Monday, July 31, 2023

“Friend of Mine” by Tree & the Sea – A Song Feature


      Taken in its entirety, “Friend of Mine” carries an elegance and beauty that draws a listener into the debut release from Tree & the Sea. And there are impactful moments, notably the entrance of the emotion-amplifying cello 40 seconds into the track. Still, it’s the ever-unfolding sequence of subtleties that separates “Friend of Mine” from other engaging songs.
     At the start, gently played guitar accompanies vocals that represent one side of a telephone conversation. There is a courteous greeting from the called individual, followed by a polite excuse as to why the conversation must be short – “Sorry, but I have to go. I should have been on the road long ago.” After the cello-driven bridge, the courtesy drops away and the relationship is fully exposed. The caller is an “ex” and the called party is not interested in revisiting the past. The most poetic verse is subject to interpretation, which is true of almost all intriguing lyrics:
You’re just the smell of a cigarette,
And every perfect sunset that burns
As red as the first flowers in May
Drunk off the April rains
     Tree & the Sea is primarily the husband-and-wife team Faisal and Emily Abid. Emily’s presence grows as “Friend of Mine” progresses. The highlight in harmonization begins around 1:42. But it’s the lyrical layering after 2:07 that is most captivating. The voices don't fully reunite for the final poignant line, “I’m just fine without you.”
     The website of Tree & the Sea credits Brad Goff for contributing guitar during “Friend of Mine.” The bio of the band is interesting:
  “Faisal met Emily when he auditioned for an a cappella group that she had co-founded in college (the Dynamics). 17 years later, they've continued to play music together (at home as well as around the Boston area) while raising two wonderful kids (13 and 4), two puppies, three cats and 5 chickens. Most recently, they're in the process of recording and releasing several original songs as well as interesting covers of a variety of songs.”
     “Friend of Mine” by Tree & the Sea

Monday, July 24, 2023

Dripfield by Goose – A Song Feature


     Fortunately, we dropped the third strike. We are simultaneously proud to post “Dripfield” and sheepish because it took us so long. We typically leave “jam bands” for other blogs. Goose sometimes resists the “jam band category,” but they have all the positive characteristics of being a chartered member (“Strike 1”). We typically favor guitar-based music – “Dripfield” has strong guitar play but features percussion over guitar (Strike 2). And typically, we don’t post songs the are a year-old. Goose released the song as the title track in early 2022 (Strike 3). It is the title track of their 2022 studio album.
     Under baseball rules a batter is not automatically “out” if the third strike is dropped. So, despite our previous bad calls in listening to “Dripfield,” the song is posted today. Goose is a 5-member band from Norwalk, Connecticut. The members are Rick Mitarotonda (guitar, vocals), Peter Anspach (guitar, piano, synth), Trevor Weekz (bass), Ben Atkind (drums), and Jeff Arevalo (bongos, shaker, cowbell, drums). Based on “Dripfield,” it is not a surprise that the band includes two percussionists.
     The tour schedule of Goose is available at Among the stops are two shows at Oakland’s Fox Theater on September 25 and 26.
     Dripfield by Goose

Lyrics of Dripfield by Goose
How did he let down?
How did he get down in it?
How did he show them?
How did he hold them in it?
How did he come to?
How did he run true through it?
How was it in full?
Boundless and simple
Lonely roam
Onerated soul
Oh the rain it calls
Howling up
Season come
Oh the reeds you run
Such a heedless one
Climbing out
There I hear him stepping
Overhead in heaven
Oceans still I‘m treading
Turned out to the retting
Caught under the crescent
Undertow I fell in
Water I keep pressing
Water I keep pressing
Holy one
Constellated sum
Separated from
All above
Love lit hue
What’s a naked view
If I’m adjacent you
(I still can’t see what I’m keeping on my back
Keep falling around in circles
Still don’t know where my mouth is
Keep falling around in circles
Still don’t know where my blood is
Why you gotta be such a soldier all the time )
Howling out the prism
Calling for the rhythm
Time’s my only prison
Dripfield where you sitting
Rising like the weather
Blood gets pumping redder
I know that life comes better
I know that life comes better
In love
Holy one
Constellated sum
Separated from
All above
Hull undone
Saturated tongue
Oh the rain it comes
Howling out
Love lit hue
What’s a naked view
If I’m adjacent you
Season wide
Everlasting tide
It’s coming back just like

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

“143” by Noah Libby – An Album Release


     A persuasive argument can be made for each song on the album "143" being the best among the seven. The shared traits among the songs include the acoustic approach taken throughout the album, the emphasis on acoustic guitar and mandolin, and the intimacy of the lyrical subject matter. As with any album reflecting the heartfelt perspectives of the writer, different songs will resonant differently among listeners and will even vary for an individual listener depending upon changing circumstances in the life of that listener. Ultimately, the strength of the album from Noah Libby lies in its ability to connect with listeners, so any preference of one song over the others is personal.
     At least today, our favorite songs on the album are those that include backing vocals from Noah’s wife Joanna. In the title track, her voice harmonizes elegantly with Noah’s. It is clear from the lyrics that “143” represents the letter counts for the three words “I love you.” The text code is at the heart of the song.
      Still, our favorite is “Valley Low.” During the verses, the backing vocals join with the lead vocals to finish thoughts. But the vocal magic occurs during the chorus, when Joanna’s voice is an echo to Noah’s. The first occasion of the chorus begins at the 51 second mark. Nearly as appealing is the mandolin hook that is first heard in the short intro and then separates each instance of the chorus from its neighboring verses. The sequence of mandolin notes carries a feel of reaching a peak, taking a brief pause, and then descending.
      When talking about his solo album, Noah Libby said:
  I wrote these songs between the births of our two children.  I think deep down I knew the quartet (Blisses B) I played in would be slowing down if not ending. This album stood as a framework for a log cabin, just enough to be weatherproof and could be worked on.  It was always going to be just acoustic guitar, mandolin and keyboards.  My partner Joanna brought in some great ideas on background vocals too.  It is a bridge for me, removing the cloak of having a full band behind me to strip down to boxer shorts and be okay with that. We tracked and mixed this album in Oakland, CA and I stand to send it into the world now living in Long Beach, CA. These two cities have a lot in common and I think the themes of uncertainty, parenthood, the loss of self, and well…. Love… are at its core (1-4-3 = I-Love-You).”
      143” was recorded at Owl Sight Recorders in Oakland, CA. Alex Laipenieks engineered and mixed the album to analog 1’’ tape. [Noah’s thoughts on the late Alex Laipenieks are included at the bottom of this post.]  Tyler Jensen also mixed some of the songs. The album was mastered by Carl Saff at Saff Mastering in Chicago, IL  
     “Valley Low” by Noah Libby

     Reflecting upon Alex Laipenieks, Noah said:
  “We lost Alex Laipenieks two years ago this January, a life taken far too soon.  Posthumously this will be one of two albums he engineered and mixed from Blisses B alumni.  On some level it makes me think of a ray of sunshine refracting through a kitchen window.  A reminder of a friendship forged in the studio.  Creating recorded music can do just that, create friends… you are together for hours on end in a vulnerable state, and in this case, it was just the two of us most days.  Alex could be hard to work with at times, especially in tracking as he felt attacked if opinions were announced or we had to punch a track in to fix something.  But ultimately, I think he softened over time with both of us recognizing this would be a sonic tribute to him and also a time capsule that would start pre-pandemic and now years later find the other side of the tunnel.  He was a super talent with 1’’ tape machines and also mixing in analog and I think that will shine through, it kind of has to.”

Friday, July 14, 2023

“Tripping” by The American Hotel System – A Song Feature


     The force majeure of 2020, which compelled many of us to adopt a more reclusive lifestyle, hindered our abilities to fulfill the obligations outlined in our social contracts. Being essentially confined to our homes as shut-ins, any weaknesses in the defense against mental health challenges were exposed. Music is a reflection of life, so it isn’t surprising that there is an increase in the number of songs that address diminished well-being. Each song deserves recognition for the courageousness in unveiling personal vulnerabilities. Then, there is a small subset of songs that individually shine as a musical gem. The American Hotel System, a five-member Rock band based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, owns one of those shining gems.  
     “Tripping” is a travel through engaging sceneries. After an attention-attracting intro, the song from The American Hotel System showcases the vocal strength of the band. The song would do well as a vocals-driven single. But the vocals enhance the depth of the emotion in the lyrics (which will be explored and explained by the writer (Jacob Betts) below). Notably, partially through each of the four lines of the first verse, there is a deliberate pause, creating a sense of anticipation that draws the listener into the subject matter.
      And the instrumentation is equally praiseworthy as it unfolds. The guitar and percussion are consistently strong. Just after the 1:20 mark, there is a sound of violin plucking (pizzicato). But the highlight occurs at 3:30, as the vocals hold the note for “heart” to overlap the start of a guitar solo.  

      The members of The American Hotel System are Jacob Betts (vocals, guitar), C.T. McCallister (guitar), Samuel Overman (guitar), Hailey Petty (percussion), and Jake LaMotte (bass). In explaining “Tripping,” Betts said:
  In the spring of 2021, I experienced an emotional breakdown. The weight of the previous 18 months finally gave way and I felt like my spirit collapsed in on itself. I made the decision to finally start therapy and was officially diagnosed with OCD, something which I had been fairly certain of for most of my life. One of the major things I started working through were violent intrusive thoughts, most of which involved my wife. I began to fear myself and worried that these thoughts were a reflection of some shadow deep within my heart. For a time, these thoughts made me fear even looking at my wife (“Then my thoughts overcome me, it’s overwhelming to me when I see your face”). I wanted nothing more than to be close with her during this season of emotional and mental stretching, but the early stages of working through the OCD made this incredibly difficult (“You’re what I desire while I’m walking this wire, but my thoughts keep tripping up until they fall”). 
     Betts continued:
  I believe we all have pushes and pulls in life – the things in our past that push us forward and the things in our future that pull us towards tomorrow. As I’ve worked through therapy, the pain in my past has become something I can take joy in as it pushes me forward. In the end, it’s love that sustains me through the trials of life; that is what keeps me moving forward in even the darkest of times.”
     “Tripping” by The American Hotel System

Lyrics of “Tripping” by The American Hotel System
I don’t mind when you call me
‘Cuz half our time is spent away
But then my thoughts overcome me
It’s overwhelming to me when I see your face
‘Cuz you’re what I desire
While I’m walking this wire
But my thoughts keep tripping up until they fall
My head starts spinning when I hear you call for me
I keep running when you call
Then I hear your voice and my heart falls
But then my thoughts overcome me
It’s overwhelming to me when I see your face
You’re what I desire
While I’m walking this wire
But my thoughts keep tripping up until they fall
My head starts spinning when I hear you call
As my head spins faster in my mind’s disaster
Yeah, my thoughts keep tripping up until they fall
My head starts spinning when I hear you
It’s your love for which I yearn
But I’m still afraid; that’s why I turn
It’s your love I can’t earn
So give me the sparks and watch us burn
My heart is a pyre– so let the flames burn higher
Yeah, your love keeps pulling me through the dark
This pain keeps pushing me to your heart
As my head spins faster in my mind’s disaster
Yeah, your love keeps pulling me through the dark
This pain keeps pushing me to your heart
Yeah, your love keeps pulling me through the dark
This pain keeps pushing me to your heart

Monday, July 10, 2023

“No Big Sky” by The Sizzos – A Song Feature

     Each contribution to the song "No Big Sky" demonstrates a commanding presence while simultaneously embracing an understated nature. That dynamic is reflected not only within the individual elements but by the entirety of the song from The Sizzos. It is best demonstrated during the intro, when a resonant guitar with the power to dominate the conversation allows the “programming” and then percussion to have a voice.
     Fittingly, as the harmonization unfolds, it possesses an emotive passion, yet both voices maintain a hushed quality. The female backing vocals are almost whispered at times. The enchanting female voice belongs to Emily Beebe. The lead vocals are by George Zaninovich, who is the founder and driving force behind The Sizzos. The project is based in Eugene, Oregon, and features a host of talented contributors whose individual styles offer a distinctive sound.
     While talking about “No Big Sky,” George Zaninovich explained:
  It's about a woman who has dealt with many setbacks and has decided that while her life might not be what she had hoped, there is plenty to make it ok. It's about perseverance in hard times and changing relationships.”
     “No Big Sky” is the first release from the upcoming sophomore LP of The Sizzos. The LP, interestingly entitled “Glitter in Gravel,” is coming out on August 4, 2023. The song was written by George Zaninovich and Joe Dagostino. Dagostino contributed the ebow, and the electric and acoustic rhythm guitars, while Zaninovich provided the synth bass, programming, and lead guitar.
     The Bandcamp site for the album by The Sizzos includes credits for each of the 9 songs (CLICK HERE), as well as a tantalizing description of the album’s focus:
  In their second full album, ‘Glitter in Gravel,’ the Sizzos return with a shoegaze infused, indie folk rock sound. The album's atmosphere is buoyed by tight harmonies, vintage synth and new wave guitar blended with acoustic guitar and even banjo. Continuing to probe the depths of relationship and wonder at the world around us, Zaninovich pulls back the curtain and asks us to join him on a pilgrimage that is wistful, unguarded and searching. Love and rebirth glimmer through the album as Zananiovich and bandmates meditate on grief and hope following deep personal loss during the album’s two year creation. With a release targeted for August, the album will be available for streaming and purchase in digital and vinyl formats.”
       “No Big Sky” by The Sizzos