Pride is 41 minutes of loneliness. It’s like listening to Skinny Love on codeine. Slow, quiet and unsettling in every way. Interludes of noodling guitars underscore Phosphorescent’s multi-layered vocal harmonies to create a sound unlike anything that I’ve ever heard, and when the melodies come in, they’re slow and reserved. Phosphorescent is the working moniker for Matthew Houck, a singer-songwriter from Athens, Georgia. His fourth album, Pride, evokes feelings of solidarity through this contrast of slow, driving melodies and subtle interludes of drones and hisses. The beauty of the album is that it cannot be pigeonholed into the genres that it swings between, folk and ambient, because it captures both so perfectly. The record is hopeful in its tone, engaging with its pop melodies and unnerving with its ambience, to create a unique sound that makes even the toughest traveler nostalgic of their home.
Pride is an album for The Soul-searching Traveler. The person who embarks on journeys to far away lands and returns immersed in new knowledge. The traveler will find solace in the strength of Houck’s vocals and lyrics and a rhythm to travel to in the thumbing bass drum. “Wolves,” arguably the best track on the album, is the perfect example. The song opens with soft, nylon strings strumming a simple melody, until Houck enters with a youthful voice asking for protection from the wolves from his mother. “Mama there’s wolves in the house / Mama, they wont let me out. / Mama, they’re mating at night / Mama, they wont make nice.” As the lone traveler bounces from city to city, from hostel to homestay, the cry for domestic protection is the traveller can relate to. Then, the home-sickness sets in. Read More →
M. Ward has returned with his seventh and latest release, A Wasteland Companion, released today, April 10. He is one of the great musicians among contemporary folk and indie music. M. Ward is mostly known for his last two releases, Post-War from 2006 and Hold Time from 2009 and his work and collaboration with actress and singer Zooey Deschanel and their band, She & Him. M. Ward has a very distinctive style of playing and singing that resonates a warm atmospheric sound that would captivate any listener. A Wasteland Companion is one of his best efforts yet that captures a sweet sound that compliments his usual vintage tone. This album introduces a more mellow sound than his previous records that reflect off some of his work with She & Him. Read More →
I recently discovered this 2010 EP released by McFabulous, the alter-ego of a certain Chicago-based producer and Oberlin alum. Now, don’t get me wrong, I had heard of McFabulous before. He’s practically a legend. But he’s allusive. I once stumbled into a few s(l)ick beats labeled “McFabulous” floating around the iTunes library of an iMac in an internet cafe in Teaneck, NJ sometime in 2008. But there was no way to tell if those were ginuwine or not. So, it was to my surprise and amazement to find this gem surfing the internet just this year.
If you’re not already sold on McFabulous based on the cover art then I suggest you just walk away right now. It only gets better. Really, you just gotta listen to “Hobby Shop.” Beware, you might have to listen on repeat.
When Matt Miller went to Oberlin he was Music Director and Punk Director here at WOBC and played in so many rock ‘n’ roll bands that he was basically responsible for almost all the fun I had in Spring ’09. Now two of his bands’ 7-inch records have arrived to the WOBC punk vault! Both released on Teen-Age Riot, they are killer additions to our collection.
Based in Portland, Oregon, the No Tomorrow Boys remember why seventies punk rockers wanted to look like greasers. They have hairdos! They have matching leather jackets! And they’re punk as heck.
The Miniskirts and the Itchies were a couple of Matt’s Oberlin projects, and these tracks were recorded here in town. “That’s Cool, That’s Trash,” fronted by the Miniskirts, is one of my favorite songs of all time not just because of lines like “There ain’t gonna be no kissing on the dance floor (that’s trash!)/There ain’t gonna be any dancing on the kissing floor (that’s cool!),” but also because punk rock with lady vocalists that is especially for dancing rules. As a matter of fact, all of these songs are especially for dancing and we should all dance to them.
Alain Johannes, who is most commonly known for his work with Natasha Shneider and Jack Irons of the band Eleven, recently released his solo debut, Spark. Johannes is a well-known guitarist and producer in the music industry as he has worked with various prominent groups including, Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, Mark Lanegan and Chris Cornell. Johannes gives a wonderful and impressive collection of tunes that together are under thirty minutes. He uses a diverse number of instruments including his homemade cigfiddle, a harmonium and a contrabass guitar. Spark is dedicated to Johannes former wife and band mate, Natasha Shneider. Throughout this short album, he explores ways in which to deal with the loss of his partner. It’s a touching reminder that sometimes, we are lost without the ones who are close to us, but find a way to move on with that love.
Released February 22, 2011–and reviewed here just in time for her show next Tuesday, April 3 at Fairchild Chapel–Julianna Barwick’s The Magic Place is a dove’s chirp of folky ambiance. The Louisiana-born, Brooklyn-raised artist’s debut album was much anticipated after three hit EPs. The Magic Place is a chanting choir of phantasmal angels dipping in and out of the tiny serene lakes of your ear drums. Imagine echoes of tonal whispers one on top of the other that make you forget that there is an anxiety-filled world waiting for you after the forty-five minute record is finished. Barwick loops her own voice on top of itself again and again into an orchestration of competing hums. The occasional piano or percussion is hardly noticeable, as the sheer number of transformations of her voice are so subsuming. Off of Asthmatic Kitty Records, this ethereal pop fits the most important criteria of my music checklist: it is great for half-awake later afternoon naps. If you can plan you day around it, try to lie in bed in a room with western lighting around six pm and let Julianna dive right into your half-dream half-daze. Dinner will taste unbelievable, promise. Just to retreat to a self-promoting tangent, chances are you’ll hear her on my show, ‘Rambunctious Syllabus’, each Wednesday from 10-11 am here on WOBC.
Some other good ways to listen that I’ve tried: while drawing patterns in colored pencil; sipping a smoothie on a porch; After settling into a warm bubble bath.
It’s great multi-task music. It’ll put you in a zone, so to speak. The bath, the food, the homework, it’ll all become strokes of gracefulness. The secret about The Magic Place is that it can be anywhere that you are, it’s a state of mind. Clearly, there’s no reason to miss this album. And better to get acquainted before she comes to Oberlin so you can be alert for the scattered audible lyrics and sing along so you can join in on the chilled ecstasy. All the eye contact you might make at this show will turn into tear contact. A heightened sense of your own emotions, the feeling of your heat actually throbbing, what more could you ask for? I’ve included the title track on this point. The immense reverb and heaps of pounding joy are made for a spiritual sanctuary like Fairchild chapel. The tracks sway between one and another and the whole album makes a nine-part journey. Each one is like a new cavernous harbor of echo. Each new long-extended tone is unique and keeps you attentive along this misty pilgrimage. Definitely a gem to have here in the WOBC collection.
The Magic Place
2. Keep Up the Good Work
3. The Magic Place // Official Video
5. White Flag
7. Bob in Your Gait