Posts Tagged ‘Boston’

See the source image

“Spread The Feeling” is the sixth or seventh studio LP by The Pernice Brothers. I’m honestly not sure. I don’t keep track. All I know is that if I play one song off each album at a gig, it’s a long show. Joe Pernice formed Pernice Brothers in Massachusetts with his brother Bob in 1997 when Joe was playing with his band the Scud Mountain Boys. The Scuds disbanded later that year, and Pernice Brothers became Joe’s main musical focus. Their debut release was the ’97 Monkey Suit 7” on Sub Pop Records, followed by the LP “Overcome by Happiness” in ’98.
Pernice & Linehan launched their Ashmont Records in ’99

I recorded a full length Pernice Brothers record a few years back, but ditched it after it was mixed. Scrapping it had everything to do with me not liking the songs. The playing, the recording and mixing were fantastic to my ears. After letting the mixes sit for a while . But there were a couple songs that were really good and deserved to be saved, unlike my soul. I holed up with engineer/musician extraordinaire Liam Jaeger in Toronto, and we reworked/mixed the songs worth the time. Then we kept recording new songs until “Spread The Feeling” was done. (I am toying with releasing all my rejected recording on a double CD called SHITTY SONGS.

Eric Menck came up with the title. I think it was a peanut butter ad campaign slogan.

I don’t know if “Spread The Feeling” is a return to some kind of form. That’s for other people to decide. To be honest, I write all kinds of songs all the time. It might come down to my mood at the time as to which songs make a record. This record definitely has the most “muscle” of all my records. (That’s not saying much if you compare it to say, PINE BOX by the Scud Mountain Boys.) The playing is pretty nuts. Liam Jaeger and James Walbourne are two of the finest guitarists out there. Peyton Pinkerton is a true genius. It should be no surprise to learn that he’s an exceptional painter. All three players wowed me at every turn. Both Patrick Berkery and Ric Menck played drums. They are as good as it gets in my opinion. Neko Case and Pete Yorn were extremely generous with their voices. I’m grateful to both for elevating the songs. Oh, and my brother Bob is on there too, as always.

http://

The record was recorded and mixed in Boston, Toronto and Washington State.

What’s the single? Probably “The Devil And The Jinn” or “Mint Condition” or “Lullaby.” I have my favourite songs, but they are almost never the ones most people like. For instance, this song didn’t make the cut, but the chorus is pretty badass:

The cover photo was snapped in the early 1970s by late great BMX team owner Rick Twomey. Team member Mel Stoutsenberger launches out of the concrete flood channel into the Simi Valley heat. Rick’s Bike Shop team members and local talent look on in with admiration, chomping at the bit for their turn. Just a bunch of kids hanging out, getting rad, spreading the feeling. Joe Pernice

All songs by Joe Pernice,

On “Giver Taker”, the gorgeous debut album by Anjimile, death and life are always entwined, wrapping around each other in a dance of reverence, reciprocity, and, ultimately, rebirth.

Giver Taker is a confident, intentional and introspective. Anjimile Chithambo (they/them, he/him) wrote much of the album while in treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, as well as while in the process of living more fully as a nonbinary trans person. Loss hovers over the album, whose songs grieve for lost friends (“Giver Taker”) and family members (“1978”) along with lost selves (“Maker,” “Baby No More,” “In Your Eyes.”) But here, grief yields an opening: a chance for new growth. “A lot of the album was written when I was literally in the process of improving my mental health, so there’s a lot of hopefulness and wonder at the fact that I was able to survive,” says Chithambo. “Not only survive but restart my life and work towards becoming the person I was meant to be.”

Each song on the album is its own micro-journey, adding up to a transformative epic cycle created in collaboration with bandmate Justine Bowe of Photocomfort and New-York based artist/producer Gabe Goodman. “1978” and “Maker” both begin as Sufjan Stevens-esque pastoral ballads with Chithambo’s mesmerizing voice foregrounded against minimal instrumentation and swell into the realm of the majestic through the addition of warm, steady instrumentation (informed by the mix of 80’s pop and African music Chithambo’s Malawi-born parents played around the house) and harmonies by Bowe. “In Your Eyes” starts out hushed and builds to a crescendo via a mighty chorus inspired by none other than The Lion King. The allusion is fitting: each song encapsulates a heroic voyage, walked alone until accompanied by kindred souls. The choirs present throughout are equally deliberate. Chithambo grew up as a choir boy himself, and several songs (notably “Maker”) grasp not only towards reconciliation between his trans identity and his parents’ strong religious beliefs, but towards reclaiming his trans identity as an essential part of his own spirituality. (“[Less] Judeo-Christian, more ‘Colors of the Wind.’”) There is a boldness to this borrowing and shaping, a resoluteness that results from passing through hardship and emerging brighter, steadier. As a closing refrain on “To Meet You There” might sum it up: “Catalyst light of mine / now is your time.”

Giver Taker was recorded in Brooklyn, Boston, and New Hampshire by Goodman, thanks in part to the Live Arts Boston Grant by the Boston Foundation.

From the album, Giver Taker, out now. Vinyl/CD/Cassette/Digital Father Daughter Records

Boston singer and songwriter Ella Williams released her debut LP as Squirrel Flower, “I Was Born Swimming”, on Polyvinyl Record Co. in 2019. Now she’s announced its follow-up, Planet (i), due out June 25th via Polyvinyl. Ali Chant produced the album, which was written mostly before COVID and recorded in Bristol in fall of 2020. “Planet (i) is my body and mind, and it’s the physical and emotional world of our planet,” Ella says. “It’s both.” You can see the cover art below.

The new single, “Hurt a Fly,” and it’s accompanying music video. The video, directed by Ryan Schnackenberg, finds Williams thrashing around in the same sort of plastic bubble as favoured by The Flaming Lips as of late, all against the almost telephone-like processing of Williams’ breathy, brooding vocals. Lyrics like “Thought that I told you the storm ended, / And I’m never wrong / Took it too far again / Followed you home again” add to the dark atmosphere that the song’s urgent piano and fuzzy guitar help to create.

Williams elaborated on the song’s lyrics, and the creation of the music video, in a statement: “‘Hurt a Fly’ is me embodying a persona of gaslighting, narcissistic soft-boy type shit. The classic ‘sorry I acted violently, I’m not mad that you got upset at me, wanna hang out next week?’ I wanted to see what it was like to be a character trying to skirt around accountability. It’s an angry and unhinged song, and for the video I wanted to be inside a bubble writhing around and trying to get out.

The first single is “Hurt a Fly,” which you can watch the video for below. “Hurt A Fly’ is me embodying a persona of gaslighting, narcissistic soft-boy type shit,” Ella says. “The classic ‘sorry I acted violently, I’m not mad that you got upset at me, wanna hang out next week?’. I wanted to see what it was like to be a character trying to skirt around accountability. It’s an angry and unhinged song, and for the video I wanted to be inside a bubble writhing around and trying to get out. A stranger filmed me practicing choreography at a public park, submitted it to a meme page making fun of ‘influencers,’ and the video got 1,000,000 views, which in my mind is perfect thematically.”

“Hurt A Fly” is taken from Squirrel Flower​’s sophomore album, Planet (i), out June 25th, 2021.

Underground rock festered and splintered as it spread through the U.S. in the mid-’90s, the alternative boom giving rise to microcosmic regional scenes singularly focused on feral powerviolence or screamo songs about breakfast. Boston’s Karate emerged as a force that could grip a national youth movement whose disparate tastes still commingled in the inky pages of fanzines overflowing with florid prose and on concert calendars for volunteer-run DIY spaces, community centres, and bowling alleys. In this world, Karate’s music was an enigma, one equally inviting to sneering punks and highfalutin indie-rock aficionados. Their 1996 self-titled debut, issued on Southern Records, set the standard. Lasooing together white-knuckle post-hardcore tension, sharply focused slow-core serenity, and resplendent jazz complexity, Karate eschewed settling in any one definiable style. But they certainly used the language of punk to get their point across; occasionally, guitarist Geoff Farina abandons his warm, hushed cadences for a hoarse shout that made him sound ragged, intensifying an aggression that burst out with every snaggle toothed guitar riff or drum snap that went off like canon fire. Few followed their path—but who could keep up? Karate could make pensive moods blossom into feverish rollicking (“What Is Sleep?”), gracefully tip-toe around aggressive punk explosions without getting bent out of shape (“Bodies”), and stretch out slow core’s quietest reveries till their reflective notes sound ripped from an improvisational jazz session (“Caffeine or Me?”). Karate formally introduced the trio as a vital part of an independent U.S. punk scene stubbornly flowering in the face of the major labels’ ’90s harvest. 

http://

Released April 1st, 2021

May be an image of 4 people, people standing and indoor

2020 was poised to be Future Teens’ breakout year. After releasing their sophomore LP Breakup Season, cosplaying as Carly Rae Jepsen, and zeroing on the romantic longing of fans worldwide, the Boston quartet was rising. While such a hard stop was part of every band’s story in 2020, the momentum hadn’t left the group — guitarists/vocalists Amy Hoffman and Daniel Radin, drummer Colby Blauvelt, and bassist Maya Mortman — straying too far from their central heartline. Deliberately Alive, their blustery follow-up EP, is Future Teens at their most explosive and earnest, showcasing a band in between journal volumes.

Fans of the band’s confessional tone will hear it ring throughout, regardless of the messenger. When Hoffman’s lead vocalist, you get “Guest Room,” a strutting emo-pop moment where there’s more than just the first of the month living rent-free in their head. Radin’s turn brings “Play Cool,” a vignette of gig life and the fallouts that can occur during a local opener’s set. Both deliver the classic Future Teens formula: open on a slice of East Coast life, sprinkle in some anxiety and self-facing critique, and let the band surge beneath. Winking one-liners characterize both Radin’s “Separated Anxiety,” which crackles the release to life, and Hoffman’s “Bizarre Affection,” featuring a starburst of an intro that disintegrates into another night alone.

But as Future Teens knows, there’s an after implied in all of these uneasy, warped presents—make sure you stick around for Future Teens’ latest reimagining of a pop song. Happy Future Teens day everyone! Your favourite Boston bummer-pop band is back with their new EP entitled “Deliberately Alive”5 songs that include a more than stellar cover of Cher’s “Believe”UK/EU people can grab an exclusive vinyl variant from Banquet Records

http://

The band has two poles in the form of co-vocalists Amy Hoffman and Daniel Radin, and they wail at each other across a divide made up of craggy guitars and emotional pitfalls. They’re both lovesick and stressed, singing about how anxiety can swallow you whole and leave you alone, the very demons you’re trying to outrun causing your downfall.”- Stereogum 

“Listening to a Future Teens song is the equivalent of wistfully mourning a breakup while swiping mindlessly through your Tinder matches: Somehow the band has carefully articulated the art of being both lovesick and anxious in the digital age. Future Teens are wallowing in their emotions, turning to an app to heal their hearts, then realizing it’s never that easy.” – Flood Magazine 

Deliberately Alive is out March 12th UK/EU Distro via Banquet Records/Take This To Heart Records

May be an image of text that says 'new album out march 12th DELIBERATELY ALIVE first single out now order on vinyl and cd at takethistoheartrecords.com'

Over the past four years, Juliana Hatfield has kept fans engaged and intrigued as she oscillates between impassioned original releases (Pussycat, Weird) and inspired covers collections (Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John, Juliana Hatfield Sings The Police). This year she returns with her latest album of originals, “Blood”, out May 14th, 2021.

Her 19th solo studio album takes a deep dive into the dark side with a lens on modern human psychology and behaviour. “I think these songs are a reaction to how seriously and negatively a lot of people have been affected by the past four years,” says Juliana. “But it’s fun, musically. There’s a lot of playing around. I didn’t really have a plan when I started this project.”

With the pandemic limiting studio safety and availability, Juliana took the opportunity to learn to record at her Massachusetts home with recent collaborator Jed Davis assisting from Connecticut. “Usually I work in a studio,” explains Juliana. “I did more than half the work in my room—with Jed helping me to troubleshoot the technology, and helping with building and arranging some of the songs–and then I finished up with additional overdubs and mixing with engineer James Bridges at Q Division Studios in Somerville, MA.”

The first single, “Mouthful of Blood”, is gritty and abrasive yet groovy and melodic. That duality is represented throughout “Blood”. It is eminently hummable and thought-provoking. Sophisticated but catchy. Challenging but danceable.

“I always love coming up with melodies and then trying to fit words into them—it’s like doing a puzzle,” says Juliana. “And I always find places to use the Mellotron flutes and strings, on every album, because those sounds are so beautiful to me. They are a nice counterpoint to the damaged lyrical content.” 

Releases May 14th, 2021

There really aren’t many bands like Really From, whose of mix emo, math rock, jazz and more is as distinct as it is seamless, and their sound varies from song to song too. This second single from their upcoming self-titled album has more of an ethereal art pop vibe than the first single, and both are great. Drawing on influences of jazz improvisation, minimalist composition, and punk rock ethos, the Boston-based band Really From dismiss traditional genre and formulae in favour of explorative, indie rock amalgamations. Since 2014, their ever-evolving sound has incorporated stylistic touchstones from math rock to ambient, exploring themes of place, self, and culture through a dialect entirely their own. Michi Tassey (keys, synth bass) and Chris Lee-Rodriguez (guitar) exchange vocal leads regularly, shifting perspectives and ranges as their songs cascade through varied musical worlds, refracting their thematic questions concerned with intergenerational trauma, tokenism, and immigrant parenthood. Trumpeter Matt Hull and drummer Sander Bryce often take on lead voices of their own, further reconfiguring traditional notions of genre and songwriting.

http://

“Try Lingual,” the lead single from Really From’s self-titled and third album, sees the quartet at their most all-encompassing. Thematically, it’s an apt setting for exploring Lee-Rodriguez’s personal struggles with learning Spanish, and Tassey’s with Japanese, in order to better communicate with their families and communities. At first calm and collected, then brassy, chaotic, and disjointed, “Try Lingual” is wrought with the anxiety of struggling to keep up. Tassey and Lee-Rodriguez sing as foils to one another, as if to encourage the other to unlearn their self-blaming habits. Trumpeter Hull’s jazzy sensibility often sings in unison with his melodic counterparts, but when let loose between and around the beats, Hull’s calculated, eruptive wailing mirrors the eureka moments that abound when trying to learn a new language, as well reflecting the less conclusive and more challenging hurdles that come with learning a new tongue. Like a linguistic epiphany, new worlds are revealed. Previously impossible conversations become accessible. Yet the learning persists, and other doors remain to be opened.

Really From are especially adept at bending their somewhat unusual instrumentation of trumpet, keys, guitar, and drumset into both abstract and intentional forms. On the album’s second single, “Quirk,” a warm swell of synth welcomes listeners into a bouncing, odd-timed exploration of inherited trauma, qualities, and laughter. Underscored by JD Beck-like flourishes of drummer Sander Bryce, the opening 5/8 groove builds unpredictably, but with a precise foundation for Lee-Rodriguez’s lyrical unpacking of intergenerational trauma. While “Quirk” might not offer definitive resolution to its raised questions, its lines are punctuated with poetic acceptance—“As you sow your seed / I’ll reap from everything that stays.” “Your father knew this / your mother did too / the fault’s not on them.”

Releases March 12th, 2021

Really From is Chris Lee-Rodriguez, Sander Bryce, Michi Tassey & Matt Hull
Chris Lee-Rodriguez – Vocals, Electric Guitar, Classical Guitar
Sander Bryce – Drum Set
Michi Tassey – Vocals, Piano, Keyboard, Synth Bass (Tracks 1 and 7)
Matt Hull – Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Trombone
Sai Boddupalli – Sound Design, Programming, Synth Bass (Tracks 2, 4-6, 8), Bass Guitar (Track 3)

Ranking Every Song on The Magnetic Fields' <i>69 Love Songs</i>

The Magnetic Fields’ three-disc album “69 Love Songs” is a staggering achievement, a cultural landmark, a monument to romantic, yet urbane misery. Calling it a concept album seems inadequate. At once theatrical and literary, it’s a dazzling kaleidoscope of pop and Americana, a pageant of queer (or at least sexually ambiguous) and not-that-queer heartbreak, with occasional flurries of happiness. From track to track the several voices on the album whip from tender sincerity to extreme camp, adding up to 69 mostly great songs that worship, mock and interrogate love by turns, released just before the turn of the millennium.

That said, not all of the “69 Love Songs” are of equal quality, but perhaps deliberately so. To borrow a line from “The Book of Love” on disc one, some if it is transcendental; some of it is just really dumb. Some are captivating love stories with melodies that worm their way into your heart some are maudlin little ditties, some are bad gags, some are booby trapped. Really, though, that’s part of the charm of the album when taken as a whole. It’s unnecessary, quixotic, excessive, relentless, sometimes grotesque, even occasionally genuinely romantic.

The album is an overwhelming text on its own and more still has been written about it, but an album like this demands a thorough inventory, the kind that can only be done one song at a time. The challenge, of course, is that this three-disc album contains a much higher percentage of great songs than most albums of more standard length.

Released in 1999, 69 Love Songs is a brilliant, sprawling, three-part record by The Magnetic Fields, the lo-fi indie collective formed in 1989 by Boston-born, New York-based songwriter Stephin Merritt with a revolving cast of male and female vocalists (plus author Lemony Snicket on accordion). Early albums included tributes to Phil Spector, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Cole Porter. Pop snobs loved the layers of reference: the songs were always about songs.

A caustic and cerebral character (so relentlessly condescending that I gave up interviewing him in 2008), Merritt originally conceived the band’s sixth release as a Sondheim-indebted theatrical revue for four drag queens. The subject, he says, is not love, but love songs. With all the cynical wit of a modern Dorothy Parker, he planned to pick apart all the cliches of the canon while showcasing his ability to mass produce catchy melodies like a vintage Brill Building jangler.

To keep things fresh across almost three hours of music, Merritt dressed his ditties in every genre going: folk, rock, country, indie, gospel, punk, jazz, synth-pop and little outbursts of daft experimentalism. The use of different singers, flipping gender and register, keeps you on your toes. Who’s playing what game now? Who’s telling the truth and who’s lying to you?

Merritt threw every sentimental trick in the book at this record: big swoops and swirls up and down the octave, tear-jerking minor chords, and an attic full of sepia-tinged pop-culture references. One song finds an abandoned spouse seeking refuge in dreams staged by the legendary Hollywood choreographer Busby Berkeley: “Whining and pining is wrong and so/ On and so forth, of course of course/ But no, you can’t have a divorce”. Another spurned lover seeks solace in his Billie Holiday records: “Some of us can only live in songs of love and trouble/ Some of us can only live in bubbles”. This pretty tune is offset by a suicidal mindset and a discordant piano.

Each of Merritt’s emotional sucker punches is delivered with one eyebrow raised at listeners who buy into his “fraudulent authenticity”. This means that anybody going through a traumatic experience can use the music to flush out all the messy feelings – or consider them from a strangely dispassionate distance. “The book of love has music in it/ In fact, that’s where music comes from/ Some of it is just transcendental/ Some of it is just really dumb”, he sings in a bone-dry baritone, over a guitar that sounds like he’s strumming it with a nail brush.

In the weeks directly after my partner left, I struggled to rock my one-year-old daughter to sleep while repeatedly herding my four-year-old son back into his bedroom. My tears would splash onto his Hungry Caterpillar duvet as I sang along with the romantic lullaby tune of “Come Back from San Francisco”, sung by Claudia Gonson in a rich, open alto. The part of me that joined Merritt in observing the feelings from afar had nothing but contempt for a woman who yearned for the return of a man who could do this to her.

Although almost all the widely cherished songs on 69 Love Songs are delivered like demos, few have been covered. Despite the catchy, FM-friendly melodies and delectable lyrics, they’re so perfect as they are that to flesh them out would be as crass as daubing Dulux over ancient Greek statues. The spaces in the production are reminiscent of the unanswered questions at the end of a good short story. Some days I find the countryfied electric guitar of “No One Will Ever Love You Honestly” gains truth as it echoes.

Merritt’s sepulchral tones on “I Don’t Want to Get Over You” made me hoot. Too busy fixing washing machines and meeting concerned teachers, I had certainly never been through a period during which I could “dress in black and read Camus/ Smoke clove cigarettes and drink vermouth/ Like I was 17/ That would be a scream/ But I don’t want to get over you…”

This is a murder ballad, a Punch and Judy show, definitely not a love song, and therefore doesn’t belong on an album called 69 Love Songs.

By 1999, The Magnetic Fields had long been darlings of the college radio circuit. The band, led by Stephin Merritt, emerged from Boston in 1991 with the single “100,000 Fireflies” on Harriet Records a small indie pop label that would itself enjoy a cult following during that decade, followed by the self-released full-length Distant Plastic Trees. In the years that followed, Merritt balanced a steady stream of Magnetic Fields releases with several side projects—The Sixths, The Gothic Archies, and Future Bible Heroes—all of which positioned him as one of the era’s most well-regarded songwriters. So, when “69 Love Songs”, a triple-CD collection that served as The Magnetic Fields sixth album, dropped on September 7th, 1999, it was an event. In fact, its release was supported by a two-night stint in New York, where the band played every song off the album, in order.

In a recent podcast, Merrit and author Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket—who was a collaborator on “69 Love Songs”—discussed whether or not it was the last great album of the 20th century or first of the 2000s. (Merritt explained that there was greater demand than there were copies pressed for the initial release, so many listeners couldn’t get the album until early in 2000.) Ultimately, 69 Love Songs bridges both decades and millennia. It was a culmination of the work Merritt and The Magnetic Fields had been building until that point, and it set the stage for what would come in the next two decades.

In many ways, 69 Love Songs was a novelty: a behemoth collection of cross-genre tunes, united under a broad theme and cheeky album title. But it definitely didn’t seem out of character for Merritt. Part of his appeal as a songwriter is Merritt’s knack for writing vivid, emotionally complicated love songs, well apparent on earlier releases like “100,000 Fireflies” and the previous year’s single “I Don’t Believe You” (later released on their 2004 album, I).

The album catapulted the band out of the college radio and indie circle at a time when the music industry was changing. They would remain a cult sensation—but one that got significant recognition. In 1999, 69 Love Songs was included on multiple year-end best of lists. Over the years, 69 Love Songs has spawned fan sites and a number of critical reassessments. In 2006, it got its own book in the 33 1/3 series, by LD Beghtol, also a collaborator on the album.

Meanwhile, four Magnetic Fields albums that followed—“i, Distortion, Realism”, and “Love at the Bottom”all hit the USA Charts. Merritt himself branched out into other projects, including writing the music and lyrics for the off-Broadway adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, which earned him an Obie. In 2017, The Magnetic Fields released another massive concept album, 50 Song Memoir, which essentially serves as Merritt’s autobiography. we offer 10 tunes from “69 Love Songs” to draw you into this now-classic collection.

 

“The Book of Love”

Beghtol’s 33 1/3 book notes that, in 1999, “The Book of Love” was voted number two in a 69 Love Songs “top 10” poll for the stephinsongs.com mailing list. By 2006, it had risen to the top spot. Both the book and Merritt’s recent Talkhouse podcast note that the song has been performed at multiple weddings by multiple members of the band. Clearly, it’s a fan favourite. It’s also popular amongst musicians, having been covered by a wide range of artists, including Peter Gabriel and The Airborne Toxic Event. Gabriel’s version was particularly successful;  it appeared on the soundtrack of the film Shall We Dance? in 2004.

“The Book of Love” says a lot about amour, but it also says a lot about this album; Merritt himself described it as a manifesto. “The book of love has music in it / In fact that’s where music comes from,” he sings in the second verse. “Some of it is just transcendental / Some of it is just really dumb.”

“Sweet-Lovin’ Man”

According to Merritt, per Beghtol’s 33 1/3 book, “Sweet-Lovin’ Man” began its life as a synth-pop song originally intended for The Magnetic Fields’ 1992 sophomore album, The Wayward Bus. It didn’t make the cut, and was reworked. Claudia Gonson, who sings lead here, said in the same book that she had hoped that “Sweet-Lovin’ Man” would go on to become “a major alt-country hit.”

Somewhere in between its synth-pop beginnings and alt-country ambitions, The Magnetic Fields hit a sweet spot. It’s a lyrically straight-forward song; Gonson’s vocals have a sense of hopefulness to them, which is juxtaposed with dense production that combines actual strings with synth ones. “Sweet-Lovin’ Man” is an example of a bunch of the multitude of influences for 69 Love Songs coming together into one piece that defies clear categorization.

“When My Boy Walks Down the Street”

In “When My Boy Walks Down the Street,” the exuberance of new love is apparent already in the opening line, “Grand pianos crash together / When my own walks down the street.” This feeling of overwhelming attraction grows with each sharp, beautifully hyperbolic line.

“When My Boy Walks Down the Street” plays with the tropes of giddy ’60s love pop in a way that was radical for 1999. Merritt, who handles vocals here, subverts ideas of gender with the line, “and he’s going to be my wife.” He’s also introducing marriage as an inevitable end-goal five years before the first U.S. state legalized same-sex marriage. That he does this with one fragment of a sentence, so casually dropped in the chorus, is a powerful statement.

“Grand Canyon”

If electronic Americana were a genre, “Grand Canyon” could be the defining song. Merritt’s references here are distinctly drawn from U.S. geography and lore. “If I was the Grand Canyon / I’d echo everything you say,” he sings, followed in the second verse by, “If I was Paul Bunyan / I’d carry you so far away.” It’s written as a folk song meant for a night around a campfire, with voices joining in as the song progresses. Yet, it’s also heavily a synth song.

In “Grand Canyon,” the hooks are so strong, and Merritt’s delivery is so incredibly forlorn, that it practically demands repeated listens. What becomes more interesting after the first play, though, are the small details in the production, like subtle fuzz that gives the impression of through dusty vinyl, and the echo on Merritt’s own vocals that emphasize the Grand Canyon metaphor.

“If You Don’t Cry”

A synth-pop gem with Gonson on vocals, “If You Don’t Cry” taps into the nightlife ritual of hitting the bar and dancefloor to try and keep the tears at bay. At 139 BPM, its tempo is closer to what you would hear at a ’80s electronic night where DJs are dropping tracks by the likes of Ultravox and Soft Cell. Lyrically, it directly references that experience of nursing your broken heart with booze and lonesome dancing.

Then there’s the chorus, “If you don’t cry, it isn’t love / If you don’t cry, then you just don’t feel it deep enough,” a theme revisited throughout the album. 69 Love Songsis full of so many deeply tender moments that it can be an absolute tear-jerker. Listen with a box of tissues.

“Long-Forgotten Fairytale”

The Magnetic Fields had already made a fair share of songs that could be considered synth-pop, but “Long-Forgotten Fairytale” is perhaps their most unapologetically ’80s of these gems. The Pet Shop Boys are an obvious influence on the cut—Merritt mentions this in the 33 1/3 book—but listen closely and you’ll hear strains of others as well, perhaps a little ABC or (fittingly) Book of Love. Dudley Klute, who sang with Belgian synth outfit Kid Montana back in the ’80s, handles lead vocals on this track.

In 1999, using ’80s synthpop as a point of reference was far from hip and, with “Long-Forgotten Fairytale,” The Magnetic Fields were among very few in the indie world to mine a sound that wouldn’t come back into vogue for another few years. It may be a bit of a throwback, but “Long-Forgotten Fairytale” also foreshadowed the sound of the early 2000s.

“Papa Was a Rodeo”

Another fan favourite, “Papa Was a Rodeo,” was voted number one in the stephinsongs.com poll back in ’99. The country-tinged number with Merritt on lead and Shirley Simms dropping in for the final chorus, is narrative-driven with a twist that might bring a happy tear to even the most hardened cynics.

“Papa Was a Rodeo” begins with the assumption that this affair will go nowhere. Our narrator warns that long-term love isn’t an option for someone who “never stuck around long enough for a one night stand.” Flash forward, though “and now it’s 55 years later / We’ve had the romance of the century.” A romance flick condensed into a pop song, “Papa Was a Rodeo” gives listeners a well-deserved happy ending.

http://

“It’s a Crime”

“Swedish reggae” is the descriptive used for “It’s a Crime” in the 69 Love Songs 33 1/3 book, but the mellow cut with Klute on vocals has more of a new wave vibe. In fact, if there’s one song that sounds like a true predecessor to “It’s a Crime,” it’s Blondie’s version of “The Tide Is High,” at least at first listen.

Tune in a little deeper and you’ll hear the killer dub bassline bubbling underneath the vocals and electronic squiggles. It’s what gives “It’s a Crime” strength, an indicator that The Magnetic Fields were both studied in their approach to covering multiple genres and willing to have fun with it.

“The Death of Ferdinand De Saussure”

“The Death of Ferdinand De Saussure” is, on the surface, one of the most confusing entries on 69 Love Songs. Other narratives in this collection are very clearly about falling in and out of love. This one depicts a meeting with the pioneering linguist, who explains, “So we don’t know anything. You don’t know anything. I don’t know anything about love. But we are nothing. You are nothing. I am nothing without love.”

Then our protagonist shoots the academic and makes the proclamation, “It’s well and kosher to say you don’t understand, but this is for Holland-Dozier-Holland.”

The song writing team of brothers Eddie and Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier helped define the Motown sound—and thus wrote some of the most memorable love songs of the 1960s and early ’70s. Amongst their credits: “Baby Love,” “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” and “Stop! In the Name of Love.” They also wrote heartbreakers like “My World Is Empty Without You,” “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” and “Band of Gold.” If anyone knows anything about love, it’s Holland-Dozier-Holland.

In a sense, “The Death of Ferdinand De Saussure” is about the power of love songs. Can you really argue that humans don’t know about love after listening to The Supremes?

“I Can’t Touch You Anymore”

“I Can’t Touch You Anymore” might be one of the more quintessentially ’90s tracks on 69 Love Songs—check out that sped-up trip-hop beat that comes to a gloomy grind at the conclusion. It wouldn’t sound out of place in a mix alongside Garbage and Blur. Despite the acclaim that 69 Love Songs received upon its releasethis song’s potential as an indie dance song was perhaps overlooked.

What’s also interesting about “I Can’t Touch You Anymore” is the way the production mirrors the lyrics. There’s a sexy groove throughout that’s put on hold at several points within it, mimicking a second thought about returning to a lover who’s bad for you. With the refrain of “I love you, I can’t touch you anymore,” that’s all too perfect.

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses

On his opulent debut album “Giver Taker” Anjimile’s most powerful and enchanting instrument is his voice. The project which serves as a testament to the different stages of healing is a sparse nine-track undertaking that reveals just how resilient our protagonist truly is. Anjimile’s story is an uncommon one, but an uplifting one nonetheless: A trans person in the midst of battling his own demons excavates the most troubling parts of his past and ultimately seeks out catharsis. Giver Taker is captivating in its detailed storytelling, luscious harmonies and admirable vulnerability. On Giver Taker, the gorgeous debut album by Anjimile, death and life are always entwined, wrapping around each other in a dance of reverence, reciprocity, and, ultimately, rebirth.“Giver Taker” is confident, intentional and introspective. Anjimile Chithambo (they/them, he/him) wrote much of the album while in treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, as well as while in the process of living more fully as a nonbinary trans person. Loss hovers over the album, whose songs grieve for lost friends (“Giver Taker”) and family members (“1978”) along with lost selves (“Maker,” “Baby No More,” “In Your Eyes.”) But here, grief yields an opening: a chance for new growth. “A lot of the album was written when I was literally in the process of improving my mental health, so there’s a lot of hopefulness and wonder at the fact that I was able to survive,” says Chithambo. “Not only survive but restart my life and work towards becoming the person I was meant to be.”

Each song on the album is its own micro-journey, adding up to a transformative epic cycle created in collaboration with bandmate Justine Bowe of Photocomfort and New-York based artist/producer Gabe Goodman. “1978” and “Maker” both begin as Sufjan Stevens-esque pastoral ballads with Chithambo’s mesmerizing voice foregrounded against minimal instrumentation and swell into the realm of the majestic through the addition of warm, steady instrumentation (informed by the mix of 80’s pop and African music Chithambo’s Malawi-born parents played around the house) and harmonies by Bowe. “In Your Eyes” starts out hushed and builds to a crescendo via a mighty chorus inspired by none other than The Lion King. The allusion is fitting: each song encapsulates a heroic voyage, walked alone until accompanied by kindred souls. The choirs present throughout are equally deliberate. Chithambo grew up as a choir boy himself, and several songs (notably “Maker”) grasp not only towards reconciliation between his trans identity and his parents’ strong religious beliefs, but towards reclaiming his trans identity as an essential part of his own spirituality. (“[Less] Judeo-Christian, more ‘Colours of the Wind.’”) There is a boldness to this borrowing and shaping, a resoluteness that results from passing through hardship and emerging brighter, steadier. As a closing refrain on “To Meet You There” might sum it up: “Catalyst light of mine / now is your time.”

http://

Giver Taker was recorded in Brooklyn, Boston, and New Hampshire by Goodman, thanks in part to the Live Arts Boston Grant by the Boston Foundation. All songs written by Anjimile Chithambo

“Maker” by Anjimile From the album, Giver Taker, out now.  released September 18th, 2020.