I’m pretty worn out from divorce records this year, but Glen Phillips‘ Swallowed by the New is a divorce record so good that I’m breaking my moratorium on the form to tell you about it. Phillips is the former songwriter of Toad the Wet Sprocket who has turned himself into a songwriter approximately like Glen Hansard crossed with Alexi Murdoch while living in America. In other words, these are rich, fully-developed singer/songwriter songs that can be hushed or roaring with equal emotional impact.
The highlights of the record are the emotionally-wrung-out opener “Go,” the gospel-inflected major key of “Grief and Praise,” the Brill Building popcraft of “Reconstructing the Diary” and the stomping neo-blues rave-up that is “Held Up.” The rest of the tunes are strong as well, showing off Phillips’ oh-so-perfect vocal tone and smooth songwriting (“The Easy Ones,” “Baptistina,” “Leaving Oldtown”). The whole thing is about as warm and lovely as the thoroughly attractive album art. In other words, it doesn’t drag you through the dirt to get to the gold–at least, not too much.
Former frontman of The Exquisites, Jason Clackley, shows his tender side with his solo EP Patience. The releaseis quite the departure from Clackley’s alt-punk days, as emotive lyrics and exquisite piano playing make up why I love this EP.
“Eyes” opens up the EP with its slightly brooding sound as a result of Clackley’s lyrics, voice and piano playing. Throughout the song, the dynamics of the piano performance mirror the level of passion in Clackley’s voice. My favorite aspect of this song is the pleading lyrics: the chorus repeats “Open up your eyes/ and let the things we say come true.” The ending repetition of “open up your eyes” adds a moving layer of desperation.
“Stop Now” picks up the pace a bit more from the first song. The addition of a percussive element to the piano gives the song a driving beat. The first line, “Do you remember when/ we fell apart?” exposes the very passionate nature of the song. Clackley’s voice echoes that passion in the scream-like way he sings. Clackley spends the entire song belting notes at you, similarly to when Glen Hansard hammers those higher notes. “Stop Now” oozes punk rock intensity but leaves the anarchy behind.
In “Slow Motion,” Clackley slows things down in both his piano playing and singing. Clackley’s heavy use of the sustain pedal allows all of the primarily-lower notes to linger. This lingering element is also displayed in the way Clackley draws out his vocal notes. His final cry “is there anyone else that feels the same way as I do” is sung twice for emphasis and the song ends with a beautiful piano outro. “Slow Motion” has an overall calm, meditative sound.
“You” very quickly changes the relaxed mood of the EP with its very Rachmaninov-esque opening slam on the piano. The piano’s theme is then laid out and repeated so as to lay the foundation for the rest of the song. Clackley’s first lyric–“You’re one in a million–similarly sets the tone for the rest of the poetic ode to a beloved. The unique chorus of “You”’ is comprised solely of the lyric “and you”. The dynamic way the piano is played at the chorus gives “and you” even greater emphasis. The song then closes the EP with another elegant piano outro.
Every song off Patience combines heartfelt lyrics with graceful piano playing, giving off the sound of piano concerto meets singer-songwriter work. Both the piano playing and lyrics find equal emphasis and importance. Clackley’s EP feels like a timeless classic, and it has not even been out for a half a year.–Krisann Janowitz
Since I loved Megaman and Sonic the Hedgehog when I was growing up, chiptune has a special appeal to me. Add punk rock into that mix, and you’ve got something I can’t resist. Anamanaguchi has indeed made a career out of combining these things, but they’ve upped the ante in the video for “Meow” by paying tribute to all the video games I loved as a kid. This is just … I can’t even explain how much I love this.
With a band name like The Suicide of Western Culture and a song titled “Love Your Friends, Hate Politicians,” I didn’t expect thoroughly unmitigated joy out of this tune. But that’s what this duo delivers, offering up a thrilling, joyous electro-jam that’s reminiscent of Dan Deacon’s amazing work.
Bono and Glen Hansard decided to go busking together, which is amazing in and of itself. But the best part of this video is at the beginning, where Glen clearly motions to a guy off screen to come up and help play “Desire.” It’s Eoin Glackin, who I’ve been covering for a while now. Mind be blown.