Links Around the Web – 06/19/15

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Here I am, the much-maligned but never-convicted Wolf, serving up the hottest hotlinks for your lazy Friday web browsing.


Cory Branan, knbranan-resizedown wastrel, has a couple of cool things up on Spotify. The first is a recorded Audiotree Live session of tunes, in which we get high quality solo-acoustic Branan which is always a treat. The second is a new hobby for Cory: playlist cultivation. One playlist a month, featuring one songwriter, and first up is Queen’s Freddie Mercury! Once you’re done with all that fancy streaming audio head over to Cory’s website for tour dates and records.


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It’s no secret that I’m a huge Against Me! fan, and one of the many pre-orders announced this past week was for their upcoming concert record “23 Live Sex Acts”. You can check out a preview song, and be just as impressed as I was. Pre-order from iTunes or Amazon, and check out that cover art!

 


1385023_593523444022907_1631043531_nYou think just because Charles Hale is no longer on staff at 9b you can escape the glourious sonic musings of the Ajax Diner Book Club? Well think again, chump! Listen to his show, then head on over to Facebook and like the page for constant updates. He starts this one off with McDougall’s “Coleraine”, which is as good a way to start something as a song can be.


 

Titus Andronicus,8f94c354one of many bands I discovered through 9b, has a new record coming out soon (“The Most Lamentable Tragedy”) and it’s a doozy. You can pre-order this 2-CD or 3-LP beast here, but since it’s taken so long to get out the band has decided to throw us a bone. They just released a free mixtape entitled “Sorry About The Delay” and put it up for streaming or download on their website. It’s full of unreleased tracks, rehearsals, outtakes, and live performances. Worth a listen!


 

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And last but not least, it’s E3! The Electronic Entertainment Expo, or Orthodox Nerd Christmas (dating back before the Reformation, when ComicCon took over). There’s all kinds of new video games announced and previewed and played, and some of it is pretty exciting. I occasionally write for a video gaming site, Colony of Gamers, and since I’m partial if you want to see what the latest haps are on your favorite console or from your favorite publisher, I think you should check it out there!


 

 

Goodbye Joe, Me Gotta Go

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Nearly four years ago I spotted a Help Wanted post on Nine Bullets and responded immediately. The post wasn’t up for long, maybe half a day, and not only did I get lucky to spot that post it also changed my life. My first post was a review of the Cave Singer’s album No Witch and this is my final post for Nine Bullets. After more than a month of internal deliberation I’ve decided it’s time for me to step away. RomeoSidVicious asked me if I wanted to write a final post and this is it.

I’ve reviewed 66 albums, done several interviews, written a variety of essays and rock reports. Finding music that makes your life better is important. Sharing music with other people is important. Writing for Nine Bullets allowed me to have conversations with people that I wasn’t having. It’s amazing what a little website has been able to accomplish and I’m happy that I’ve been able to be a part of it. It’s been a pleasure and an honor.

I’ve tried to write about music I care about using both my heart and my mind. I tried to help people think about the music they loved in a different way. I also tried to introduce people to music they would come to love. I hope you enjoyed what I had to offer. Thank you for reading and caring.

RSV here…

I want to thank Charles for everything he has contributed to 9B for the past four years. He’s been an invaluable resource behind the scenes since I started running the place, even acting as an editor for about the past six months. His knowledge of music is to be envied and I know he pushed me to be a better writer. His absence will be felt here, both in the content and behind the scenes. I will personally miss our interactions and conversations, even if they were only site business. With the relaunch looming it’s hard to see someone so integral to the site taking his leave but his reasons are his own and I respect that. I want to publicly state that he’s always welcome to come back in whatever capacity he desires. For now life has taken him another direction. It’s never easy to say goodbye to a staff member here but at times it’s necessary. I’m choosing to imagine him riding off in to the sunset on his big boy tricycle because it makes me smile. I hope you all remember him fondly, continue to support his radio show, and buy him a round at the Holiday Hangout this year.

Thank you Charles, for everything!

Blue Blood – This Is The Life – 2015

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Several years before I was born my father was working in his bank office in downtown Atlanta when he got a phone call from a bank friend in Athens. The man asked my father to be on the lookout for someone in Atlanta that might want to take a job at the bank in Athens. The job wasn’t in my father’s department so the friend was surprised when my father responded, “well what do you think about me?” There may not be a more significant question asked in the formation of the man I’ve become.

My parents were planning to start a family and didn’t want to raise children in the hustle and bustle of the big city. My father took the job, which was pretty much a demotion, and a few years later I was born. A couple of years after I was born Micheal Stipe met Peter Buck at Wuxtry Records on Clayton Street. Being born and raised in Athens GA has shaped every aspect of my appreciation of music. Everyone knows the big names from Athens, REM, Drive-By Truckers and Widespread Panic and all three have influenced me a great deal. But my curiosity about the bands playing in bars lead me to wandering Clayton and Washington Streets looking for clubs that would let an 18-year-old inside to check out some music.  There are also the highly influential bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, Flat Duo Jets and Drivin’N’Cryin that probably aren’t technically Athens bands but are Athens by association. Because I grew up in Athens my musical identity evolves from that genesis.

I don’t know if this idea about Athens music is something I made up or something I read that one of the town’s noteworthy figures said, but the great thing about Athens is that there is always some kid in a dorm room or in a shitty rental house that’s working on music that will make even the most jaded music fan sit up and listen. Whether the music will change the world or just change your world doesn’t matter, what matters is that there is always a kid in that town that does it.

That feeling of sitting up, being surprised and overjoyed is exactly what happened the moment I dropped the needle on Blue Blood’s debut album This Is The Life. Blue Blood isn’t reinventing the indie-rock wheel but they are without a doubt a crucial spoke in the evolution of Athens music. To make a name for yourself in Athens, to get people to come to your shows, you have to be really good. You have to invest in the art of your music but you also can’t try too hard. Trying too hard is what happens in Atlanta. Everything great about well-crafted, nonchalant rock music jumps out of the speakers throughout This Is The Life but especially during “The Kids Are The City.” If you want you can sit and listen to crunchy guitar leads and well-delivered, townie-life lyrics or you can just nod and sway. But what makes “The Kids Are The City” so quintessential is that if you’re really willing to let go of yourself, shake off the inhibitions and live a little, you can dance your heart out. It’s not a dance song, not by any stretch of the imagination, but if you’re looking for a reason to dance the beat will find you.

“Money To Lose” begins as an easy sing-a-long with melodies like comfort food from Wilson’s Soul Food restaurant.  Yet the song ends in an out-of-nowhere and glorious guitar solo that’s reminiscent of Wilco’s “Impossible Germany” or The Glands’ “Straight Down.” But unlike those two noteworthy guitar solos, Blue Blood cuts this one shorter than they could have, possibly because compelling guitar work also highlights the following song “Birth Right.” But within “Birth Right”  as in each of the selections on This Is The Life, everything serves the songs. Each of the 11 songs are instantly memorable yet interesting upon repeated listens.

The drums on “The Buyout”, the next to last song, song like they’re ready to take off into full-on rock mode but the rest of the band isn’t ready to go there just yet. The musical tension between the drums and the rest of the band builds slightly throughout the song but the band wins. With the line “the walls are falling down” being repeated multiple times it completely sets the stage for the album closer.

“Black”, delivers the line “we had the time of our lives/don’t let it go to your head” enough times that you feel like, not only is the album over but so is the life within This Is The Life. The album doesn’t end with a bang or an outburst of drama but it feels conclusive and complete. It ends with the kid still in his room, trying but not trying to hard. Wanting to makes sense of life or the weekend and not always finding it. 

This Is The Life

The Kids Are The City

Birthright

Official Site, On Facebook, Buy This Is The Life

John Moreland – High On Tulsa Heat – 2015

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Inside John Moreland’s High On Tulsa Heat he writes “This is a record about home. Whatever that is.” and if he had written a similar inscription for 2013’s In The Throes I believe it would have said “This is a record about faith. Whatever that is.” and that is the only comparison I plan to make of those two records in this review. Gone are most of the biblical and religious references and undertones, here they are replaced with elements from the natural world and of people. The ache is there, hung both in Moreland’s voice and in his subtle guitar playing, but so is the beauty.

I’ve been accused of writing too intellectually about music on several occasions and I understand where that criticism comes from. I believe that Moreland’s songwriting belongs in the conversations about the highest examples of the art form and that his craftsmanship and selection of detail have his work on the way to being regarded with masters with names like Van Zandt and Kristofferson. Work like he’s creating is worthy of being written about in intellectual terms and I hope I’m the person to write that story when the time comes. But today I just want to talk about why these songs matter.

I’ve known sadness in the past and know I’ll be visited by it again someday. Chances are that if you’ve latched on to Moreland’s music in the last few years that sadness has also been a companion in your life. The beauty that Moreland is able to express through his saddest songs is the idea that we aren’t alone in these moments. The songs, Moreland’s and the other greats, are there even when we don’t need them just to remind us that they will be when our midnights are too dark to handle.

The longing jumps out of the speakers in the opening “Hang Me In The Tulsa County Stars” and it’s clear that Moreland has truly found his voice as a writer. He gets to the point quickly with the line “My heart is growing heavy from the ever endless hurt” and later “make you homesick for a home you never had/ burning out the good with all the bad.” But an important shift happens when it becomes clear that the song is really about being there for someone else in their trying time not about dwelling on yourself. There are many lines in the second half of the song that talk about being there, being there for that one other person that matters most. I don’t understand every lyric but I want to keep listening while I hope the meaning presents itself. There’s hope in “Hang Me In The Tulsa County Stars,” you have to listen for it but when you hear it you can feel what I like to call Moreland Beauty.

Following on the heels of such a weighty opener, Moreland eases up a bit with “Heart’s Too Heavy.” A full band song that’s catchy as hell, “Heart’s Too Heavy” proves that Moreland isn’t stuck making a follow up and is willing to balance the power his songs wield on both electric and acoustic guitars.

As with any Moreland album there’s line after line in song after song that warrants a mention in a review but there are just too many here and I’m trying my best to not be an intellectual. Instead, I think it’s important to mention the vulnerability expressed in these ten songs. Though probably frightening and nerve-racking to write and perform, the vulnerability most likely leads to a sense of power for Moreland and gives us listeners a sense of calm. Along with the craftsmanship, the vulnerability is what draws people so intensely to Moreland’s songs. You don’t have to try to explain things to yourself when Moreland has already expressed it for you.

By the time the album reaches the landmark “You Don’t Care For Me Enough To Cry,” the balance of band and solo songs on High On Tulsa Heat allows for casual and intense listening. But “You Don’t Care For Me Enough To Cry” is the type of song that demands full attention. Every element of High On Tulsa Heat and John Moreland as a songwriter is wrapped up in four minutes and fourteen seconds. There’s the natural world, longing for home and someone else. There’s the admission of mistakes made and a willingness to try to be better for the sake of someone else. There’s hope and despair in the same breath with equal parts self-loathing and frankness about limitations. Even if this was the only song on High On Tulsa Heat the album would be ESSENTIAL LISTENING but there truly are ten exceptional songs here.

As I was listening and thinking about writing this review a quote from one of my favorite fiction writers got stuck in my mind. Harry Crews writes some of the most brutal fiction I’ve ever read. He puts his character’s vulnerability on full display and at the same time shows us our own. It’s a quote that I carried in my wallet for years and I think it helps explain what it’s like to be a writer and why people respond so passionately to Moreland’s music. He seems to do it to himself in song so we don’t have to.

You continually pick at yourself, the little sores that you have. They scab over and you pick them open again. Other people not only let them scab over, they let them scar over. They leave it alone. Writers don’t do that. They can’t keep their fingers out of the sore. They’ve got to keep it bleeding. And it’s off that blood that they make their stuff.”

Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars

Heart’s Too Heavy

You Don’t Care For Me Enough to Cry

Official Site, On Facebook, Buy High On Tulsa Heat