Posts Tagged ‘Laura Stevenson’

When Laura Stevenson released her 2011 album Sit, Resist, she was a little out in front of what quickly became a flood of first-rate indie-rock from women, including Sharon Van Etten, Lucius, Big Thief’s Adrienne Lenker, Mitski, Waxahatchee, Lucy Dacus and many more. Unfortunately for Stevenson, she was ahead of the leading edge just enough that the subsequent wave of acclaim didn’t sweep her up the way it did many of her peers. Thankfully, despite the fact that she’s not nearly as well known as she should be, Stevenson continues to make music that can stop your heart.

In that regard, her latest is arguably Stevenson’s most adept album. The Big Freeze trades the raucous guitars and bold hooks of her earlier work for subtler musical textures on songs that open into more expansive interior worlds. She relies more on her voice, which has both warmth and clarity in proportions that vary with the volume of she utilizes. She sings just above a murmur on opener “Lay Back. Arms Out” and lets the natural sweetness of her voice bubble up in the catchy melody of “Dermatillomania,” the most up-tempo song on the album. Up-tempo, yes, but not upbeat: the title of the song is another name for excoriation disorder, which is the compulsion to pick at one’s own skin to the point of causing physical harm. Stevenson wrote about her own experiences with dermatillomania in February for Talkhouse, and the subject hovers in the background of many of the songs on The Big Freeze.

The album as a whole sorts through a host of complicated feelings about family, the thin line between inter- and co-dependence, and trying, if just for a minute, to silence fear, shame and doubts and feel OK as oneself. Stevenson lays out a portrait of dysfunction on “Hum,” glimmers of guitar framing her precise, quiet vocals as she builds tension with such stealth that it comes as a surprise to find you’ve been holding your breath. “Hawks” is a wistful waltz-time evocation of a happier period, while the next song, “Big Deep,” feels like its emotional counterpoint as Stevenson describes a particularly fraught moment. She harmonizes with herself on both, accompanied by barely-there guitar, the low moan of a cello (on the former) and deep, distant piano (on the latter).

Laura lets the natural sweetness of her voice bubble up in the catchy melody of “Dermatillomania,” the most up-tempo song on her new album The Big Freeze. Up-tempo, yes, but not upbeat: the title of the song is another name for excoriation disorder, which is the compulsion to pick at one’s own skin to the point of causing physical harm. Stevenson wrote about her own experiences with dermatillomania in February and the subject hovers in the background of many of the songs on The Big Freeze.

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Album closer “Perfect” feels like Stevenson has reached an equilibrium of sorts, balancing past with present, and emotional turmoil with a brittle sense of acceptance. There’s tenacity there, too: “I’ll be alright by myself tonight,” she sings in the first and last lines of the song, a folky number with acoustic guitar and multi-tracked vocal harmonies. It’s clear that she means it, and even if being genuinely alright takes more time, more effort, more emotional energy than she ever would have wanted, it’s equally clear that she is determined to make it true.

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Laura Stevenson’s last album, 2015’s Cocksure, found the singer beefing up her stripped-down sound with big guitars. A follow-up called The Big Freeze comes out at the end of March, and it heralds a return to Stevenson’s more finely detailed, wrenchingly intimate songwriting. The title refers to an eventual freezing of the universe which makes sense, given that she recorded it in the dead of winter — as well as to the ways relationships strain against emotional and physical distance. In first listen is the song “Living Room, NY,” she longs for a connection to the small details of everyday life with a long-distance partner, singing, “I want to see you stare at ceilings until you fall back to sleep.”

Recorded in her childhood home during the dead of winter, The Big Freeze represents a pivotal step for New York songwriter Laura Stevenson. Despite her pedigree in the punk and indie rock scenes, and the occasional inclusion of a backing band (like the sprightly, C86-inspired pop track “Dermatillomania”), for the first time on record Stevenson’s voice and guitar are in clear and highlighted focus. It is a natural aesthetic choice for the musician, who has often toured as a solo act and who pulls influence from the great American songbook, and a choice that plays to the core strength and organic beauty of her writing. And though it is easily the darkest and most emotionally-devastating album of Stevenson’s career, it is also without a doubt her most powerful.

Stevenson builds on her own private worlds with choruses of multi-tracked voices, swarms of cellos, French horns and violins; orchestration that blooms and swells throughout each intimate performance. Exploring thematic ideas of distance and misconnection; worlds pulling apart, aching loneliness, and attempts to drive out hibernating dormant demons.

In the opening track Stevenson’s voice insists the listener “lay back with arms out, all-in, unfeeling,” to allow themselves to sink into a flood of instrumental sound that thrums between dissonance and resolution. From waves crashing in an abandoned waterpark on the haunting “Value Inn”, to the last leaves trembling before winter sets in on “Rattle At Will”, a creeping sense of isolation and anxious beauty surrounds every song. And yet there is also warmth, and hope. The album’s third track “Living Room, NY” tells of an intercontinental love and longing which seems to have the strength to thrive despite even the most trying and impossible of circumstances. Across ten tracks, the listener will travel through the cold night, following after a small but powerful flame burning from the other side.

I am so happy to (finally) announce that my new album, “The Big Freeze” is out on March 29th! You can hear the first single “Living Room NY” . Laura Stevenson’s music has always dealt in crushing existential dread, be it self-deprecation or heartache. This is an artist who once opened a 2015 song called “Jellyfish” with “I’m fucking hideous and spiteful / When I’m left to my devices.” Even the press release for her new album opens with: “If gravity is strong enough, at the end of time our universe will collapse, pulling all of existence back down to infinitesimal size, like before the Big Bang. But if expansion outpaces gravity, eventually the universe will be cold and empty – all light, heat, and connection will be gone.” That phenomenon of a too cold, uninhabitable universe is called The Big Freeze, which is also the title of Stevenson’s upcoming fifth LP that’s out 29 March.

The New York songwriter is back with her fifth album, ‘The Big Freeze,’ out 29th March.

Laura Stevenson also recently released her first live album, a recording of a show in the Netherlands in June of 2016. Of the show, she said:

“We played to a small smattering of people at Vera in Groningen – a city in the far north of The Netherlands. About forty or so folks showed up on a Saturday night. We didn’t have any expectations of how the show would go, having never been to that part of the world before and being the only band on the bill. We didn’t feel too bad at the small turnout either, having been told by Peter Weening, the venue’s director for the past few decades, that when Nirvana played the same venue in 1990 just before Nevermind came out, and when U2 played there in 1980 just before Boy was released, there were roughly the same amount of people there”

The album, which includes a cover of The Replacements,  Quote Unquote Records on a pay what you wish basis, and all proceeds go to support Planned Parenthood.

 

 

In related news, Bomb the Music Industry!, a band Laura Stevenson and Jeff Rosenstock were both members of, is the subject of a crowdfunded film, “Never Get Tired,” that you can now obtain online . The film follows Bomb the Music Industry! on tour for five years of crazy shows and DIY ethos. Watch the trailer for “Never Get Tired” below.

Image result for matt pond and laura stevenson

Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Matt Pond PA is going on tour in support of their recent album The State of Goldreleased on Doghouse Records. The album features guest vocals from Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds and drumming from Matt Iwanusa of Caveman on it’s lead song “More No More.”

The album is available in limited edition gold translucent double LP edition of The State of Gold.  The guy’s a craftsman, and his body of work proves he’s got reliable songwriting aptitude. In what employ he decides to use it, well, that’s what will sum up everything in the end.

Laura Stevenson, is an artist finally hitting real stride. Though pleasant, her musical footprint has to this point been somewhat indistinct. But she’s got a new album, Cocksure, that’ was released October on Don Giovanni Records . Like a modern-day Tanya Donelly, Stevenson leaves the whimsical folk and pop detours behind and really digs into a direct indie-rock sound that’s muscular and classic on this ‘90s-channeling record. A mixture of sweetness, crooked charm and sharpening marksmanship, this simultaneously beaming and driving album is easily her most definitive work yet.

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These Days as covered by Matt Pond (feat. Laura Stevenson & Chris Hanson) From the Wes Anderson film Royal Tenenbaums, Originally performed by Nico Written by Jackson Browne .

From the Laura Stevenson record “Cocksure” which came out late October on Don Giovanni Records. The first thing that comes to mind when you think of a jellyfish is their sting. Scary, right? But these perceptively “dangerous” creatures fall apart the more you think about them — they’re flabby, gelatinous blobs with no structure or shape. They’re pretty useless, really. So when Laura Stevenson compares herself to one on her new song, it’s easy to conjure up an image of what she’s talking about: sprawled out in bed, arms and legs out in whatever direction, unable and unwilling to move. Underneath all that laziness and fear, there’s potential for a spark, a jolt, but it doesn’t manage to come through. “I’ll be home indoors because I’m wasting away my life and gifts on being a piece of shit,” she sings in the way-catchy chorus. Stevenson embraces her self-destructive tendencies because it’s easy. Staying in and not facing the world requires no effort at all. Why bother to grow a backbone at all? The act of not doing feels as natural as floating

There’s self-deprecation, and then there’s what Laura Stevenson does. While some songwriters have playfully toyed with their own ineptitudes in love, friendships, or life in general throughout their music, Stevenson full-on lives in it. If you ever catch her live show—and you should—make a drinking game out of every time she introduces a song by saying, “This next song is a sad one.” You’ll be lucky to be able to walk out of the venue of your own accord.

On her last album, the under-appreciated Wheel, Stevenson mused in one song about being content to sit in a room while the building burned around her: “I wouldn’t mind if you left me here, standing on the other side of a locked door in a big, big fire.” Tragic, fucked up, and even oddly beautiful, but not a new thing for her. Over three albums now, Laura Stevenson has been spinning this gift for dark poetics.

But “Jellyfish,” her new single from her forthcoming fourth album, Cocksure, is next-level self-loathing. Stevenson goes right for her own gut from the very first line: “I’m fucking hideous and spiteful when I’m left to my devices.” And it doesn’t get much brighter from there. She goes on to call herself lazy and a loser before ending with “I’m wasting away my life and gifts on being a piece of shit.” Jesus Christ, what a dark line. What a dark song.

While the inward jabs are cutting, Stevenson’s true gift is taking this melancholy and making it sound upbeat and fun. She is the undisputed champion of writing feel-good feel-bad songs.

Laura Stevenson’s “Torch Song is just that, and now it’s got a similarly rousing video to go along with it. Stevenson and her merry band of glittery and colorful teens make their way into an empty high school and transform a hapless teacher and a bored janitor into shining ’80s stars, giving them a makeover and coupling worthy of any coming-of-age movie. The clip was co-directed by Stevenson and Kate Sweeney. From the Laura Stevenson album Cocksure on Don Giovanni Records