Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

The Talent of Jeremy Bass, Part 1

July 28, 2015

winterbare

It’s always interesting when an artist releases one album directly after another–what Jeremy Bass did this year is no exception. Releasing Winter Bare in April and New York in Spring in June, Bass gave us two different eight-song releases that sound worlds apart from each other. Next week, I will be reviewing the more recent release New York in Spring. For now, let’s take a look at the poetic, more low-key, ‘60s folk-sounding Winter Bare.

Although labeled “alt-country,” Winter Bare has a pretty distinct ‘60s folk feel. Bass’ voice takes on a blues feel in the first track, but it maintains much more of a Bob Dylan flavor in the rest of the album. More modern-day vocal comparisons would be Fleet Foxes and Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s, both of which seem to stem from this tradition. Take Bass’ “Lift Me Up,” for example: the guitar strumming gives off a very 60s folk vibe. The vocal harmonies of the track are reminiscent of Fleet Foxes, whose sound stems from artists like Peter, Paul, and Mary and Simon & Garfunkel. The lyrics of “Lift Me Up” are also very nature-focused, something which also links it to the forefathers and foremothers of modern folk. The more I examined the track and the whole album, the more the inspiration becomes evident, whether Bass meant it or not.

The low-key vibe of Winter Bare makes the album a relaxing one to listen to. The vocals are clear, and it honestly sounds as if Bass is just telling us story after story. The instrumentation is fairly simple: mainly accomplished through acoustic guitar, but occasionally switched out with a banjo (“Winterlude (Banjo for Annie)”) or mandolin (“Coming Back Home”). There are also subtle appearances from other instruments like trumpets (“Lift Me Up”) and the pump organ (“One More Cigarette”). Even with the added instruments, the songs remain generally relaxing and easy to listen to. You can certainly categorize Winter Bare as a “feel good” album, sonically.

Jeremy Bass is not only a brilliant musician and lyricist, but he is a poet as well–it certainly shows in the poetic nature of his lyrics. One theme that Bass focuses on in many of his songs is love. Yet, Bass doesn’t tackle the subject in an overly cheesy manner as many artists in the past have. Instead, Bass uses a more realistic approach in his lyrics. With lyrics like, “I can’t pretend that love’s not the sweetest salt in the wound/ that the heart gives,” Bass expresses the experience of true love with all of its flaws. That lyric found in “One More Cigarette” is followed up by the chorus ending in “We make our choices and we live with what we choose/That’s why I choose you.” So although in his lyrics, there is certainly a level of honesty about the messiness of love, Bass still maintains an overall optimistic view of love.

Bass also uses nature in his lyrics to express the deeper meaning of life and love. In “Red Tailed Hawk,” Bass uses an extended metaphor to depict an animal that is “white-winged and free.” He continues to describe the peaceful image of this “Red Tailed Hawk.” Finally, in the last lyric, Bass then asks, “Won’t you teach me what it means to be/ White-winged and free?” “Red Tailed Hawk” is but one example where Bass poetically uses nature as a mode to describe his emotional reality.

Winter Bare shows off Bass’ skills in a subtle way. His lyrics appear seamlessly written. The instrumentation is simple, yet more complex once examined. One may even wonder if the title relates to simple bareness of the album. Nevertheless, Winter Bare is a truly beautiful folk album, reaching back to the ‘60s. Stay tuned for next week, when you’ll find that New York in Spring shows off quite a different side of the talented Jeremy Bass. —Krisann Janowitz

Western Giants' EP combines country and dreamy indie in an groundbreaking way

March 9, 2010

It constantly amazes me what can be done with music. There is a finite number of notes and chords in the world, but hundreds of thousands of bands keep churning them out in different ways. Just when I think that I’ve got a handle on all that is in the indie rock world, I get knocked for a loop. Western GiantsLong Live the Live Long Day is that latest loop.

Western Giants is a band from Texas, and as such they incorporate country music into their amalgam (it’s really almost impossible not to if you’re from Texas; even the metal there has a country swagger). But they also include a strain of energetic, easy-going indie rock that’s been popping up in Oklahoma in bands like The Uglysuit, The Non, and more. These two elements together create a dreamy, lazy, warm sound that I’ve never heard before. It’s like what would happen if country artists started listening to the majestic Margot and the Nuclear So & Sos or the wide-eyed Annuals. Or maybe it’s the sound of indie hipsters not just rocking cowboy boots but actually getting on the horse for a weekend of work. Either way, it’s glorious.

There’s only four songs on this EP, and that distresses me. I wish there were a full album of this, because it’s simply fantastic. From the supremely indie chilled out keys of “Long Live the Live Long Day” to the spare, folksy drumming and accordion of “Once We Reach the Other Side” to the pressing indie beauty of “As Hard as the Road Ahead” back to the charming country strum of “Park,” there are moments in each of these songs that make it hard for me to declare a stand-out track. They’re all highlights.

I could dedicate more words to Long Live the Live Long Day, but I don’t need more than this: Western Giants plays a mix of mellow country and dreamy, lazy indie that will leave you speechless. It’s the best EP of the year so far. You need this EP, and you need to follow this band. Up-and-comers in the indie scene for sure.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

Recent Posts

Categories

Independent Clauses Monthly E-mail

Get updates and information about IC, plus opportunities for bands.
Band name? PR company? Business?
* = required field

powered by MailChimp!

Archives