“Caffeine Shakes & Bloodshot Eyes” by Lucas/Thoughtless

3 Sep

-Posted by Site Editor Ron Freeman

 

I met Lucas Harris during the brief stint when I hosted a Monday night open mic at Kafe Kerouac.  Since then we’ve done quite a few shows together and co-founded the not-very-active Mustache Era Records label.   Lucas’s most known musical outlet is as lead singer of Playing to Vapors but he also does solo shows around town and has a couple of quality records worth checking out.

Through Lucas I met the Thoughtless gang when he suggested they participate in our Mustache Era Records project.  He passed me a link to their bandcamp page and I downloaded the demos they posted.  I had heard Lucas cover their “Caffeine Shakes & Bloodshot Eyes” acoustically and had already been impressed with it and then the rest of Thoughtless’s songs quickly made them one of my favorite local acts and singer Rebecca Flore secured a place as one of the best songwriters I know (and I know hundreds).

Sadly Thoughtless broke up due to the typical scourges that destroy Columbus bands: grad school, internships, graduation, etc.  However that didn’t happen before both Lucas and Thoughtless released their own recordings of this great song.  I can’t think of a local song I’ve loved more in the past year (or ever maybe) and the recording by Lucas is far and away one of the best Columbus, OH recordings I’ve heard.  I’m really impressed that Lucas would record his own version just because he also loved the song so much.  I’d love to see more Columbus bands cover each other (and some have and they will be featured here in the future).

While Thoughtless’s version is rough and raw with a lot of rock n’ roll energy, Lucas’s version is a blast of pop perfection.  The contrast stresses the importance of finding your voice as a performer.  We have a lot of great performers in Columbus that are weaker songwriters than they think.  Lucas is a strong (and getting stronger) songwriter but has the humility to realize how good someone else’s song can be in his own voice.

Go check out the two along with the rest of their records.  Thoughtless’s whole (regrettably small) catalogue is available for free on bandcamp.  If you’re not going to download something this good and free then why the hell are you reading a music blog?

Places to check out Lucas:

Facebook Page

BandCamp Page

Playing to Vapors Facebook

Playing to Vapors BandCamp

Places to check out Thoughtless:

Facebook Page

BandCamp Page

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“The Desert by Mid-Afternoon” by Winter Makes Sailors

2 Sep

-Posted by Guest Contributor Andrew Choi

 

I actually don’t know Sean Gardner that well. I ran into him at a show in Columbus celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Anyway Records, where we were both performing. I heard his band play that night, and then met him without realizing who he was. A small hilarity ensued. I don’t remember much from the show, but part of it is that I actually have a tough time listening to live music. The funny thing is, I think that it’s quite hard to get a sense of how a band really sounds until you hear them in a studio piece. I know a lot of people think that it goes the other way around – that there is something about hearing a band live that you can’t capture in a studio. That is possibly true, but also logically consistent with there also being things that you can’t get live, that only a studio will really get right. (It’s also consistent with the studio being the better format).

In any case, I started to listen to Sean’s band, Winter Makes Sailors, when their album “Moving On” was released by Anyway Records just recently. I like a lot of the tracks off the album, but the track “Desert by Mid-Afternoon” is the one that has stuck with me over the past few weeks. Speaking about the track, but also more generally about the album, Sean has a nice way of actually writing vocal melodies – something that is kind of a lost art in indie rock these days. So much of the melody writing in indie is either monotone or suffers from a forced-quirkiness that can become grating. It turns out that melodies can evoke some real genuine emotion when they’re written well, and this is one thing that has stood out listening to the album. “Desert by Mid-Afternoon” is the track that really does it for me. Real human emotion without schmaltz is a delicate balance to find as a melody writer, and he walks that balance well.

Really, the track is just a description of complaints and thoughts about being on the road. The arrangement (especially the distant guitar at 1:18) is spot on. Really, it’s more of a mood piece than pop-rock song, but he gets the mood right – and that’s really all that matters. That’s why me describing it any more than this is useless. It’s better to just click on the button and listen to the song.

Places to check out Winter Makes Sailors:

Facebook Page

BandCamp Page

Tumblr Page

Andrew Choi lives in New York City.  He writes and records music as St. Lenox.

 

“Fever Dream” by Fever Dream (Tanne Walker)

15 May

-Posted by guest contributor Savannah Freeman

I’ve only know Tanne Walker, the main writer and lead songstress of Fever Dream, since 2012. Last year my husband (and this site’s host) Ron hosted an open mic at Kafe Kerouac in Columbus, Ohio, and it was there on a Monday evening that I met her. She seemed timid, a tiny thing with thick brown curls and pink shorts and flip flops, and I wouldn’t have guessed she was out of college (even though she was). Women are somewhat scarce in the music scene, and those who dare play their songs often mask their lack in songwriting skills and proficiency at an instrument with a pretty voice. It certainly isn’t a rule, just a common observation. With this in mind, I didn’t expect too much.

When Tanne’s turn came, she walked on stage and played three songs to my recollection: “Old Fashioned Hat”, “The Book of Love”, and her own “Fever Dream” (the moniker she later gave her duo with Kelsey Yarnell). I imagine everyone in the room was as impressed as I was. No fumbled strums or pauses to reposition her fingers. Her guitar picking rang out as clear and beautiful as her voice, which is more soothing than sweet, yet “strong and straight through.”

Tanne hadn’t played out much before this, and she hadn’t written much either. In fact, when she embarked on a road trip earlier this year she had only a few originals to her name. On the road, she finished writing and recording her nine track album Rust Belt Blues, which included two of my other favorites, “Blue Star Highway” and “Bruises”.

One could argue “Fever Dream” is too long for a song with no bridge, but the lyrics are so interesting I enjoy hearing it the whole way through every time. It’s about her parents:  the youthful, fiery and stubborn traits that sparked their attraction seem passed as one trait onto their “daughter to keep warm.” It is a tension within her, depicted in her “crooked rhythm” and the “fire in [her] eyes.” She doesn’t regret any of it, though. She’s “feelin’ blessed” and notes the practical skills, emotional stability and wisdom they gave her.

Tanne’s reflective lyrics throughout the album are one of the things I love most about her music. Coupling them with her just-sad-enough melodies have won me over. She never holds a note too long, never shows off, and even though her voice is poignant it isn’t necessarily confident. Personally, I wouldn’t enjoy it as much if it was.

I hope to hear more from her soon, although I will definitely miss Kelsey’s harmonies since she relocated to the west coast. Since returning to Columbus, Tanne hasn’t played many shows. She has, however, been busy making delicious baked goods at Humble Pie. Tanne, If you are reading this, Ron loved your strawberry cake. Thank you for your beautiful music.

Places to check out Fever Dream:

Facebook Page

BandCamp Page

Savannah Freeman lives in Columbus, OH.  She sings and plays piano in Lost Orchards.

“Weekends” & “I Hope You’ll Feel Alright” by Tiger Waves

10 May

-Posted by guest contributor Ryan Getz

 

 

I spent the majority of 2007-2011 attending the conservative Christian college known as Wheaton in suburban Illinois. While some outside the Wheaton bubble might scoff at the possibility of a conservative Christian campus being a viable incubator for solid indie music, I present to you evidence of the contrary – the enigma known as Reid Comstock.

The first three years at Wheaton, Reid was more or less “that indie guy who can’t decide what name to settle on with his folk band” but senior year I got to know him as a friend, and after we parted ways upon graduation I fully realized the depth of what this man was capable of. Enter Tiger Waves, his Austin, Texas based project – a band still active to this day.

Tiger Waves has a distinct sound that meshes surf rock with ambient psychedelic rock. Think Brian Wilson on acid. But not too strong of a hit – metaphorically speaking, the residual effects of salvia prolonged over a song, not a full on dose of ecstasy or LSD. The band’s biggest “hit” to speak of (that is, that which has spread the most throughout the blogging community) is “Weekends” but I find myself drawn to “I Hope You’ll Feel Alright” the most. This song draws you in with its tense buildup in the intro before caressing you with a strangely comforting riff and ethereal harmonizing. It’s a nearly irresistible combination making for the highlight of the Don’t Be Yourself EP. This was also the set opener during the band’s debut appearance in Columbus, Ohio for the inaugural I Am Tuned Up showcase at Scarlet and Grey Cafe.

Comstock plans to move to New York City for graduate school, and last I heard his bandmates were intent on continuing Tiger Waves with him in his new academic environment. How the band will do in indie-haven Brooklyn remains to be seen, but given their breeding ground in Austin, I can hardly imagine something other than a positive result would be yielded.

Places to check out Tiger Waves:

Facebook Page

BandCamp Page

Ryan Getz lives in Columbus, OH.  He is the founder and chief writer of the music website I Am Tuned Up.

“Stick With Your Friends” & “A Light in the Corner, Pt. 2” by Old Worlds

9 May

-Posted by guest contributor Seth Ellsworth

 

 

Several years ago, I was a multi-instrumentalist in a band called Ron Freeman & The Revelators. I played 3-4 instruments, depending on the night, and sang background vocals. In that band, we made a strategic decision early on to try to focus the music on our individual strengths. In my case, that meant that I spent most of my time on the violin/viola. It was one of the best musical decisions I’ve ever made, and it has since opened up several opportunities. One of those opportunities came in the summer of 2011, when drummer Mike Poston randomly asked me to play second violin in the small string ensemble that was being put together for Old Worlds’ CD release party. That was my first introduction to what evolved into the Old Worlds collective. They are all fantastic musicians, and even better people. I was not a part of the recording process, and they decided to go back to a three-piece in the summer of 2012, so I no longer play with them, but I much enjoyed the time I spent making music with them.

Old Worlds is the creative avenue through which Aaron Sturgill channels his unique take on the world. As the name suggests, the sonic and lyrical nuances of Old Worlds pays homage to days gone by. However, the delivery is definitively modern. Old Worlds gets lumped into the shoegaze/post-rock genre mostly because it can’t be neatly categorized. The music is instrumental, punctuated by the occasional adamant soaring vocals of Mr. Sturgill (with additional vocal accompaniment in concert by his wife, Kylie Sturgill, a trained opera singer and musicologist). In that way, Old Worlds is most definitely shoegaze/post-rock in nature. However, that is where the comparison ends. Post-rock tends to be very droany in its attempts to achieve ambient dynamics. Sturgill has taken a more melodic approach. He utilizes layers and layers of loops to construct and build upon themes. The surrounding musicians create the ambience and put the guts and meat on the thematic skeleton. As a trained violinist, this approach no doubt comes from his classical training. It’s a perfect example of modern music technology in the hands of a more than competent classical musician. Sturgill is nothing if not appropriate in his textures and phrasings.

To date, Old Worlds has made one record, A Light in the Corner, released on Jacuzzi Suit (Chicago) for American distribution and internationally by Oxide Tones Records (Germany) in June 2011. The entire record is wonderful. However, “Stick With Your Friends” and “A Light in the Corner, Pt. 2” stand out because they accomplish something so essential for this music to work. They take you somewhere. There is a resolvent quality to both songs that strikes me as, at the same time, transitional and comforting. There are moments of grandiose rapture, accomplished by waves and waves of overdriven guitar amps and layers of complex harmonies, but what’s more important is that the listener experiences the journey and also gets the sense that a satisfying end has been reached. This may, or may not, have been where Sturgill was when he was writing these songs, but it sure feels that way to me. These have been their two most popular songs amongst fans and for the radio, so I suspect others feel the same about them.

Places to check out Old Worlds:

Official Website

Facebook Page

BandCamp Page

Seth Ellsworth lives in Columbus, OH and plays viola in Coal Fired Bicycle.  Seth also writes the blog Things I Meant To Say.

“You Give It All Your Heart” by Bill Mallonee

8 May

-Posted by site editor Ron Freeman

 

Unlike others I’ll cover in this blog, I didn’t meet Bill Mallonee at an open mic or somewhere else in the local scene.  I was a fan of his, and a very big fan, before I got to know him.  Not that I really know him well, but we have met a few times and I’ve opened up for him twice.  I’ve seen Mallonee live about a dozen times, shows that become (rather sadly) more intimate as years go by.  Bill Mallonee has been very public about his struggles with attracting an audience and financial hardships that come from being a working class singer/songwriter.  Through stage patter and email updates to fans, Mallonee routinely opens up about his professional and personal struggles, including attempts to sell off instruments in an effort to pay his bills.

I’ve always thought that Mallonee’s openness about these struggles would make him a fascinating documentary subject.  He’s worked with artists like Emmylou Harris, Peter Buck of R.E.M., and Buddy & Julie Miller and yet he still has a hard time selling CDs or filling out a tour schedule.  He’s certainly not the only artist out there like this, with a few thousand fans scattered about the country, but he’s the one I know best.

Almost obsessively prolific, with over 50 albums and EPs in the past 25 years, Mallonee clearly writes songs because he has to, for financial and emotional reasons.  His music matters to him and that’s reason enough to do it.  All the musicians who read this blog can certainly relate.  Some who read this have hundreds of fans, some (like me) just a few dozen.  Probably the most frustrating thing in my life is how much my music means to me and how little it will ever mean to (almost) anyone else.  Musicians are like kids, when something’s important to us we want everyone around us to think it’s important too.  That’s why it means the world to me when a friend says they caught themselves singing one of my songs to themselves.  Those words help make it matter to me.  There’s been many times I’ve laid on my living room floor after a rotten day and listened to Bill Mallonee songs.  And I’m sure me saying that means something to him.

“You Give It All Your Heart” is a song about doing something because you were born to do it, about not doing something for the hope of fame or glory, but instead “you just do some things for love”.  The song centers on a minor league baseball player who feels so right on the field he can’t imagine doing anything else.  As a huge baseball fan I’m partial to just about any artwork that uses a baseball-as-life trope, and this is easily one of my favorite Mallonee songs of all time (and not his first minor league baseball song, check out  “The Ballad of Russell Perry”).  The main character in “You Give It All Your Heart” realizes how special it is that he gets to do the thing he loves most even if he “may not make it out of the bush leagues”.

That’s a thought that most musicians can take with them.  I’ve made four records in my life, each took about a year to make and sold around 150 copies.  Anyone who didn’t ache to make music wouldn’t think it was worth doing.  But every once in a while I see a friend singing along, or I get an email from someone I’ve never met who heard my music online and liked it, or someone just buys a copy and listens because they love me.  We’re blessed to live in the age where recording is the easiest it’s ever been, where a kid in a basement can pour his heart out onto an MP3 and share it with the world.  I hope Bill Mallonee sells as many records as he can so he can keep make a living at this, I hope all of you will pay a buck to download this song, but more than that I want him to continue to do what he was born to do.

Places to check out Bill Mallonee:

Official Website

Facebook Page

BandCamp Page

“Queen of the Nightlife” by Post Coma Network

7 May

-Posted by site editor Ron Freeman

 

A lot of people in Columbus are probably aware of this song rocketing up the charts on CD102.5, recently becoming the most requested song the station plays.  While previous (and future) Listen to Friends posts have shined a spotlight on more unheralded artists, I thought I’d take a day where I didn’t have a lot of time to write to champion this insanely catchy number.

I met Josh Montgomery from Post Coma Network several years ago at the infamous Taj Mahal Tuesday night open mic, a night he now co-hosts.  For those less in the know, the Taj open mic can be one of the more wild open mics in town.  Stuffed with talent, and regular appearances from some of the strangest artists in city, I’ve seen tons of great songwriters and made a few friends there as well.

The first time I heard “Queen of the Nightlife” was several years ago at the Taj open mic.  Played acoustically by three members of the band, it was instantly memorable.  Post Coma Network nailed those harmonies and had you humming the chorus the rest of the night.  It’s easy to see why this song would be a radio hit.  The production sounds fantastic and it gets stuck in your head.  I think ‘gets stuck in your head’ is one of the highest compliments you can pay a song.  It means it stays with you, most songs can’t say that.  Even though our minds can also be polluted by dopey pop songs not nearly as good as “Queen”, it’s always better to be memorable than forgettable.  When you hang out at open mics, rock shows, and singer-songwriter spotlights as much I do, I can tell you that most songs aren’t instantly memorable.

While I started this blog to spotlight songs I love by local artists, I’m not actually a very positive guy.  Ask my wife (who knows what I really think of everything I hear), I hate music much more than love it.  But I get tired of being negative, this blog is a way to temper that negativity. I don’t want to hate things, I want to love what I hear.  So pouring time and the written word into the stuff in town I do love helps put my mind in a more positive place.  Any band I write about here should get stickers that say ‘Ron Freeman secretly hates everything but he likes us’.

Places to check out Post Coma Network:

Post Coma Network Official Website

Post Coma Network on Facebook

Post Coma Network on Bandcamp