Grace Notes is a weekly exploration by Jason Morehead and Drew Dixon of signs of common grace in the music world. We hope to alert you to wonderful music, some of which will be spiritual in nature but all of which will be unique and worthy of your attention. Each week we will share a video or two highlighting music that we find particularly engaging and meaningful.
This week in Lincoln, Nebraska, the temperatures have been getting into the sixties. Which is nice until you remember that it’s only the middle of March, and if it’s sixty degrees now, that means it’ll be crossing 100 degrees by June (and that’s not including the ever-present humidity). I don’t even want to think about July and August. Suffice to say, I’m already looking forward to autumn and cooler climes, and so I’m reaching for appropriate music, such as Deaf Center’s Owl Splinters. Calling Deaf Center a “dark-ambient” outfit might conjure up idea of disturbing horror movie soundtracks and whatnot. Owl Splinters does venture through some dark, difficult territory, e.g., the cello’s death rattle that is “Animal Sacrifice”. But the Norwegian duo does a masterful job of subtly mixing in lighter, more hopeful elements like delicate piano arrangements on tracks like “New Beginning (Tidal Darkness)”, “The Day I Would Never Have”, and “Hunted Twice”. As a result, the album often possesses a haunting, desolate sense of beauty, the musical equivalent of gazing out over an barren yet awe-inspiring landscape.
If you were to ever ask me to name my favorite band, I’d quickly try and change the subject; I find such questions to be difficult, if not impossible to answer. But if you were to press me, I’d have to say Slowdive. Sadly, the band called it quits over fifteen years ago, but their albums capture all that was good and golden about the so-called shoegazer aesthetic (layers upon layers of billowy, blissed out guitars, ethereal vocals, loads of dreamy atmospherics). As such, they’ve created quite a legacy, inspiring countless followers, imitators, and disciples. For example, there’s Skycamp’s cover of “Alison”, which takes one of Slowdive’s poppiest shoegazer offerings and gives it a twangy, countryfied flavor. Amsterdam-based Photosphere takes Slowdive’s “Souvlaki Space Station” and mashes it up with the ambient trip-hop sounds of Bows to form “Luftsang Space Station”. And finally, “it-band” Violens takes “Souvlaki Space Station”, mashes it up with Washed Out’s “Feel It All Around”, and creates the celestially funky “Space Around The Feel Station”.
This is the week where I don’t have much to say other than to point you to some really great music that you can listen to for free–that is pretty cool though right?This week I gave a second listen-through to Kirk Hamilton’s The Exited Door (Games Editor of Paste and an apparently talented musician) and I am so glad I did. Its really hard to nail down exactly what this album is but its engaging throughout as Kirk and friends cover a great deal of ground musically. It has a theatrical feel to it that I thought would annoy me but, quite the opposite, it has charmed me. Additionally, “No Crow, Scarecrow” is as good as any song I have heard all year.
I was pleasantly surprized J Mascis’ (of Dinosaur Jr fame) new album, Several Shades of Why which can be streamed in its entirety this week at Spin. Lately Mascis his side projects have explored classic rock and death metal, so his new mellow accoustic folk album is a surprise to say the least and yet this album still feels very much like a stripped down introspective version of Dinosaur Jr. Its an excellent example of how a talented musician can produce authentic art outside his/her traditional medium. Need another reason to check this album out? Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene and Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses make guest appearances on the album.
A couple weeks ago, Jason recommended checking out Josh T. Pearson and if you didn’t follow his advice, don’t worry there is still time and you can listen to his entire new album, The Last of the Country Gentlemen, for free at Sound Cloud. I would love to hear your thoughts on this album–its dark, disturbing, honest, beautiful, and very spiritually driven. Its deserving of a more thorough listen than I have been able to give it of late but I hope to remedy that soon. If you get a chance to listen to it, let me know what you make of it.
If you can’t tell by my review, I truly think Jeremy Larson‘s They Reappear is one of this year’s most important releases. You can listen to listen to it in its entirety at bandcamp before you buy.