Posts Tagged ‘Secretly Canadian Records’

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Skullcrusher singer songwriter Helen Ballentine From: Los Angeles California, USA, performs Soothingly vulnerable folk songs that tug at the heartstrings through the use of minimal instrumentation, lush vocals and detailed lyricism. Those who listen at full volume and with intent, however, may find their brains a tad dented after absorbing this four-song, 11-minute introduction.
Why you’re going to love them: Skullcrusher – aka Helen Ballentine – finds beauty in solitude, with lush acoustics and painstakingly introspective lyrics making up her musical repertoire. Her ghostly yet hypnotic melodies interweave with touches of new-wave horror to create a Brontë-esque aesthetic. The result? An arrestingly fascinating style of musical production with the visuals to match. This track ‘Places/Plans’ on her debut EP.

An avowed Nick Drake devotee who also has exquisite taste in ambient electronic music, Skullcrusher builds songs that seem to creep into the room, reside for a few vague minutes to make their presence known and then fade away. As a guitarist, she likes layering a few different takes to create a web of sound, and she does the same with her voice. By the end of “Places/Plans,” she’s repeating in layered vocal lines the lyric, “I don’t have any plans tomorrow.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the tenor of the times, Skullcrusher leans into solitude at nearly every turn. “Places/Plans,” she writes in release notes, is her attempt “to communicate the beauty and vulnerability of being alone and what it means to let someone else in to see that.”

“Places/Plans” by Skullcrusher, from her debut released self-titled EP out June 26th on Secretly Canadian. For fans of: Faye Webster, Angel Olsen

The sound of Helen Ballentine aka Skullcrusher is not nearly as violent as her alias might imply. Instead her gentle and almost fragile ambient-infected songwriter folk might break your heart instead of your bones. The artist who performs as Skullcrusher crafts work that on the surface is hardly as menacing as her moniker. The simmering, acoustic guitar-centered songs on her debut EP will not collapse your noggin with aggressive rage, distorted noise or irrational violence. 

Last year’s self-titled debut EP was a blissful testament of beauty and vulnerability and felt like a fitting soundtrack for a more introverted life. And since 2021 doesn’t look quite different for now, the haunting sound of Skullcrusher will most likely comfort us this year as well. A full album is expected over the course of this year and we’re pretty sure it will be wonderful no matter if the pandemic is still raging or not. Ballentine also shared her personal hopes for the year with us:

“You can definitely expect more music from me and perhaps some drawings and visual art. My hopes for this year are to become more comfortable with myself and as a result be able to connect with more people through art.“

Issued by the indie music powerhouse Secretly Canadian Group (home to Angel Olsen, Bon Iver, Moses Sumney, Sharon Van Etten and others), which has an ear and eye for breakout talent, Ballentine’s work aligns with the company’s aesthetic: smart, insightful sounds that draw on classic forms but explore them from inventive new angles.

“Farm” the new song by Skullcrusher, out October 19th on Secretly Canadian.

Songs Ohia – Didn’t It Rain (Reissue): In 1996, Chris and Ben Swanson’s upstart label Secretly Canadian issued the One Pronunciation of Glory 7” and made Jason Molina a recording artist. Six years later, the brothers released “Didn’t It Rain”, a masterpiece tour of darkness and despair lit only by the light of Molina’s lantern and that ever-present Blue Chicago Moon. This month’s reissue would be essential in any context, but with the gray having already claimed its space over Molina’s midwest, it almost sounds like Didn’t It Rain was pulled straight from the sky.

Didn’t It Rain is Jason Molina’s first perfect record. Recorded live in a single room, with no overdubs and musicians creating their parts on the fly, the overall approach to the recording was nothing new for Molina. But something in the air and execution of Didn’t It Rain clearly sets it apart from his existing body of work. His albums had always been full of space, but never had Molina sculpted the space as masterfully as he does on Didn’t It Rain.

Never has a Songs: Ohia album’s process been so integral to its overall feel as is the case with “Didn’t It Rain”, the band’s sixth proper full-length. The album, like the working class South Philadelphia neighbourhood in which it was birthed, has a real used goods kinda feel to it. Engineer Edan Cohen employed what some may consider “old-fashioned” recording techniques — the entire album was recorded live with no overdubs, the full band playing in one room with the players always within arms’ reach of one another; singers Jason Molina, Jennie Benford and Jim Krewson (the latter two of Jim & Jennie And The Pinetops) sharing microphones singing live together, sometimes sitting in chairs, sometimes standing. The result is a sound which resembles the warmth and personality of the classic Muscle Shoals Sound recordings of the early- to mid-70s: Willie Nelson’s Phases & Stages, the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses”, and others by Aretha Franklin, Boz Scaggs, Bob Seger, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Wilson Pickett.

Inspired by the Mahalia Jackson song of the same name, the title track is a beautiful song about the shifting tides of life and the old cycle of “a lot of shit going down before shit clears up”. It’s a damn fine place to start an album that seems in no hurry whatsoever to make a universal statement, instead perfectly content to walk its own path toward resolution. And damn if Songs: Ohia principal songwriter Jason Molina hasn’t gone and created a record that is even more intensely personal and healing than any of his previous works. Neil Young had his After The Goldrush, this is Molina’sDidn’t It Rain”.

Indeed, this is the album with which Molina really leaves his mark as a serious songwriter and artist. On 1999’s genre-bending Ghost Tropic full-length, Songs: Ohia made it clear that it could make a cohesive album that took its listener on a journey from front to back. Its dislocated feel set a haunting tone, and its largely instrumental and drone-like quality was the process of the Ohia eluding itself and its own tendencies, searching for the underside of its roots freshly yanked. With “Didn’t It Rain”, Molina & Co. return to the beauty of the song form and offer up a startlingly soulful and introspective song cycle in which Molina — accepting a comfortable degree of anonymity amongst the other players — meditates on what it means to feel rooted again (in the city of Chicago, where he’s called home for the past three years), sounding more sturdy at his core than ever.

“It’s where Molina felt the need to contract himself to a pinpoint, gathering all his energy into a lonesome quantum, before unleashing the wholehearted force of Magnolia Electric Co. He couldn’t have known what was to come, including some of his best work and worst times, but it’s obvious this is the sound of Molina standing on the brink of something. He didn’t seem to know quite what yet, and that stark uncertainty imbues Didn’t It Rain with a sickening yet heroic alchemy: the ability to make smallness and helplessness feel somehow brave”
On this day in 2002, Songs: Ohia’s ‘Didn’t It Rain’ was released on Secretly Canadian.

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‘Let’s Not Fight!’ and ‘Strong Enough’ are the two new singles from Porridge Radio. A collaboration with Irish songwriter/producer Piglet, the duo of songs will appear on a Deluxe Edition of the Mercury-nominated “Every Bad”.

A member of Great Dad, Piglet is Charlie Loane. Here, he helps take ‘Let’s Not Fight!’ and ‘Strong Enough’ to eerie and dissonant yet deeply satisfying listens that add yet more oomph to an already-excellent album. I’m so happy they’re finally out properly for everyone to hear.

“Something that Charlie really gets is emotional intensity and I am so glad we could be intense as hell together on these tracks” Dana Margolin said of the collaboration. Piglet is one of my favourite artists. I remember the first time I saw Charlie fronting his other band, Great Dad, and just being completely blown away and entranced by his songs and the way he was performing them. I feel very lucky that he likes my music. This collaboration felt like it was coming for a while, and luckily lockdown gave us a chance to make these songs last summer. I really loved the whole process of writing together. Something that Charlie really gets is emotional intensity and I am so glad we could be intense as hell together on these tracks.

“Let’s Not Fight !” the new song by Porridge Radio x Piglet, out February 16th on Secretly Canadian.

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This week Cherry Glazerr (the Los Angeles-based band led by Clementine Creevy) shared a new song titled “Big Bang.” It marks their first music release of 2021, and is out now on Secretly Canadian Records. Cherry Glazerr shared their first new music of 2021 with a single titled “Big Bang.” inspired by lead singer Clementine Creevy’s time spent listening to DJ Koze, Caribou, Yaeji and Kaytranada. The bass-heavy, atmospheric track is marked by Creevy’s silky vocals and fits of endlessly catchy pop. “I wanted to give it a sort of early ‘aughts pop production feel, with the interplay between the acoustic guitar figure and the bass synth and the 808 hits during the choruses,” Creevy says. “The lyrics came from feeling like I was growing apart from someone who was close to me in my life, and the song is essentially about heartache, but it’s euphoric at the same time. That’s what I like about it — the intensity of those very personal feelings paired with a sort of huge, exposed energy. I feel like I was able to let a lot out with this song. It feels really special to me.” 

Creevy speaks about the song in a press release: “Some songs take on a lot of forms until they finally end up the way they do and this was one definitely one of those. It lived a few different lives for sure, I just kept changing up the rhythms until I was like, ‘oh yeah that’s it right there!’”

She adds: “I wanted to give it a sort of early ‘aughts pop production feel, with the interplay between the acoustic guitar figure and the bass synth and the 808 hits during the choruses. The lyrics came from feeling like I was growing apart from someone who was close to me in my life, and the song is essentially about heartache, but it’s euphoric at the same time. That’s what I like about it the intensity of those very personal feelings paired with a sort of huge, exposed energy. I feel like I was able to let a lot out with this song. It feels really special to me.”

The band released a new song titled “Rabbit Hole” in December of last year. Their most recent album, Stuffed & Ready, came out in 2017 on Secretly Canadian

 

Helen Ballentine, who performs as Skullcrusher.

Skullcrusher, the musical moniker of Los Angeles based singer/songwriter Helen Ballentine, has shared a new song, “Song for Nick Drake,” via a video for it. Ballentine spent the fall in rural New York State, working on new material with her collaborator Noah Weinman, and this is another fruit of those sessions. Ballentine and Weinman both directed the video, which seems to have been shot on VHS or some other tape format. Skullcrusher’s understated energy radiates with the atmosphere of waking up to the quiet terror of shapeless, structureless days, but it finds power in eschewing the pressures of careerism and a vapid culture of productivity. Instead, as Skullcrusher, Ballentine has the audacity to be comfortable enough with herself, and to simply accept the unknown as her life.

Ballentine had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Song for Nick Drake’ is about my relationship to the music of Nick Drake. It recalls moments in my life that are viscerally intertwined with his music, specifically times spent walking and taking the train. The song is really my homage to music and the times I felt most immersed in it.”

It follows the previous track “Farm,” a new song released in October.  At the same time she also released a cover of Radiohead’s “Lift.” They followed her self-titled debut EP, released in June 2020 via Secretly Canadian

Skullcrusher featured four tracks, written by Ballentine and produced by Noah Weinman, all about the influx of media she consumed after leaving her 9-5 day job. The EP is available digitally and on Vinyl, 

Storm in Summer EP Tracklist:
01. Windshield
02. Songs for Nick Drake
03. Steps
04. Storm in Summer
05. Prefer

Released October 23rd.

20 years ago, Songs: Ohia’s “Ghost Tropic” was released. Here is the original words from Secretly Canadian on the release: The sound movement on Ghost Tropic will seem sudden to some; without warning. To others, it’ll seem a very logical step in a very foreign direction. On its fifth proper full-length, Songs: Ohia has stepped outside the box and has delivered its most subtle record of fantastic depth to date. Indeed this is the most cohesive and “album-like” Songs: Ohia has ever been. The eight songs on the record sprawl out into one another, telling one long sonic tale, allowing very little room for chapter breaks or piss stops. In this regard, Lou Reed’s moody classic Berlin comes to mind as a worthy fore-bearer.

But it’s the strange ethnic flavour in which Ghost Tropic is steeped that makes it stand apart from its predecessors, albums which were all received as crossing guards for the Great American lost highway. Surely this album will leave those expecting such fare scratching their heads. Blending the electro-acoustic minimalism of the David Bowie and Brian Eno Trilogy with the percussive worldliness of Tom Waits’ Swordfishtrombones, the group seems to hop the globe from a British Isles folk rock influence to an Ennio Morricone-like Spaghetti Western feel to the faintest echoes of the Chinese Classical ringing like a death murmur in the distance. And the songs, they build in a slow, unconscious manner, pulsing with an intensity, but never betraying their most simple core with too much instrumentation or calculated progression. Yea! Ghost Tropic is the first album which reveals Songs: Ohia’s own Tropicalia Blues in full bloom.

But what has brought Songs: Ohia to this critical juncture? Perhaps it is purely circumstance — that four men were brought together to play as bedfellows for a week on the great plains of Nebraska. Acted out and recorded at the Dead Space Recording Studio in the state’s capital of Lincoln, Ghost Tropic was performed by principle Songs: Ohia songwriter, singer and guitarist Jason Molina; Appendix Out principle and Ohia alumnus (having played on The Lioness) Alasdair Roberts of Glasgow, Scotland; Lullaby For The Working Class drummer and new Ohia recruit Shane Aspegren; and engineer Mike Mogis of Lullaby For The Working Class and Bright Eyes.

Ghost Tropic is the fifth regular studio album by Songs: Ohia. It was recorded by Mike Mogis at Dead Space Recording Studio in Lincoln, Nebraska. The album’s name refers to two short instrumentals that are surrounded by six vocal tracks of at least five and up to twelve minutes length. The reviews noted the sombre and dark mood permeating the album. According to Pitchfork Media, “Ghost Tropic” sounds as though it were recorded live in a haunted hut somewhere in an Ecuadorian rainforest. At night.” AllMusic was less sanguine: “Everything moves as slowly as a three-legged dog, and anyone neither patient enough nor attuned to Molina’s style of songcraft might very well be put to sleep.”

I’ve talked about Helen Ballentine and her project Skullcrusher before right here and her latest single Farm is another great opportunity to highlight her wonderful music. Just like her self-titled debut EP which was released this summer, this new song feels like a warm summer breeze (or blanket, to stay in the current season) for your ears. Ballentine’s soft song writing is carried by a certain understatement and tenderness, almost like a brighter alternative to the gloomy ambient folk of Grouper. She keeps things simple and although the end of Farm gets a bit more epic than her previous material it’s still a pretty raw experience. It’s a reflection of childhood and family and that’s exactly the vibe this beautiful mellow song transports.

The name sill doesn’t suit the music but I couldn’t care less about that and I’m very much looking forward to more Skullcrusher action in the not so distant future.

“Farm” the new song by Skullcrusher, out October 19th on Secretly Canadian.

Skullcrusher EP

Helen Ballentine’s emotional folk reveries will delight fans of Phoebe Bridgers, Tomberlin and Dana Gavanski – it’s an absolute free for all of lush melodies. Skullcrusher is, by all accounts, an exploration of the ways you become yourself when you aren’t looking – and how that feels once you start paying attention. It’s a quiet power; a hushed celebration of the tiny, understated subtleties that culminate into knowing yourself. On her debut EP, songwriter Helen Ballentine offers an airy, intense, and unflinchingly open collection of songs written about – and from – one of life’s in-between gray areas, a stretch of uncertainty and unemployment, and the subsequent search for identity. Here, as Skullcrusher, Ballentine grapples with how to communicate her private self to an audience.

The four dark, dreamy songs on her debut EP were influenced by a strange-but-fitting amalgamation of media consumed in the immediate aftermath of quitting her 9-5. There’s Valerie and her Week of Wonders, the Czech new-wave film that went on to inform Skullcrusher’s aesthetic. There’s Ballentine’s love of fantasy and surrealism, her appreciation of the way fantasy novels juxtapose beauty and violence.

Skullcrusher’s understated energy radiates with the atmosphere of waking up to the quiet terror of shapeless, structureless days, but it finds power in eschewing the pressures of careerism and a vapid culture of productivity. Instead, as Skullcrusher, Ballentine has the audacity to be comfortable enough with herself, and to simply accept the unknown as her life.

“Lift” the new Radiohead cover by Skullcrusher, out October 19th on Secretly Canadian.

On her debut ep, songwriter Helen Ballentine offers an airy, intense, and unflinchingly open collection of songs. the four dark, dreamy numbers were influenced by a strange-but-fitting amalgamation of media consumed in the immediate aftermath of quitting her 9-5. Skullcrusher’s understated energy radiates with the atmosphere of waking up to the quiet terror of shapeless, structureless days, but it finds power in eschewing the pressures of careerism and a vapid culture of productivity. instead, as Skullcrusher, Ballentine has the audacity to be comfortable enough with herself, and to simply accept the unknown as her life. “forget the name, the la artist’s debut ep is a welcome, tender collection” 4/5 – nme.

Culled from over 40 hard drives of recorded live shows spread out across years of touring behind multiple critically acclaimed records, “Live Drugs” is unlike anything previously available in The War on Drugs’ catalogue.

The first volume to capture the band’s live interpretations, Live Drugs is a document showcasing the evolution of the band’s live show over the years. Additionally, Live Drugs is a portrait of the enduring relationship between Adam Granduciel and Dominic East. A longtime friend, guitar tech and stage manager, East is Live Drugs’s co-producer and the presence Granduciel credits as holding everything together.

Sequenced to reflect how a typical 70-minute set would flow, Live Drugs thrives on live set staples immortalized on record for the first time. This includes Buenos Aires Beach from the band’s 2008 full-length debut, Wagonwheel Blues, and the long-time musical interlude flowing between Under the Pressure and In Reverse – which bookend 2014’s “Lost In The Dream“. There’s also the band’s essential cover of Warren Zevon’s Accidentally like a Martyr – a song “so true, you should ever be lucky to write a song that simple,” Granduciel says.

I keep returning to this version. It’s my favourite of the many on YT. The extended bridge in the middle… There is just something so pure and damn near hypnotic about it… The long foreplay opening…The sax just gently caressing your temporal lobe… The drummer is just in the zone… Then it all kicks back in… I can’t even with how much I love this

The War on Drugs – “Under the Pressure Live”

released on Secretly Canadian records 20/11/20