Haunted Like Human Explore Relationships Through Mental Health Lens with “Stay” Premiere

Photo Credit: Caroline Voisine

Dale Chapman and Cody Clark are natural born storytellers, so it’s only fitting that music is what brought them together. The two met by a happy accident, guitarist Clark voyaging across the country from Washington state to Music City where vocalist Chapman was working at a restaurant in Midtown. Clark and his friend came in just after arriving in the city; Chapman struck up a conversation with the musicians that serendipitously led to a co-writing session between her and Clark. Realizing the creative chemistry between them in that first writing session, they formed folk duo Haunted Like Human, releasing their debut album Ghost Stories in 2017.

“We were talking about the universal human experience of being a little bit haunted by something, whether it’s your past or a mistake. That part of being haunted in this human experience,” Clark describes of the meaning behind the duo’s name. “We really try to tell stories in every song we write.” 

They channel this symbolism into their new song “Stay” (premiering exclusively via Audiofemme) from forthcoming LP Tall Tales & Fables, out October 15. The stirring acoustic number puts mental health at the forefront, as they ride ravaged waters with grace and ease, alongside a peaceful melody of guitar and strings complementing their haunting, yet serene harmonies. After taking a year-long hiatus from songwriting after the release of 2018 EP Folklore, the duo found themselves returning to the craft after opening for The Talbott Brothers at City Winery in Nashville in 2019. The lyrics of the chorus came to Chapman’s mind while driving in the car to her waitressing job, prompting her to record a rough demo on her phone to send to her bandmate, describing the song as a cross between the Talbot Brothers and Gregory Alan Isakov.

“It really became a deep dive into the way that relationships that we’ve been in have been affected by one or both people’s mental health, the struggles, and how hopeless that can sometimes feel,” Chapman explains of the song’s inspiration. “We both have wrestled with anxiety and depression a lot in different ways. I know for me, they will often feed off of each other in this vicious spiral of being insecure or feeling like a burden, and then you’re projecting that onto the other person, and assuming that they think that you’re a burden makes you feel more insecure, and what it looks like to try to work as a team on somebody’s mental health. It’s hard for everybody involved. It’s a good fight, but also it’s a hard fight.”

The duo doesn’t shy away from the hard fight on “Stay,” the gothic, instrumental score following the lead character as they battle their inner demons with whiskey and medicine, trying to keep a meaningful relationship afloat as Chapman pleads in the song’s opening lines, “You’re trying to be patient/You’re trying to be kind/But I know that you’re still running from the demons in my mind/But I promise this thing in my head/It ain’t got the best of me yet.”

“It’s a relationship that’s on the brink of falling apart,” Chapman explains. “We’ve all been there, and looking at it and saying, ‘There’s only so much that I can do for you as a person in this moment; there’s only so much that I can give. What does that mean for us moving forward?’ It’s a song about being up against a wall and really having to lay all your cards out on the table.” 

This notion comes to a head in the bridge as Chapman and Clark echo, “Don’t give up on me/I won’t give up on you,” their harmonies calling out to one another across an abyss of vulnerability. What makes the song particularly unique is the way that mental health becomes a character all its own, serving as a present player in the story. The lead character seemingly drowns in their own reality, yet possesses the strength and resiliency to overcome those inner demons.

“I feel like I’ve had people give up on me in relationships before and that’s been a sentiment that’s felt very close to a surface. It’s like ‘I need you to not give up on me in this moment,’ something about the simplicity of it, yet it’s this back and forth communication,” Chapman reflects. “I feel like personifying mental illness and giving it a more active character to play in the plot is something that I have always enjoyed doing and it’s something that you’ll see throughout our discographies. I feel like we’ve made a lot of progress in the last couple of years about breaking down the stigma around mental illness and being more open about it and understanding. But to put a character and put some type of form and actions and motives, an antagonist in the story, it’s a little bit more physical than just something inside my head.”  

The song ends on an intentionally hopeful note; Chapman offers the final line: “So darling, won’t you hold me close the way you used to do?” allowing the listener to determine if the darkness ends in light. “I didn’t want it to be hopeless,” Chapman professes. “[It’s] this olive branch offering in a way, of holding out a hand and working to potentially rebuild from where you’re at.”

“It’s nice to leave it open-ended. Let the audience decide how it ends,” Clark adds.

With “Stay,” the duo hopes the song offers a message of hope for those who need it, and that listeners will connect to its message of compassion and understanding. “To me, it feels freeing to put your own story into a song, almost like it’s therapy and you’re recovering from it. It’s in a song now, that’s not my burden anymore,” Clark observes. “People struggling with mental illness [may] hear this and hear, ‘You’re not alone, you’re not the only person struggling with this,’ and hopefully be encouraged to try to improve the situation.”

“Between music and telling stories, those are such powerful human connectors. That’s always what we’re striving to do is connect with other people in some way and make them feel something. I know the moments that I’ve felt the most moved [is] when somebody will come up to us after a show and be like, ‘This song, I love it because it hit me this way. It saw me where I was and I felt that.’ To have created that connection and shared that emotion, it’s so humbling,” Chapman says gratefully. “The fact that we get to participate in that is really incredible.” 

Follow Haunted Like Human on Instagram for ongoing updates.

My Life as Ali Thomas Let Their Sound Wander Through Peppermint Town

“I totally didn’t think the band would get this far, and now I have to explain it and I feel kind of silly explaining it,” says ‘Pie’ Kanyapak Wuttara, vocalist in dreampop trio My Life As Ali Thomas. She’s referring to the name of the band; to create the powerful storytelling they do both sonically and lyrically, Pie needed a level of separation from her musical persona, and landed on “Ali Thomas” as a play on the word “alias.”

Based in Thailand, the band formed serendipitously in 2014 following an impromptu jam session between Pie and guitarist ‘Rack’ Wipata Lertpanya which led to their first gig together as well as meeting drummer ‘Taw’ Wannaphong Jangbumrung. “It’s kind of lucky. My friend called me saying ‘I have a guitarist who would really suit your music’ around the time I was kind of giving up on music,” Pie recalls. “After we jammed, the owner of the shop we were jamming in was like, ‘I’m just going to book you for a gig.’ It tumbled down from there and now we’re on our second album.”

Released via Warner Music Thailand, Peppermint Town serves as the sequel to Paper, the band’s 2016 debut. Opting to experiment this time around, they visit indie folk, post-rock, pop rock, and more, the album’s themes encompassing self-confidence, loss and love led by Pie’s ethereal vocals and visual storytelling. “The first album was kind of like meeting Ali Thomas, but the second is Ali Thomas taking everyone back to her house,” she says. “It was a lot of fun making it but it was challenging too. Sometimes you can make really abstract music and it’s how to make that abstract style work in a song formula as well as stretching the boundaries between a cinematic soundscape or a movie soundtrack and a song.”

Opening with transcendent, sunset-tinted “One Way Ticket,” the band play with the theme of fantasy, the disconnect between the reality of life around them and the limitless potential of the worlds we create for ourselves in our imagination. “My Red Golden Sun” shows off Pie’s narrative style as she picks apart the breakdown of communication between herself and a former partner. Handclaps and softly strummed guitar lend a sense of nostalgia and distance, heightened by Pie’s breathy vocal tone as she sings, “Why did you run away?/Left me faraway/Lost in foreign ways/My love, you were mine.”

“I wrote it after I’d just gotten out of a relationship,” Pie explains. “I was at a really low point in my life. Sometimes when you find love it can be bad but it shouldn’t stop you from looking for a new horizon. Music wise, I thought of going to a better place which was going back to the mountains, for me, so we pushed the drums way back sonically to see how it echoed.”

The trio demonstrate their fearlessness in the sound they create and throw themselves headfirst in experimenting with multiple genres and pushing sonic boundaries. This trait is My Life as Ali Thomas’ signature move, a trump card that they’re always ready, and more than willing, to play. Nowhere is this more evident than with “Rinn,” a heavy rock anthem for the socially anxious. “‘Rinn’ is about exploring your inner villainy. You can be yourself, but at what cost? We’re always conscious of other people’s feelings… but ‘Rinn’ is you being yourself without the cost,” Pie explains. “The lyrics aren’t that dark, but it’s got that energy of never caring.”

“Ocean” takes this experimentation to another level. The longest and most cinematic track on the album, “Ocean” incorporates orchestral instrumentation and melds it with Rack and Taw’s energy-packed performance. “It’s a whole world! The song feels like a spell to me – it doesn’t really feel like I’m singing. I feel as though I’m chanting almost,” Pie says. “It took forever [to make]; it started off with four chords and my voice and then I was just thinking back to being on a boat ride and seeing the ocean. I’m fascinated with that element. Water can be so loving but it literally can kill you. I wanted to capture that – how powerful it can be – and my perspective.”

Elsewhere on the album, “Baby, I Love You” explores themes of trust and connection to a poppy, romantic beat. “Luna Blue” soars with sonic explosions of strings that whisk away the listener to a feeling of emotional freedom. Acoustic guitar creates a softer foundation for “Pitch Black” as Pie communicates a need for sanctuary. “Dream Lover” picks at the concept of the intensity of romantic love and wanting to preserve the good, whereas “Dear All The Universe” sees the band utilise their indie rock roots to create an uplifting bop perfect for the summer. “Tears of a Clown” explores ‘50s sonic elements, incorporating more background vocals and brass instruments.

Each track on Peppermint Town is filled with a multitude of elements that on paper might look disparate. But My Life As Ali Thomas weave their influences seamlessly, while twisting them slightly to reveal a never-before-seen underbelly. Rife with sonic experimentation, raw lyricism, and cinematic beauty, it’s impossible to not love this album – Peppermint Town contains some of the band’s most evocative music to date.

Follow My Life As Ali Thomas on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Lindsay Ellyn Finds Magic in Low Moments on “Queen of Nothing”

Photo Credit: Joshua Black Wilkins

Lindsay Ellyn can describe in detail the moment she became devoted to music. She was a college student working at Satya Jewelry on Bleecker Street in New York City when the store’s curated playlist turned to Lucinda Williams’ Grammy-nominated album, Essence. As a self-professed music lover who played guitar and piano, Ellyn’s perspective changed when Williams’ voice poured through the speakers, prompting her to study Williams’ catalogue and begin “listening to her obsessively.” “I remember this moment because it really changed my life,” Ellyn recalls in a wide-ranging Zoom interview with Audiofemme. “That album inspired me so deeply to the point where I was like ‘I don’t want to do anything else, I just want to write songs.’ That is what really made me want to start picking up the pen and paper and sitting down with my guitar and being like, ‘what do I have to say?’”

After moving to New York to attend Fashion Institute of Technology where she majored in advertising and communications, Ellyn spent years hustling in the city, working in the editorial and advertising departments for major companies ranging from Conde Nast to Bloomingdale’s. In the midst of her demanding career, Ellyn tapped into her love for music in her mid-20s, performing around the East Village and learning to write songs, leading to the release of her single “Gone” in 2010 and debut EP, Shores, in 2012. “It was around that time that I started thinking ‘I want to do this more. I really love this,’” she reflects. As she became “increasingly disgruntled” with New York, coupled with her desire to actively pursue music, Ellyn made the move to Nashville in April 2014, quickly connecting with songwriters who became friends and meeting her future husband while playing a gig, in addition to releasing her second EP, Out of Road, in 2015. 

All roads lead to “Queen of Nothing,” the title track to her upcoming full-length album where she reimagines some of her previously released work. “When I wrote the song, I was in a place in my life where things weren’t going that great,” Ellyn describes of the acoustic number. A music career she was struggling to get off the ground, a day job that was detracting time from the music, and complicated relationships with family members were among the struggles Ellyn was facing at the time of the song’s conception. “I was having fun playing with this idea of, what’s the polar opposite to having it all and ‘yasss queening’ in your life? It’s losing across the board or feeling like, I’m going to surrender this feeling. I’m not going to be here forever and it’s going to keep going,” she explains. “I think when you are in the down moments of your life and you sit there and you run the diagnostic: why am I here? What’s my ownership for feeling like this? How did I get here? How can I change? That’s when the change starts to happen and that’s when you can get your life on the track to do the things you want to do and celebrate the things you want to celebrate and have the highs. But you have to sit in the lows.” 

Ellyn finds herself embracing those low moments in the song’s opening lines as she professes, “I know about making mistakes/I know how it feels to miss your shot/So close I could feel it burning/And blowin’ out the flame was as far as I got.” “It’s really for better or worse, acknowledging some of my self-sabotaging behavior. I’ve definitely been in a place in my life where I’ve made decisions that didn’t pan out, and you’ve got to make those mistakes to understand that,” Ellyn says. “I think you learn more from the things that go wrong than you do from the things that go right in your life. Those things inform your way forward, so I’m trying to be grateful for that too.” 

Nodding to the “self-deprecating” and “cheeky” nature of the song that paints an image of her donning a paper crown and proudly claiming the title of “the queen of nothing,” Ellyn also sees the magic in life’s darker hours that serve as the catalyst for healing and growth. “There’s this magic moment where you feel like you have absolutely nothing to lose, and that’s when you can just go for it,” she declares. “That’s why I think there’s such value in your down moments, because I feel like that’s when a lot of magic can happen. When you can embrace the times when you’re not killing it, that’s when I think you can rise up. That’s what this song is about.” 

The album, out May 14 via Hail Mary Records/Queue Records, explores a variety of themes – toxic love, failure, and womanhood among them. Ellyn describes it as a journey of “self-discovery;” songs like “Helpless” capture the feeling of being stuck in a relationship she knew she needed to let go of, while “Mercy Drum” finds her reflecting on the past regrets and painful memories that continue to haunt her.

Ellyn cites the album’s creation as the “last memory” before the world came crumbling down, as a bulk of the project was recorded three days before a tornado ripped through Nashville in March 2020, destroying the office of marketing agency Red Pepper where she works as a senior copywriter, and just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic altered life as we know it. The singer and her producer Brendan St. Gelais were able to safely finish the project throughout the year.

“I feel like the stars aligned,” Ellyn says of completing the album amidst the chaos. “I had more fun in those three days than I’ve had in a very long time making music. I think it reiterated, ‘I can do this. I love this. I’m having fun. I feel like I’m supposed to be here.’ It felt very validating for me, especially as someone who has a full-time job that takes so much of my life. It felt really nice to make the record.” 

The open-minded creator views Queen of Nothing as an re-introduction to herself, and hopes that listeners find their own story in the way that she crafts hers. “I think the hard things in life are the deep canyons that you find yourself in. When people can relate on those levels, I feel like that’s what really bonds you with someone,” she observes. “I think the record overall is really a reflection of a human experience. All of those themes feel very human. I would hope that people could listen to them and relate to these human experiences I feel like we all experience at some point. I hope people enjoy it and can identify with it in some way.” 

Follow Lindsay Ellyn on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Ohtis and Stef Chura Team Up to Take Down Toxic Dudes with “Schatze”

Alt-country outfit Ohtis enlist the voice (and production skills) of beloved Detroit artist Stef Chura for their audio-visual fuckboy call-out “Schatze,” released digitally at the end of January (a 7″ vinyl is available for pre-order ahead of its February 26 release via Saddle Creek). Starting out like a guided meditation accompanied by Fred Thomas’s ambient track “Backstroke,” the brief moment of Zen is promptly squashed by the unrelenting, familiar chimes of an iPhone. The messages come rolling in, narrated by lead singer Sam Swinson – “I do/do what I please/it’s my Shatze/it’s my treasure/it’s not difficult, I do it with ease.” Chura replies to Swinson’s apathetic admission with an appropriate “Fuck you very much sir!” – a line that serves as a mantra throughout the song. 

It’s an appropriate and timely catchphrase for the past few years we’ve had as a country, bleeding from the effects of men who think they can get away with anything. But recently, we’ve also seen slow steps towards a reckoning – lies coming apart at the seams, survivors stepping forward to bring their abusers to justice, and the grand finale of a bigoted predator being removed from office. And although the villain in this song doesn’t exactly sit in that rung of evil, he serves as a symbol of that one guy – or guys, and the toxic culture that enables them – we all know that just really, really sucks.

“It’s a story about a fictional character and his faults. As I see it, crafting this song as a cultural commentary, but through the lens of humanity and humor, makes for a more accessible listening experience,” explains multi-instrumentalist Nate Hahn (pedal steel guitar, guitar, bass, keys, trombone). “We hope that this encourages more people to listen and reflect on the issues explored.” Those issues range from binge-playing video games, cheating on your significant other, and just having a general air of entitlement and indifference to one’s surroundings. “The title is a reference to a friend’s cat who’s a vicious beast of the same name,” adds multi-instrumentalist and producer Adam Pressley. 

Granted, an unruly cat is arguably a much easier beast to tame – or at least tolerate – than the character than Ohtis creates in “Schatze” – a self-obsessed, vape-loving, mask-hating gamer blob that admits things like, “I’m a piece of shit/I just think I’ll get away with it.” Chura’s gritty vocals are the perfect counter to Ohtis’ Frankenstein douche and serve as a sort of accountability angel. She says that the collaboration came together naturally, as Pressley was playing in her band at the time and the two had talked about working together. “We kinda jokingly tossed the idea around about the collaboration,” says Chura. “I really like Sam’s singing voice and was down for it. Then one day they just kind of hit me with the actual song. The rest is rock ‘n’ roll history, baby.” 

Hahn adds that having a female voice on the track was essential to rounding out the song’s message. “From the beginning, it was clear that the story needed to be told from both sides of the relationship,” he says. “We loved working with Stef because she’s a friend of the band and she’s the rockinest.” Aside from contributing her voice, Chura also co-produced the track and prevented the band from “keeping some silly digital DJ Khaled style vocal chopping we had in the track early on in the process,” according to Pressley.

While the song is a slight departure from Swinson’s deeply personal lyricism on Curve of Earth, the character in the song serves as a self-aware caricature of what we can become without actively checking ourselves. “I think it’s incredibly important that everyone takes stock of the way they might act in relationships and how actions could affect other people,” says Swinson. “Hopefully it can bring about some self-reflection in people as to how they could be better to the people around them.”

Outside of the commentary on personal relationships, the song also nods at the fact that white men have historically gotten away with doing evil shit, and a lot of them still do. It also nods at the role – however divisive it can be – that the internet has in unveiling the truth (or spreading lies) about people. The video even sneaks in a text from “Ohtis” reading, “do you liek ariel pink?” a reference to his troubled reputation and recent “cancelling” after he was spotted with John Maus at the pro-Trump rally preceding the insurrection. And while the members of Ohtis are galaxies away from being caught at a MAGA gathering, Swinson admits that they still have work to do when it comes to deconstructing the patriarchy. “There are definitely lingering bits of toxic masculinity from our conditioning that we can still identify and ultimately hope to carve out of ourselves in the process,” he says. “ [We] have no problem being self-deprecating about that.” 

Whatever your opinion on call out/cancel culture may be, this song and video serve as a relevant reflection on the moment we’re in – a chaotic e-landscape swirling with accusations, accountability, and assholes. For the listener, maybe it’s an opportunity to reflect on how you act in your relationships. Maybe it’s just an excuse to say “fuck you very much sir” a lot. For me, it’s both, and I’m better for it.

Follow Ohtis (via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and Stef Chura (via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) for ongoing updates.

PLAYING DETROIT: Bonny Doon “I See You”


What do you get when you mix emoji-filled birthday texts from mom, a drunken journey through liquor store shelves and conflicted selves, plastic cup inebriation, and happy-to-be-alive appreciation? Well, you might just find yourself wrapped up in the warm and quiet crisis of “I See You” the latest from Bonny Doon and the first taste from their upcoming self-titled record due out in March.

As far as first tastes go, “I See You” presents a homesick perspective on getting older and the relatable desperate need to piece together mundane imagery in hopes of finding some grand meaning to the grand scheme. Though the song is melancholically fixed with little swell or progression the across the board vulnerability is dutiful and unassuming in its observational self-cruelty. Following a similar cadence of the Smog track “Hit The Ground Running” lyricist and vocalist Bill Lennox achingly croons “I saw my reflection in a bottle of wine/like a neon sign/flickering my name like a drunken call to an old flame.”  Troubled and honest “I See You” is a shrugging of the shoulders at the thought of the future and flat beer sipping of the past.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][fusion_soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/300777939″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

TRACK PREMIERE: Stabwounds, “Kills”


Stabwounds Press Photo Donslens

Brooklyn-based indie-folk duo, Stabwounds (comprised of Amanda Brooklyn and Emma March Barash), are releasing the lead single off their forthcoming EP, “Goody Goody”, due 8/16. “Kills” which you can take a first listen to today on Audiofemme, boasts whimsical harmony-driven vocals which captivate the listener both for catchiness and impish lyrical content. With quirky percussions floating atop a soft bass drum beat that drives the track forward, the ladies strike a perfect balance between serious musicianship and compelling songwriting. We can’t wait to see what they have in store for us down the road. Take a listen to “Kills” below, and peep them live at their EP release show on 8/2 at Rockwood Music Hall stage 2, at 9PM.



As I stood in the back of the packed venue I could feel the anticipation of the audience. Most of spectators did not know there was an opening act, and that they were about to be blown away. I myself was also unaware. Jared & The Mill was one of the best surprises I’ve had all year.

By pure circumstance the first person I met in the Constellation Room was Travis Alexander, the manager of Jared & The Mill. We started talking about music, our jobs and a bit of existentialism. I was promptly introduced to Jared Kolesar, the lead singer of the band, then within a few minutes the concert began. As they walked onto the stage, instruments in hand, the crowd seemed confused at the absence of the main act. However it did not take long for people to become captivated by the absolutely vivacious performance.

For Jared & The Mill this was the finale to over a month of touring with Barry Gibb, one of the founding members of the iconic 70’s band, the Bee Gees. Barry had been looking for an opening act for his tour and, even though musically the two groups have little in common, Gibb was hooked once he heard their sound. The tour had been an incredible journey for them; they went from TD Garden in Boston to The Constellation Room in Santa Ana. Two nights before I met them, they had performed at the Hollywood Bowl (providing some of their parents serious consolation that music wasn’t such a risky career path after all). Hailing from Tempe, Arizona, Jared & The Mill have been playing together for three years and their Southwestern origin can definitely be heard in their tunes and lyrics. Many of the band members had been involved in music long before meeting up – drummer Josh Morin majored in percussion performance and guitarist Larry Gast III studied jazz performance in college. As for Jared, he had been in a business program before he experienced a life-altering realization that he would be happier creating music. Rounded out by Michael Carter (banjo, mandolin and harmonica), Chuck “Bassman” Morriss (electric and upright bass), and Gabe Hall-Rodrigues (accordion and piano), each member of Jared & The Mill has an obvious love for music and this passion shines through when they perform as a group. Each player stands behind a microphone to help create their beautiful harmonies.

In spite of the sound guy’s negligence, they played brilliant concert. I couldn’t help but to give all of them huge hugs and praise. A lot of their songs have a folksy feel, but their sound is constantly evolving and by the end of their performance they had shifted into a more indie rock vibe. After the main act finished we went to In & Out (there is no better place on the West Coast for an interview at 1AM). We talked about their visit to this year’s SXSW, poignant because their friend Mason Endres had been involved in the drunk driving incident outside of Mohawk that left three festival-goers dead. Mason survived but didn’t make it to the band’s shows, so without hesitation the whole ensemble visited Mason in the hospital and sang her favorite tunes. The authenticity and joy they radiate is a key part of Jared & The Mill’s brilliance.

A few picks for their musical dream collaboration included the Fleet Foxes, Brian Wilson and Andrew Bird. They fantasize about performing at Red Rocks Amphitheatre and have a long-term goal of being the first band to perform in outer space. They have been working on reshaping their sound, which for them is a constant activity.

With beautiful lyrics, nearly perfect harmony, intense stage presence, and endearing personalities, the boys enchanted the audience. Their incredible talent and ability to “instill a sense of family” in the crowd make it hard not to be swept away by their sincerity and ease. Meeting Jared & The Mill made my weekend and I can’t wait until the next time our paths cross.

EP REVIEW: Falls “Into The Fire”

Classifying Australia’s Falls as sweet, love-driven indie folk makes them sound pretty bland. In fact, that’s a good description of what they’re like at their worst: more often, the duo—consisting of Melinda Kirwin and Simon Rudston-Brown, who met as conservatory students in Sydney—makes music that’s much livelier than standard fare. Their slim debut EP Into The Fire, released in Australia last year under the title of Hollywood, takes Kirwin and Rudston-Brown’s close vocal harmony as its foundation, rolling elaborate string arrangements and fine-tooth rhythms in with more reflective sections and an abiding undertow of palpable love. Sounds complicated, right?

But the group comes off seasoned beyond their discography. Falls juggles every element of the music into its right place, without breaking a sweat. The album is spectacularly well organized, with rhythmic synchronicity that feels inborn; Kirwin and Rudston-Brown sound like they might be musical twins (more on that later.) Emotionally, too, each song on Into The Fire is hugely ambitious, blitzing through four or five moods in a single track. Many of the lyrics could be taken at least two ways, both of which seem like, even if they might be contradictory elsewhere, they could both be true in the Into The Fire-world. “There’s the woman I want,” Rudston-Brown sings in the opening verse of the catchy—but bait-and-switch devastating– “Girl That I Love,”. “There’s the woman that makes me wanna run away from it all.” After a brief melodica solo that’s cute enough to be the soundtrack to a Michael Cera movie, the vocals launch into much wilder outlands, with a dramatically downward-plodding piano line and crashing rhythms, and a feeling of suddenly being lost.

Elsewhere, in “Hollywood,” Rudston-Brown and Kirwin’s twin vocal lines lean on each other like the twin support beams of an arched bridge, with their tag-team duet structure as the keystone. Operating in parallel lines, the call-and-response style emerges like a prayer each voice is saying for each other, even as their melodies drift apart as the song goes on. The singers’ personalities, and relation to each other, are a strong presence on this track. Regarding their musical project, the two sometimes describe themselves as “barefoot collaborators,” as much best friends as bandmates. That emphasis on their extra-musical bond comes through loud and clear on this collection. Their biography will tell you that that Kirwin and Rudston-Brown were a couple while writing most of the EP, and that when they went to record the tracks—right after they’d broken up—they realized they had documented the story of their relationship.

In principle, I’m leery of couple music’s gimmickry, especially when the love story is already over—if Into The Fire is the story of a relationship that’s now ended, what are they going to write about for their next release?–but the pair say the autobiographical story line emerged organically, nigh unintentionally. The way they’re able to finish each other’s thoughts on this album is pretty spectacular. Some of the best moments on the album come during the sad parts of the songs—the duo has said that “Girl That I Love” can still be pretty tough to perform—when the turmoil in the song gets so wild and devastating, it seems like it must be coming from someplace close to home for the players.

So although the backstory heavily informs the music, it shouldn’t get more attention than the EP itself. Lively and sophisticated, Falls covers impressive ground in only six songs, organizing complicated elements together into beautifully structured pop songs. You can pick up your copy in Into The Fire here, and listen to “Girl That I Love” below:

ALBUM REVIEW: Angel Olsen “Burn Your Fire For No Witness”

Burn Your Fire Album

She’s the one with the haunting warble, sometimes menacing or self-deprecating, but always a bit fragile and always a bit bold. Angel Olsen is a singer-songwriter with a unique talent for forging emotional connections with her listeners—that is, the ability to make any member of her audience freeze, cry, or reach deep into some hollow part of themselves. For her newest album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, her unwavering self-possession is strong as ever, stretched across more present instrumentation and, of course, her gorgeous crooning.

The album is sensitive, soft, subtle, occasionally sweet, and all together that complexity makes it very human. Her uncertainty about what it means to be lonely, about what she truly feels, is what makes these songs so engaging. This ambiguity makes it easy for the listener to enter that space and recall their own inexplicable melancholy. Her voice is difficult to describe, a bit like folk singer Karen Dalton or Emmylou Harris; shaky, but clear.

Burn Your Fire For No Witness begins with “Unfuck the World.” For such a powerful title, this song is incredibly soft. There’s an immediate sense of interiority, a passiveness: “Here’s to thinking that this all meant so much more / I kept my mouth shut and opened up the door.” But her voice soars in the chorus with a lo-fi melancholy that is just heartbreaking: “I am the only one now / You may not be around,” she repeats and repeats like a mantra, a tiny peek into her aloneness. Normally, break-up songs can get a bit irritating, especially when they harp on a lover’s absence. This song is all personal reflection, rather than a reflection on the other person or even the relationship itself.

Angel Olsen

In “White Fire,” the track the album is named for, her vocals sound almost dead. The song itself is immediately sad, and there are waves of guitar strumming that paint a dark atmosphere. She tells us herself: “Everything is tragic / It all just falls apart.” From here, we move into an uncomfortably empty mind. Even when she’s singing about anger or bitterness, she’s nearly flat, but it conveys as much as if she’d been shaky or close to tears. In fact, it’s more effective than singing with movement, at least for this song, which describes Olsen’s feelings of disillusionment. You’re only “fierce and light and young,” she tells us, “When you don’t know that you’re wrong / or just how wrong you are.” This may be my favorite track.

Olsen plays up the guitar and drums in “Forgiven/Forgotten” and “High & Wild.” Both songs are forcefully catchy in an unexpected way. “Forgiven/Forgotten” has heavy drums and bass and the words drive you through with repetition. Her voice is bolder and far more scornful in “High & Wild” with its grungy riffs. It’s not as sad as most of the other songs, and there’s a powerful melody that recalls ’60s femme rock. It comes close to being somber, but then she sarcastically sings: “Well, this would all be so much easier / if I had nothing to say.”

“Hi-five” is another song that positions itself outside of the sorrowful, instead tip-toeing on the edge before diving into bitterness. The simple guitar chords and drums go well with the blues-y, old country lyrics: “I feel so lonesome I could cry.” Olsen’s definitely warbling here, reflecting the movement in the instrumentation. There’s such sudden raw emotion when she shouts “someone who believes” that the entire tone of the song turns around. “Are you lonely, too?” she asks. “So am I,” she says after calling for a hi-five. But then, in a completely delicious twist at the very end she reveals herself: “I’m stuck too / I’m stuck with you.”

The whole album is narrative and extremely emotional, with Olsen occasionally throwing in an endearing word like “darlin.'” There’s also a great deal of experimentation here—songs are different in tone, in rhythm, but they all run smoothly from one to the next. If you’re okay with your own feelings lurching out, and maybe shedding a tear or two that you didn’t know was lurking inside, then give this album a good, long listen.

Check out “White Fire” from Burn Your Fire For No Witness:

VIDEO REVIEW: Agnes Obel’s “The Curse”


Danish artist Agnes Obel has recently released North American tour dates in support of her latest album, Aventine.  She will be hitting up NYC’s Bowery Ballroom on March 2nd, and given the video for her song “ The Curse “, I expect it will be a sullen but beautiful set.

The music video was certainly composed with an artful eye; it’s filmed in black and white, yet the palette ranges from crisp achromatic shots to hues of sepia and cream.  The opening scenes, which feature almost everything but Obel herself, remind me of the sinister imagery of Ingmar Bergman.  In one frame archaic buildings come in and out of focus while birds-or maybe tadpoles-smear across the sky.  Cloudscapes, architectural compositions reminiscent of M.C. Escher’s staircases, and showers of sparks all contribute to an unsettling and ghostly short film.  The ambiance produced by these visuals is perfectly matched with the moody ballad, which features piano, viola, and cello, as well as Obel’s haunting voice.

Though the video was shot in Berlin, it has an otherworldly quality that can’t be confined to a particular place or time.  Enjoy the video, and catch Obel on her tour.  If you’re not in New York, see the remaining tour dates below.


Feb 20 – Wakefield, QC – Blacksheep Inn

Feb 21 – Toronto, ON – The Great Hall

Feb 22 – Burnstown, ON – Neats

Feb 25 – Montreal, QC – Gesu Centre

Feb 26 – Quebec City, QC – Palais Montcalm

Feb 27 – Montreal, QC – Gesu Centre – Montreal Winter Highlights

Mar 1 – Cambridge, MA – First Church

Mar 2 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom

Mar 4 – Philadelphia, PA – World Cafe Live

Mar 6 – San Francisco, CA – The Independent

Mar 8 – Seattle, WA – St. Mark’s Cathedral

Mar 9 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir

Mar 12 – Los Angeles, CA – The Roxy

Gone, But Not Forever: A Jason Molina Tribute

If a voice could be like a landscape, Jason Molina’s mirrored perfectly the Ohio in which I’d grown up – fertile though a bit bleak; not so dramatic but constant and comforting, even if somewhat mournful; tired cornstalks waving beneath gentle Appalachian foothills, meeting gritty, unglamorous industry; a landscape that presents itself casually as if to say here this is, it’s pretty much nothing but you can have it.

The fact that Molina, like myself, was from Ohio made me feel an instant kinship to the music he made, whether it had the folksy qualities of his earliest releases, the gospel overtones of Didn’t It Rain or the blues-infused urgency of Magnolia Electric Co. recordings – it all felt like sides of the same coin and it gave everything a sad, romantic twinge.  I loved that he referenced things and places I knew, that we even had friends in common (though we never met).  I can’t tell you how many hours I spent alone in a car with that voice and that same landscape spooling outside my window during trips across state to visit my parents in Cleveland while I was going to school in Columbus, or how I’d mouth the words “you can’t get here fast enough” in the throes of a long-distance Kent-Columbus relationship, with “The Lioness” on repeat.

The day I found out that Jason Molina died would have been my friend Robert’s 33rd birthday.  Robert, like Molina, had succumbed to drug addiction, alone, suddenly, and far too young.  When Robert died, I turned to Molina for comfort because we had both loved those songs.  I even posted lyrics from lyrics from “Goodnight Lover” on his facebook wall after his passing: “How will I live without you / Without your customs… How selfish for time to conclude / what would be the day / for leaving to work its charm on you”.  And when I thought of Molina dying alone in a hotel room with a single number in his phone (as reported by his friend Henry Owings on Chunklet) I again combed lyrics for comfort, and finding relevant verses was pretty much the only easy thing about the whole situation.  Every other song concerns itself with death and ghosts and depression and passage from one part of life into the next.

Later that day I was discussing Molina’s death with another friend of mine who has also struggled with depression and had found particular resonance in that aspect of the music.  He had this hypothesis that Molina’s biggest fans were all depressed to some degree, and that was why we gravitated toward it so.  It feels like a thing that could be absolutely true, but it’s also a truth I didn’t want to subscribe to wholly; I’d have to lump myself into that category.  To say Molina’s work meant a lot to me is an understatement – it feels more like the fiber of my being: roots of a family tree, blood running through my veins, equal parts biography and biology.  And yes, it has supported me through some difficult times.  But in the end I always looked to his lyrics for bits of beauty and promise.  The darkness was there but there were glimmers of light – the moon, the stars, headlights on an otherwise lonesome highway.  As often as Molina sang about endings, he sang about being thrashed by hope.  It never came off as hokey because it was bathed in this harsh brand of realism, a harshness that gave every note poignancy.  It wasn’t just in the words themselves but how he sang them.  It reverberated in every strum of his guitar.

And he wasn’t as morose as all of this makes him out to be.  He was warm and funny and extremely hardworking.  Below is a recording my roommate made at a Columbus show in 2004.  He had this to say about the performance:

The set is fun, varied, relaxed, and seems to be a transitional time for Molina as he had just switched monikers from Songs: Ohia to Magnolia Electric Company. He cracks jokes, plays Ozzy riffs between songs, apologizes to Scout Niblett for forgetting to ask her on stage during “Riding with a Ghost”, and ends the set with two covers eventually flooding the stage with people for a rendition of “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.”

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][fusion_soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/89633752″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

By all accounts, the last few years of Molina’s life were a struggle.  He didn’t stop making music as he was shuttled around from rehab to hospital and back again, but lack of insurance and the tolls of addiction finally brought that struggle to an end.  Molina was relentlessly creative and contributed more in his short life than most ever will, and we’re lucky to have the stunning body of work he left us.  I was going to end this piece with some of Molina’s own words as they really do make the most fitting epitaph, but there was really too much to choose from.  Instead, I urge those unfamiliar with his work to explore the catalogue and find meaning within the work as it applies to living the fullest life possible, whatever beauty and pain that entails.

To make a contribution in memoriam, please donate here.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]