easily swayed / I cannot be tossed and turned in this way."
Marling's fierce independence walks a fine line between feminist empowerment and the deep resentment born of failed relationships. "Master Hunter," the closest Marling might ever sound to snarling (although her voice is just too damn good to ever actually get there), finds her subverting traditional gender stereotypes. She is the hunter, whose stoicism ensures that "now nothing gets in." And in "Devil's Resting Place," she confidently declares, "Any man [who] can hold my gaze has done his job just fine."
But that's only the first half of the album. For the sake of brevity, though, I'll just say this: While Laura Marling's last two albums received well-deserved critical acclaim, with Once I Was An Eagle she has pushed herself toward the heights of timelessness.
Today, the National release Trouble Will Find Me, the band's sixth full-length album. "Sea of Love" is the latest song to get the video treatment (after "Demons"), and it's a delightful reminder that the band's reputation for "all somber all the time" isn't quite accurate. Directed by Sophia Peer, it's a tribute to Russian band Zvuki Mu's video for "Grubyi Zakat." Check it out (along with the original):
Trouble Will Find Me is out today via 4AD.
I have to say, this one caught me completely off-guard. The Rest released one of the finest records of 2012, SEESAW, after a series of setbacks that delayed the album for over a year. Soon afterward, the band set out with the ambitious goal of releasing a music video for every song from the record - with each successive video topping those that came before it. But now, seemingly out of nowhere, The Rest is breaking up:
After 10 years, 3 albums, and 328 shows, The Rest have decided to call it a day. We originally started with the intent of making music with as many friends as possible, without any direction outside of that one goal. The seven of us made this band our whole lives, and amazingly without sacrificing our commitment to each other. A messy divorce with name calling, hair pulling, and gear custody seemed to be the logical end. Surprisingly, it’s not a drama-filled decision. This is the right time for us to move on. It’s that simple.
Name calling, hair pulling, and gear custody would be easier to take. But this? A mature, reasoned realization that it was time to move on? How are fans supposed to process that?
Kidding aside, I am deeply disappointed to have to report this news. As one of the most talented and underrated indie bands currently making music, I was looking forward whatever The Rest had in store for us next. I'm not any good at these farewell tribute-y things, so I'll just say this: The music landscape is losing something special, and that's a real shame.
If you happen to live in the vicinity of Toronto or Hamilton, the band will be playing two final shows next month:
Laura Marling is set to unveil her fourth album, Once I Was An Eagle, on May 27 (May 28 here in the US). It's the follow-up to 2011's critically-acclaimed A Creature I Don't Know, which was one of our favorite albums of that year (#2, to be precise). I still listen to Creature on a semi-regular basis, and there are days when I wish I ranked it #1. But if I kept going back and re-writing GTI's Best Of lists, I'd never have time to actually post about new music.
Anyway, in a highly unusual step, Marling released the first four songs from the new album via short film, "When Brave Bird Saved," further cementing her as one of the most unique and talented artists recording music today. There's strong evidence in these four songs that Marling is prepared to knock us all over with her best offering yet.
Now she's released the fifth song, "Master Hunter," this time with its own standalone video. In some ways this is the most aggressive statement we've heard from Marling, and the video certainly bears that out. She's alluded to this fierce independence before, such as in Creature's "The Muse" ("I'm nothing but the beast / And I'll call on you when I need to feast"), but "Master Hunter" finds Marling in no mood to mince words: "You want a woman who will call your name / It ain't me, babe."
Once I Was An Eagle is available for preorder from Laura Marling's website. Here's the full tracklist:
1. Take The Night Off
2. I Was An Eagle
3. You Know
5. Master Hunter
6. Little Love Caster
7. Devil's Resting Place
10. Where Can I Go?
12. Pray For Me
13. When Were You Happy? (And How Long Has That Been)
14. Love Be Brave
15. Little Bird
16. Saved These Words
Manchester-based The Travelling Band has released a video for single "Hands Up," the first taste of the band's upcoming third album, The Big Defreeze. The song is also currently available for free as part of the Hands Up EP, available on the The Travelling Band's bandcamp page.
I would have much more to say, but it's taken me weeks just to get this far. I blame the New-Dad Effect.
Check out the video (and don't forget to hit up bandcamp for that free download of the EP):
This is admittedly a few days late, but Phosphorescent performed a pretty great rendition of "Song for Zula" on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon last week. Featured on the band's wonderful sixth album Muchacho, it might be my early favorite song of 2013. Opening with a reference to Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," "Song for Zula" seemingly explores the deep antipathy caged animals must feel towards humans. It's possibly much more allegorical than that, as Zula is the name of a small town in Africa (hence the references to desert plains) - as well as that of a New York psychadelic pop band. So who knows?
Watch Matthew Houck and his backup orchestra perform "Song for Zula" on Fallon:
Muchacho is out now via Dead Oceans.
Album of the Day is a new venture here at Given and Taken in Ink, in which we feature an album that's worth mentioning despite not being the newest batch of tunes on the street. We didn't go too far back for this first installment, with the #14 pick in GTI's Best Albums of 2012 post. Still, Blunderbuss has been in heavy rotation in my car lately, and since today is the one-year anniversary of its release, it seemed as good a time as any to talk about it. I'm plagiarizing myself, but I'm also fairly sure that no one actually reads the summaries for each album in our year-end lists. So here it is again, in slightly-modified form. Enjoy...
I actually had a tough time getting into Blunderbuss, unlike most of Jack White's band-material. The album contains some of his best songwriting, but avoids some of the musical punch of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather. That's a fairly standard pattern for band-leader-turned-solo-
And while it all sounds great, it's his words that are perhaps most important here. Much of Blunderbuss feels like a kiss-off to the White Stripes (or, specifically, ex-wife/bandmate Meg White), particularly on "Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy." In fact, "kiss-off" might be too strong; more than any other emotion, Blunderbuss reveals White as deeply disappointed. And maybe that's the source of my (personal) hesitance with the record. As rock music goes, extreme emotions play much better - anger, love, joy, despair. But at age 36, White seems to have realized that adulthood is a scam - and for many of us, that's a sentiment that hits just a little too close to home.
Freedom At 21:
The Rest have been busy since the release of their latest album, SEESAW (one of GTI's Best Albums of 2012). Every few months, the band unveils a creative new video, with the goal of eventually releasing one for all ten tracks on the album. We've already been treated to a wide range of visual storytelling for "Hey! For Horses," "John Huston," and "Always on My Mind." Today, the band debuted its latest video, this time for album-opener "Who Knows." It's arguably the best song on SEESAW and definitely a personal favorite of mine, and now just may be the band's best video yet. It was produced and directed by Lee Skinner, who explained:
This video takes advantage of the "rolling shutter" issue in digital cinematography, a problem inherent in all DSLR cameras with CMOS sensors. The progressive scan of each frame of video leads to the distortion of fast-moving objects, or sometimes turns shaky footage to jello. We turned that on its head and presented the effect creatively, as Guitars, cellos, desk fans, and hummingbirds become warped in a surreal way. An entirely in-camera effect with no post-production necessary.
Have a look and let me know what you think: