Posts Tagged ‘Live At Paste’

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Sarah Beth Tomberlin’s debut album, “At Weddings”, is an ode to the uncertainty and overall dishevelment of your late teens and early twenties: bogged down by self-doubt, seeking validation from others, rebelling against unsolicited religious beliefs that were pressed upon you as a child (the 23-year-old singer/songwriter was born to strict Baptist parents) and longing for someone even though you know they’re a bad influence. Featuring only an acoustic guitar and various keyboards and effects, the record centers on Tomberlin’s Joni Mitchell-esque pipes, loud in their softness and tenderness and unsuspectedly moving you to your absolute core. The naked instrumentation mirrors the transparency of her lyrics and while the songs consist of just a few elements, her overflowing emotions make the tracks feel full and warm. Many of the songs lack choruses, but the verses are delivered with flowing beauty and genuine conviction. At Weddings is filled with such a powerful, saintly aura that even the most ugly subject matters can spur flawless, beautiful results.

Tomberlin – Seventeen Recorded Live – Paste Studios – New York, NY

Jess Williamson - Cosmic Wink

When Jess Williamson fell in love, the heavens parted. Cosmic Wink, is the Austin-based singer-songwriter’s third record, looks to the skies, but also turns inward. The album details a series of personal changes in Williamson’s life, including a new relationship, a move to Los Angeles, and the death of her beloved dog, Frankie. Produced by her boyfriend and collaborator Shane Renfro of the band RF Shannon, Cosmic Wink is a stellar rumination on time; the present, the future, and what happens when it finally runs out.

Williamson recently brought the lush, other-wordly sounds of Cosmic Wink for a studio session, playing three songs: “White Bird,” “I See The White,” and “Love on the Piano.” The album’s first single, “I See the White,” is a hazy and captivating reflection on Frankie’s passing. “I see the white all around her eyes,” Williamson sings, referencing the graying of Frankie’s fur.

“Seeing [Frankie] grow older was sort of this physical manifestation of the passing of time,” Williamson explained. “[I was] thinking about love and time and death and life, and everything in between.”

Cosmic Wink was created in close collaboration with Renfro, and it makes perfect sense that the couple would complement each other as writing partners. “I always thought that Shane was the best and most talented musician I knew,” Williamson gushed. “I just felt really lucky that he wanted to have such a heavy hand in making this album. It felt really natural.”

It’s no surprise that themes of sex and love permeate Cosmic Wink, but Williamson clarified that the record’s closing track, “Love on the Piano,” is not, in fact, meant to be literal. “My mom thought that this song was about having sex in various locations,” she laughed. “It’s not about that.”

1. White Bird 2. I See the White 3. Love on the Piano Watch Jess Williamson live @ Paste Studio NYC

Half Waif, Lavender

Brooklyn songwriter Nandi Rose Plunkett leads the exquisite folk-pop trio Half Waif, whose new album, Lavender, arrives April 27th. Watch them perform the lovely album opener “Lavender Burning,”

Nandi Rose Plunkett is a seeker. As frontwoman of synth-pop outfit Half Waif, Plunkett writes songs that travel profoundly inward over beds of electronic instrumentation that expand and recede like ocean tides. But there is a darkness that cuts through Half Waif’s songs, hinting at a searching that is often born of loss and struggle. Lavender, the group’s latest album, centers on questions of loneliness and isolation, of the consequences of hard-fought wisdom and self-knowledge.

Half Waif has spent months on the road leading up to the album’s recording, and it shows; many of Lavender’s songs have a narrator who feels adrift, reaching towards an unattainable sense of home. “You used to say / ‘When are you coming back?’ / Then came the day / When you no longer asked,” Plunkett mourns on “Torches.” In an essay about her single “Back In Brooklyn,” a stunning piano ballad from the album, Plunkett describes how returning from tour left her feeling isolated and aching: “I was unmoored and questioning everything — not least of all my decision to forgo the stability and community I had cultivated in New York for something more ephemeral … There is a loneliness about this life that is hard to describe.”

“Back In Brooklyn” is the most unadorned of Lavender’s songs: just Plunkett’s voice and the piano (and a brief sample of a New York subway horn). It’s perhaps the only place on the record where Plunkett’s voice breaks from its classically-trained veneer: For all the impressive clarity and range she demonstrates across the record, there is something nearly heart-stopping about the way her voice cracks as she begs her listener to “listen for me now.” Her formal training shines through, too, in the careful stacks of electronic arrangements in these songs and her layers of vocal harmonies. Bandmates Adan Carlo (bass and guitar) and Zack Levine (live drums) add touches that ground and structure the songs, providing a stable base for Plunkett’s waves of synths and keyboards.

Lavender is, in many ways, an album about isolation, but its inverse threads its way into many songs; themes of connection — specifically, matrilineal connection — appear across the album. The album is named in honor of Plunkett’s grandmother, who had a habit of picking lavender from her garden to boil on the stove — a ritual of beauty, but also one of purification, Plunkett believes. On “Salt Candy,” Plunkett addresses her beloved maternal figures directly: “I was once a thousand other things now I’m not / I don’t understand why / Mother do you recognize your daughter? / Little head so full of big ideas.” There’s an ache to the song, which — like many on the album — pulls gently on the tangled threads of growth, dependency, the self and family, earnestly seeking an answer yet fearful of triggering a total unraveling. But across its 12 tracks, Lavender shows Plunkett coming to terms with the reality that pain is often an important intermediary to wisdom, that a little unraveling can help let the light in.

Half Waif – “Lavender Burning” Recorded Live: 4/16/2018 – Paste Studios – New York, NY

Lavender comes out April 27th through Cascine Records.

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Tender Warriors Club confirms Lady Lamb’s (aka Aly Spaltro) quiet emergence as one of her generation’s most gifted songwriters. She combines dense symbolism and metaphor with intimate autobiographical portraits, and each song comes packed with lyrics that refuse to leave your mind, some startling in their simplicity (“If I see you when I look in my own eyes / How could I ever despise myself again,”) and others that come out swinging with their poeticism (“loneliness she can be a whore / I take her to bed, I’m so sure she won’t be there in the morning”). While technically an EP (seven songs and 32 minutes), it feels more like a long-player, and it’s far more cohesive and essential than your average EP.

Musically, Spaltro takes a stripped back, acoustic approach on this record that speaks to the intimacy of these songs. It’s not so much that her performances are left raw or exposed—in a way they’ve always been that—as much as they draw out a different side of Spaltro’s voice, one that made brief appearances on her last few records but arrive here in breathtaking form throughout.

Lady Lamb – Heaven Bent
Recorded Live: 2/23/2017 – Paste Studios – New York, NY