Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland’

Led by powerhouse vocalist, guitarist and ukulelist Willow Hawks, Cleveland quartet The Sonder Bombs are back with the follow-up to their buzzed-about 2018 debut “Modern Female Rockstar”. As its title suggests, “Clothbound”—produced in quarantine by Joe Reinhart (Hop Along, Beach Bunny, Modern Baseball) finds the band interweaving a multitude of ideas, both lyrically and instrumentally. On “k.,” Hawks delivers biting kiss-offs like “Treat your pearls like shit / You’ve always been entitled to it / Run your morgue mouth quick / Parseltongue and electric tips” amid bright ukelele and a pop-punk chug that would make Paramore proud, building to a hardcore breakdown.

Standouts like “The Brink” and closer “Play It By Fear” blend hard-charging punk and hushed pop, excelling in both aspects without selling either short Clothbound is at its best in this sweet spot, with Hawks wearing her emotions on her song writing’s sleeve (“Feeling is fine / You don’t need to be tough / All of the time ’/ We could hit Netflix and a box of wine,” she sings on single “Crying Is Cool”) and couching them in bittersweetly ebullient, multidimensional rock. The Sonder Bombs take aim at the sophomore slump on Clothbound and let loose with both barrels.

I can’t believe the day is here! We’ve been waiting so long to bring you the brand new The Sonder Bombs album entitled “Clothbound”. Please take a listen and remember it’s avail in UK/EU via Big Scary Monsters and in AUZ/NZ via Dew Process. We are so very proud of this band and the album they made!

a revved-up and catchy rocker about urging your friends to get emotionally vulnerable.“Crying Is Cool” has a big pop-punk chorus, and its lyrics are fully sincere: “No one ever tells us it’s OK/ But it’s OK/ Yeah, you are safe.”– Stereogum

“the lead single, “What Are Friends For?” It nails a balance between subdued, folk-tinged indie punk and bigger, more anthemic rock, and it’s a very fun song that you’ll be humming along to before the first listen even ends.”– Brooklyn Vegan

The band’s songwriting is more focused and concise than ever, Willow Hawks’ vocals take on a new shimmer as they float atop nostalgic instrumental arrangements that hammer home the quartet’s new and improved sound.”- Indie Mixtape

The Sonder Bombs – “Crying Is Cool” (Official Music Video) From their album “Clothbound” Out now via Take This To Heart Records/Big Scary Monsters (UK/EU)

The Sonder Bombs have doubled down on their second record. 2018’s debut “Modern Female Rockstar” was their first bet: an all-caps attack against a male-dominated scene brandishing a ukulele and dry wit as chosen weapons. A year and some change passed, where the Cleveland band’s relentless touring ethic and tough love caused a homegrown fan base to explode worldwide. Clothbound, like the title suggests, weaves a different narrative—one of loss, letting go, and losing patience with losers. If the first record introduced unapologetic sensitivity, Clothbound searches for the root causes of other key elements.

Produced in Philadelphia during quarantine with Joe Reinhart (Hop Along, Beach Bunny, Modern Baseball), Clothbound captures a band burning at both ends. Fans of vocalist/ukulele/guitarist Willow Hawks’ exasperated kiss-offs will have plenty to unpack here, from the frantic goodbyes spat through “Swing on Sight” or “What Are Friends For,” where Hawks entertains this question while the background smoulders around the punctuation—a ukulele strum here, Willow Hawks’ vocal line trailing like an asteroid collision there. As this is the second volume in the Sondie songbook, evolved moments, like the acoustic-electric elegy “Scattered,” sit near the band at their most sloganeering and effective. “Crying is Cool,” a live staple eagerly awaiting its reveal, teaches listeners of all ages that it’s okay to hole up with your feelings as long as you give them room to grow.

The band’s also not afraid of taking their own advice, letting their emotions run wild on “k.,” an absolute barnstormer of a track where the Bombs fire off all cylinders while winking to hardcore and metal. The chips are down and the deck is stacked here. The band’s all in. Are you?

The Sonder Bombs – “Vegas, BABY!!!” (Live At Superior Sound) From their album “Clothbound” Out January 29th via Take This To Heart Records/Big Scary Monsters (UK/EU)/Dew Process

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The Sonder Bombs will follow their great 2018 debut album “Modern Female Rockstar” with “Clothbound” on 1/29, and the singles find them taking their ukulele-fuelled indie-pop punk in all kinds of exciting new directions. The Sonder Bombs have doubled down on their second record. 2018’s debut “Modern Female Rockstar” was their first bet: an all-caps attack against a male-dominated scene brandishing a ukulele and dry wit as chosen weapons. A year and some change passed, where the Cleveland band’s relentless touring ethic and tough love caused a homegrown fan base to explode worldwide. Clothbound, like the title suggests, weaves a different narrative—one of loss, letting go, and losing patience with losers. If the first record introduced unapologetic sensitivity, Clothbound searches for the root causes of other key elements.

Produced in Philadelphia during quarantine with Joe Reinhart (Hop Along, Beach Bunny, Modern Baseball), “Clothbound” captures a band burning at both ends. Fans of vocalist/ukulele/guitarist Willow Hawks’ exasperated kiss-offs will have plenty to unpack here, from the frantic goodbyes spat through “Swing on Sight” or “What Are Friends For,” where Hawks entertains this question while the background smoulders around the punctuation—a ukulele strum here, Willow Hawks’ vocal line trailing like an asteroid collision there. As this is the second volume in the Sondie songbook, evolved moments, like the acoustic-electric elegy “Scattered,” sit near the band at their most sloganeering and effective. “Crying is Cool” a live staple eagerly awaiting its reveal, teaches listeners of all ages that it’s okay to hole up with your feelings as long as you give them room to grow. The band’s also not afraid of taking their own advice, letting their emotions run wild on “k.,” an absolute barnstormer of a track where the Bombs fire off all cylinders while winking to hardcore and metal. The chips are down and the deck is stacked here. The band’s all in. Are you? 

releases January 29th, 2021

The Sonder Bombs “k.” From their album “Clothbound” Out January 29th via Take This To Heart Records/Big Scary Monsters (UK/EU)/Dew Process (AUZ/NZ)

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Our fully quarantine-recorded album came out, called “The Black Hole Understands” It’s me on instruments with strings and singing, Jayson on drums. it is poppy and sort of sad. Cloud Nothings released The Black Hole Understands this summer, a remotely assembled album that followed the free-jazz spirals of frontman Dylan Baldi and drummer Jayson Gerycz in the spring. Then, in December, they shared the Bandcamp-exclusive “Life Is Only One Event”. Soon, they’ll deliver the all-new “The Shadow I Remember” which was produced by Steve Albini, who helmed 2012’s classic Attack on Memory

Part of the proceeds from this will be going to play on Philly and the Rainey institute (in Cleveland), two organizations dedicated to helping provide arts education in areas of Philladelphia and Cleveland where its not generally easy to access.

Cloud Nothings dropped a new song “The Spirit Of,” and it’s the latest glimpse of their forthcoming album The Shadow I Remember, out on February 26th via Carpark Records. “The Spirit Of,” the follow-up single to “Am I Something?,” is a fast-paced track propelled by ascendent guitars, and Dylan Baldi’s punk vocals reach a mighty peak by the end. We are also reissuing our debut album “Turning On” – can’t believe it’s been 10 years since it was originally released! 

Another throwback was Baldi’s return to constant song writing à la the early solo days, which led to the nearly 30 demos that became the 11 songs on “The Shadow I Remember”. Instead of sticking to a tried-but-true formula, his song writing stretched out while digging deeper into his melodic talents. “I felt like I was locked in a character,” Baldi says of becoming a reliable supplier of heavy, hook-filled rock songs. “I felt like I was playing a role and not myself. I really didn’t like that role.” More frequent writing led to the freedom in form heard on The Shadow I Remember. What he can’t do alone is get loud and play noisily, which is exactly what happened when the entire band — bassist TJ Duke, guitarist Chris Brown, and drummer Jayson Gerycz—convened.

The band had more fun in the studio than they’ve had in years, playing in their signature, pulverizing way, while also trying new things. The absurdly catchy “Nothing Without You” includes a first for the band: Macie Stewart of Ohmme contributes guest vocals. Elsewhere, celebrated electronic composer Brett Naucke adds subtle synthesizer parts.

The songs are kept trim, mostly around the three-minute mark, while being gleefully overstuffed. Almost every musical part turns into at least two parts, with guitar and drums opening up and the bass switching gears. “That’s the goal — I want the three-minute song to be an epic,” Baldi says. “That’s the short version of the longass jam.”

Lyrically, Baldi delivers an aching exploration of tortured existence, punishing self-doubt, and the familiar pangs of oppressive mystery. “Am I Something” Baldi screams on the song of the same name. “Does anybody living out there really need me?”, It’s a heart breaking admission of existential confusion, delivered hoarsely, with an instantly relatable melody. “Is this the end/ of the life I’ve known?” he asks on lead single and album opener “Oslo.” “Am I older now/ or am I just another age?” Despite the questioning lyrics, the band plays with more assurance and joy than ever before. The Shadow I Remember announces Cloud Nothings’ second decade and it sounds like a new beginning.

The Shadow I Remember is the hugely triumphant return of Cloud Nothings. It’s pretty raw, but singer-songwriter Dylan Baldi’s ability to write a banger has arguably never been as clear. Melodic whilst still full of grit.

“The Spirit Of” is taken from Cloud Nothings’ forthcoming album “The Shadow I Remember”, out February 26th, 2021.

Cloud Nothings was founded in a Cleveland basement, the one-man recording project of Dylan Baldi. Prolific from the startBaldi’s early work was rough but immediate: crudely recorded, spring-loaded spasms of Buzzcocks-informed pop that quickly found an online following among the lo-fi-inclined. For a band that resists repeating itself, picking up lessons from a decade prior is the strange route Cloud Nothings took to create their most fully-realized album. Their new record, The Shadow I Remember, marks eleven years of touring, a return to early song writing practices, and revisiting the studio where they first recorded together. In a way not previously captured, this album expertly combines the group’s pummelling, aggressive approach with singer-songwriter Dylan Baldi’s extraordinary talent for perfect pop. To document this newly realized maturity, the group returned to producer Steve Albini and his Electrical Audio studios in Chicago, where the band famously destroyed its initial reputation as a bedroom solo project with the release of 2012 album Attack on Memory.

Another throwback was Baldi’s return to constant song writing à la the early solo days, which led to the nearly 30 demos that became the 11 songs on The Shadow I Remember. Instead of sticking to a tired-but-true formula, his song writing stretched out while digging deeper into his melodic talents. “I felt like I was locked in a character,” Baldi says of becoming a reliable supplier of heavy, hook-filled rock songs. “I felt like I was playing a role and not myself. I really didn’t like that role.” More frequent writing led to the freedom in form heard on The Shadow I Remember. What he can’t do alone is get loud and play noisily, which is exactly what happened when the entire band— bassist TJ Duke, guitarist Chris Brown, and drummer Jayson Gerycz—convened.
The band had more fun in the studio than they’ve had in years, playing in their signature, pulverizing way, while also trying new things. The absurdly catchy “Nothing Without You” includes a first for the band: Macie Stewart of Ohmme contributes guest vocals. Elsewhere, celebrated electronic composer Brett Naucke adds subtle synthesizer parts.

The songs are kept trim, mostly around the three-minute mark, while being gleefully overstuffed. Almost every musical part turns into at least two parts, with guitar and drums opening up and the bass switching gears. “That’s the goal—I want the three-minute song to be an epic,” Baldi says. “That’s the short version of the long-ass jam.” Lyrically, Baldi delivers an aching exploration of tortured existence, punishing self-doubt, and the familiar pangs of oppressive mystery. “Am I Something” Baldi screams on the song of the same name. “Does anybody living out there really need me?” It’s a heart breaking admission of existential confusion, delivered hoarsely, with an instantly relatable melody.

“Is this the end/ of the life I’ve known?” he asks on lead single and album opener “Oslo.” “Am I older now/ or am I just another age?” Despite the questioning lyrics, the band plays with more assurance and joy than ever before. The Shadow I Remember announces Cloud Nothings’ second decade and it sounds like a new beginning.
 
 
Releases February 26th, 2021
The Band:
Dylan Baldi – Guitar, Vocals
Jayson Gerycz – Drums
TJ Duke – Bass
Chris Brown – Guitar

Recorded with Steve Albini at Electrical Audio in Chicago, Illinois

“The Spirit Of” is taken from Cloud Nothings’ forthcoming album “The Shadow I Remember”, out February 26th, 2021.

Gathering Swans

Gathering Swans is Choir Boy’s sophomore album, following 2016’s Passive with Desire, where we were introduced to singer Adam Klopp’s alarmingly sincere vocals, which are legitimately difficult to describe without the overused adage “voice of an angel.” Klopp impressed on the debut, but on Gathering Swans he is absolutely hypnotizing. Tracks like opener “It’s Over” and single “Nites Like This” prove his worth as one of the best vocalists working. His voice is on full display, keeping the record afloat through even the most experimental tracks. The highlight of Gathering Swans is the buoyant, sparkling single “Complainer.” Klopp sings, “But it’s not that bad, I never really had it worse, I’m just a complainer,” a feeling many of us understand when we stop to realize we’re actually doing just fine. Relatable lyrics paired with bright synths and a post-punk bassline make this song joyous and dance-worthy, bringing to mind other unexpected beacons of positivity—the IDLES effect, if you will. The story goes that, while growing up in Ohio, Klopp was called “choir boy” as a dig, for what could be read as intense jealousy for his inimitable vocals, while also poking fun at his religious upbringing. But Klopp reclaimed the epithet, and rightfully so. If Gathering Swans shows us anything, it’s that Choir Boy deserve praise, not mockery.

The first single from indie pop outfit Choir Boy’s second album, Gathering Swans. Came out May 8th, 2020. “Complainer” is a sarcastic examination of self pity. The video reveals Choir Boy’s involvement in a seedy back alley fighting ring.

“Choir Boy” was what the kids called singer/songwriter Adam Klopp in his early teens when he fronted punk cover bands in Cleveland, Ohio.  An intended insult, the label seemed fair and fitting in a way, given Klopp’s religious upbringing and angelic voice. After high school, Adam left Ohio for college in Utah. While his career as a student would prove short-lived, he integrated into Provo and SLC’s underground music and art scene, left religion behind, and called his new band “Choir Boy”.

“It seemed funny to me as sort of a comical reclamation of the mocking title I received from “punk” peers as a teen. While serving as a weird reflection of my childhood and musical heritage.”

Since Choir Boy’s gorgeous debut LP on Team Love Records in 2016, the dream-pop outfit has gained a cult following online and in underground circles.  Adam’s stunning vocal range, layered compositions, and heart-breaking melodies are backed by musical partner Chaz Costello on bass (Fossil Arms, Sculpture Club, Human Leather), saxophonist and keyboardist Jeff Kleinman, and guitarist Michael Paulsen, together creating the perfect blend of nostalgia-laced romantic pop music we’ve been waiting years to hear.

Dais welcomed Choir Boy to the Dais family with the fall 2017 EP “Sunday Light” and Part Time Punks cassettes, and in 2018 reissued the Passive With Desire LP in a new repackaged format with liner notes/lyrics, along with a deluxe collection CD.  Choir Boy surprised fans with the 2019 autumn release of the “Nites Like This” single, and the announcement of Gathering Swans, the new LP out 2020!

Cloud Nothings

Though musicians make music in relative quarantine all the time, there’s undoubtedly been a different feeling around song writing during the coronavirus lockdown given the sense of claustrophobia that’s being universally experienced at present. It’s a surprise, then, that ‘The Black Hole Understands’ finds Cloud Nothings sounding freer than ever. “When the world shut down in March, making music was the only thing keeping me tethered to any sense of normalcy,” Cloud Nothings frontman and mastermind Dylan Baldi says of the 10-track album that was borne from this period which, Baldi acknowledges, does channel “this early quarantine anxiety and confusion”.

The latest album from this Cleveland group led by Dylan Baldi is a surprise release of summery, hook-filled indie-pop. Rather than the discordant, intense jams of recent Cloud Nothings records, this one features concise, brightly melodic songs with jangly guitars, driving rhythms and breezy melodies juxtaposed with often-melancholy, anxiety-fueled lyrics.

Created entirely over email — Baldi’s skeleton song ideas were sent to drummer Jayson Gerycz before making their way back to the frontman for a final polish — ‘The Black Hole Understands’ is a complete re-calibration of the process behind the making of a Cloud Nothings album. So much of their music is fast and frenetic, often recorded live as they feed off each other’s energy and thrash it out in a room together. Given the manner of its creation, their seventh album, which has been self-released on Bandcamp, feels suitably looser and more melody-focused. “Life won’t always be like this,” Baldi sings on the chorus of ‘The Sound Of Everyone’, coming across like a lifeline to both himself and the listener as we all desperately try to cling on to the idea of another brighter world post-quarantine.

It might be this sense of willing a better situation into existence that makes ‘The Black Hole Understands’ such a vibrant, melody-packed joy. ‘A Silent Reaction’ has a powerful, uplifting ‘90s pop-rock chorus that trades Baldi’s trademark grit and fury into something more soaring, recalling the breeziness of Jeff Tweedy’s Wilco at times. ‘Right On The Edge’, meanwhile, sees Baldi’s vocals follow a perfect, sugary guitar line that ends up at something approaching pop heaven.

Baldi has also described ‘The Black Hole Understands’ as “poppy and also kind of sad, which is more or less my state of mind”. Another new Cloud Nothings album, recorded as a live band just before lockdown, is said to be arriving soon, but this coronavirus-era album will still serve as a moment in time that’s detached from everything that came before and likely everything that’s still yet to come. After all, it’s hard at the moment to imagine a world in which we aren’t all quarantined.

On ‘The Mess Is Permanent’, another of the album’s buzzing pop-rock highlights, Baldi sings: “It’s hard to be in this place when all these walls are coming down.” Though much of lockdown has felt like the walls are closing in, the joyous ‘The Black Hole Understands’ sees Cloud Nothings help us feel like we can bust right through them into a brighter future.

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Emily Keener has marked her 2020 return with unbridled honesty, intimate reflection, and a hauntingly poignant indie folk sound. It’s a winning combination for the 21-year-old Cleveland-based singer/songwriter, and one that makes her sophomore solo record a tremendous success: A stirring coming-of-age soundtrack to life and love, isolation and connection, “I Do Not Have to Be Good” hails Emily Keener’s rise as a vulnerable lyricist and a breathtaking songwriter.

I Do Not Have to Be Good by Emily Keener was independently released Friday, May 22nd , 2020. An ambitious project four years in the making, Emily Keener’s new album is a sophomore triumph: She was a former Voice Season 10 competitor but please let that not put you off,  Keener’s music takes a refreshingly clear, thoughtful approach to significant coming-of-age questions of intimacy and purpose, sex and identity, connection and living with intent. Her songs are haunting like those of Phoebe Bridgers, and equally moving; there is no question that this young up-and-comer is going places.

In premiering the album’s lead single “Do You Love Me Lately?” critics praised Keener for crafting “a raw indie folk song exploring vulnerability and insecurity,” calling it “heart-wrenchingly beautiful in its grace and overwhelming honesty.” The singer’s depiction of grief and anguish through delicate vocals and expressive, nuanced melodies also earned her a spot on which further highlighted how the track covers so much more than the descriptions of breakup or love’s loss would suggest: “The song is about finding oneself in a haze of uncertainty and self-doubt; it’s about learning to let go of expectations, and learning to be vulnerable; about diving headfirst into our fears, and dwelling in the darker spaces of our psyche.”

While certainly buoyed by the inimitable beauty of its lead single, I Do Not Have to Be Good is a wondrous, enchanting journey in and of itself. The album expands the breadth of Keener’s art and artistry through juxtaposed moments of serenity and turmoil, characterized as much through sonic highs and lows as by moments of emotional tranquility and intensity. The haunting opening track “Nap” released earlier this May as a third single, sets the record’s tone perfectly with its evocative depth, percussive resonance, and achingly stripped, raw arrangement:

Thus begins Keener’s complete unveiling: a true odyssey into the mind’s eye, “I Do Not Have to Be Good” brings us closer to the artist than ever before through diary-like entries spelled out in song after heart-aching song. Whether it’s the touching interplay of guitar and piano subverting her second single “Boats” or the emotionally resonant heart-on-sleeve performance in Keener’s record elevates real life – those special, little moments of understanding, longing, love, belonging, and so on. It’s a testament not only to her growth as an artist, but also to her handle on the magic of our shared human experience.

Spiritual, immersive, and unabashedly true: This album could be a soundtrack to our darkest days, as well as our lighter ones. It’s a beautiful listening experience through and through, and one that feels fresh and inviting every time we listen. Emily Keener has tapped into greatness on her sophomore effort; here’s to hoping we hear much more of this artist-to-watch in the years to come.  peek inside Emily Keener’s “I Do Not Have to Be Good”  as the artist goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of this her sophomore album!.

Nap

I wrote Nap in my late-teens as I was starting to navigate adulthood. It’s about the desire to become enmeshed with someone when the world feels too overwhelming to process alone. In the midst of the chaos of 2020, I relate to it even more. I hear my past self differentiating between what was familiar and what I actually believed to be true. Dan Fernandez plays a dynamic percussion part that echoes in the distance, along with layers of spectral vocals I created with Lexicon effects processors. Dalton Brand wove together the ethereal effects that make the track feel like it’s inhaling and exhaling. “I would take a nap with you/Over anything that god could do/You’re not going to bed without me/Not going anywhere without me” The lyrics are informed by the deep confusion and discomfort I felt as I let go of the religious certainty that was my foundation in childhood. Life felt like too much to handle. I wanted to hole up and sleep forever. That feeling has dissipated over time, but it comes and goes in waves still. My hope is that the song can be a reminder of common humanity; the struggles and coping mechanisms we share.

Do You Love Me Lately?

We had to record three or four different versions of this one before it felt right, and I guess that’s fitting for a song that’s about questioning yourself romantically. It’s set in the hollow space where openness isn’t reciprocated, movement isn’t mirrored; you’re waiting around for someone to figure out whether they care for you or not. The meaning has morphed over time for me, but the story started off as a fantasy about an unavailable dreamgirl. “Look at me, I’m taking it badly/Nose to my knees, I’m wondering madly/You say you didn’t love me then/But do you love me lately?” The chorus is a plea to this spectre I had imagined so much with, and I wanted it to sound raw and sheepish and insecure; a cry for reassurance within an uncertain dynamic. It touches on what we truly desire from our partners, the things that we project onto others unconsciously, and the types of love we idealize.

I Know (feat. Cathalyn)

This song is a reflection on feeling a reciprocal ‘knowing’ with someone. The kind of connection that transforms simple shared experiences into a loving space that you’re both fully present in. A pining is woven in with small intimacies like blankets and morning coffee. There’s this assertion throughout the song– ”I know, I know, I know” — and the lyrics eventually reduce to nothing more than short, sure phrases. When you’re apart from someone you really care for, it’s almost like you have to be extra adamant to ground it all in reality. “We belong, we belong, we do/You know my soul and my soul knows you.” I was lucky enough to be joined by my friend Cathalyn (of The Katy) on this track. She lent lovely melodies that color the ending with warm, anthemic energy.

I Don’t Know Anything

This song is about self-betrayal and the micro-interactions that cause a person to distrust themselves over time. When I listen to it, I hear my past self writing from an insular world; a cocoon, safe and separate. “I feel years behind the people/In the places I go/So much I could say, so much I should know.” I felt like a stranger to my peers, almost like there was an out-of-print book about existing that everyone else had read but I’d missed out on somehow. No one had to say “wow, you don’t know anything” outright. That was just a given to me, a core belief I held. Within the haze, though, there were some guiding lights that brought me back to myself. I’m striving to trust my own perception and intuition, and maybe know one or two more things eventually.

Boats

I wrote this one after sailing Lake Erie on a summer night under the stars. It was my first and only time on a sailboat, so it’s nice to have a musical snapshot of it. Everything was calm and there weren’t any other boats or people in sight. I felt very present and at peace, no thoughts running through my head other than to notice how beautiful it all was. I wanted to make something simple to reflect that serenity. There’s a bittersweet aspect to it, a recognition that every experience comes to an end. “I’ll start building a boat/Late into every night/To sail us both away from the passing of time” I sing it to appreciate the loves in my life and the moments I get lucky enough to end up in every now and again.

Static

Static was recorded live in-studio with Curtis Leonard. We were both playing acoustics, and doing full take after full take. The energy of the performance we chose is really special to me and it’s exactly what I hoped it could be. The song observes the decline of a relationship and the fundamental differences that have worn it down over time. Even things as simple as disagreements about what music to listen to can speak to resentments that have built up as a result of unconscious patterns and unrealized desires. “What were we doing on that couch?/No one in that room was gonna figure anybody out.” I associate Static with a loss of connection. A transmission that’s been blocked, communication between two entities that has devolved into something unrecognizable. In essence, the song is about sifting through that convolution to find a solid truth to hold. The chorus is a flashback to my childhood. A house nestled in thick forest, a dinner bell on the side, we’re facing the barn, a song’s playing somewhere. “Clear as a bell on a cabin wall/Calling me home when the sun goes down and the chorus falls” We listened to a lot of country music when I was little. I felt inexplicable comfort and satisfaction when the chorus would arrive, when the singer finally got to the hook they’d been setting up the whole time. The song could be ridiculous or heartbreaking, and it would still feel like a great relief to me. A high, even. It’s what made me want to write music. “I don’t need your 3 AM commiserations/Cause there’s a hook for every lonely minute/On this radio station” I look for closure and familiarity in songs when there is little to be found elsewhere. In uncertain times, I still find myself listening for the hook.

Mary, I Love Her

I wrote this song as a tribute to Mary Oliver, a couple of weeks after she passed away. Her poetry made a deep impression on me, and always seemed to pop up in my life when I needed it most. The first line (“I do not have to be good”) is also the album title, and it is a response to Mary’s poem ‘Wild Geese’ which reads:
You do not have to be good
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
I’ve always found these lines to be deeply affirming. Having spent years mired in self-doubt and perfectionism, the idea of presenting as anything other than good and perfect was alien to me. But this poem in particular got through to me time and again. It helped shape me into a more compassionate person, toward myself and others. I thank Mary for her direct, heart-opening truth.

Elbow

This takes me back to the attic apartment; its rain-speckled windows framing rows of slate gray roofs and patches of light gray Cleveland sky. The tone of the song itself is gray, and the lyrics describe what it feels like to hide from myself in my own body, in my own home. I’d begun to notice how suppressing certain emotions had affected my sense of self over time. “Never been worse/Never been better/Sleepwalking in the strangest weather” It’s true that when we push things down, they just show up in other ways. I started having vivid, disturbing dreams. I was keeping my mouth closed because I had no idea what it might say. Eli Hanley plays the erratic piano part, an lilting undercurrent of chaos. When I wrote the song, I was afraid of myself and I wanted to retreat from everything. The emotional qualities remind me of fog, and the shapes of things concealed in fog.

Comfort

I didn’t write Comfort in a motel room, but I think the song lives in one. The recording itself is rough and smoke stained, and it feels like paper that’s slowly singeing. I remember sitting at the console alone, working on vocal arrangements all night. Layers and layers of Echoplex, rough transmission. The lyrics describe a breaking point; the moment I realized that the role I was playing with someone had been causing me pain. “I can be your comfort or your blinding light/Tell me how you want me to leave you tonight” Leaving felt like too big of a thing to do alone, so I found myself waiting and asking–consciously and unconsciously–for them to help me move on. But that defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? Separating from someone reminds me: I’m stuck with myself. I have to walk my own path, do hard things, shift my own patterns. It’s not easy to accept that. When people disentangle from each other, the pain feels elemental. The sense of safety and comfort you built together is no longer there. It’s bewildering. I found myself questioning reality, wondering what the hell had happened, what context I must have missed that might explain my situation to me. “They burned like angels together/They thought that playing house could make a home/Oh, is this how the story goes?/All my waking hours are blurry pictures/And I’m falling asleep to static on the radio” I lost parts of myself through entanglement with another. It’s like when you forget to clasp the ends of necklaces, and all the chains become a messy knot. Trying to force it apart feels dangerous; what if something snaps? Studying the chains to see where they lead is frustrating, they all form one entity at this point and nothing makes sense to the eye. Disentanglement happens somewhere between the two points. It’s gently tugging on strands to see what gives and what doesn’t, and keeping your eyes open to notice patterns and signs that you’re moving in the right direction. I’ll probably go my whole life seeking comfort and looking for home in people and in things, like most everyone. But hopefully that won’t drive my choices every day. Maybe only sometimes.

I Do Not Have to Be Good by Emily Keener was independently released Friday, May 22nd , 2020

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, sky, text and outdoor

Image may contain: 1 person, sky, text, outdoor and nature

Having started performing, with the accompaniment of a responsible adult, at the age of just twelve, Emily Keener is something a youthful musical veteran. Nine years on from when she started earning a living from music, the Cleveland indie-folk singer is set to return this Spring with her latest album, “I Do Not Have to Be Good”, her first since 2017’s acclaimed Breakfast.

This week ahead of that release, Emily has shared her latest single, Do You Love Me Lately. It’s a track that instantly shows the subtle shift in Emily’s music, with the pensive folk sounds coming forward and the Americana roots, while still present, sliding into the background. To the fore throughout is Emily’s subtly jaw-dropping vocal, there’s a touch of Julia Jacklin to the vibrato and fabulous inflections. Discussing the track, Emily has suggested it was inspired by staring into space day dreaming of what it would be like to date a woman, and how Emily’s own self doubts started to creep into view. As she explains, “I found myself painting this woman as an unavailable dream-girl way out of my league. I saw the relationship as one that would shine a light on my deepest insecurities”. Instantly this feels like an exciting new setting for Emily’s music, a progression that keeps everything that was already in place and morphs it into something more intriguing than ever before.

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The single depicts the fragility of romantic love as Keener’s smoldering vocals float around a slowly pulsing, retro groove. It’s off the album, “I Do Not Have to Be Good”, due out May 22nd.

Emo-adjacent indie-punk bands are having a moment right now, and Heart Attack Man are undeniably part of that. The Cleveland band’s second album, “Fake Blood”, dips into college rock, grunge, punk and power pop, but all you’ll be thinking about are their seething riffs and incisive hooks that leave it all out on the field. Their pumping melodies bleed profusely while their slower riffs are satisfyingly sedating. Throughout their eleven tracks, frontman Eric Egan uses lurid physical anguish as a metaphor for emotional agony. On “Cut My Losses,” they “paint the walls with your brain,” on “Blood Blister,” there’s talk of “dead skin and phantom limb memories,” and on “Rats in a Bucket,” they have “a corpse’s worth of bones to pick.” On one hand, Heart Attack Man embraces an us-against-the-world mentality with steam emanating from their nostrils, but they also have a self-destructive side which exposes them to friendly fire. This dichotomy is illustrated in the final track, “The Choking Game,” where their invincibility and insecurities meet (“Some days I walk on water / Some days I run on fumes”).

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If bloodthirsty angst and strapping power punk is your scene, go out and buy some Fake Blood.

Eric Egan,
Adam Paduch,
Tyler Sickels,
Seamus Groman

Released April 19th, 2019