Tag Archives: Folk music

Blitzen Trapper’s Destroyer of the Void out 6/8

28 May

Meow.

Blitzen Trapper will deliver Destroyer of the Void on June 8, its fifth LP since 2003 and second released by Sub Pop. Despite Eric Earley’s poetic lyricism and master compositions, BT surprisingly flies under the radar (especially when like-minded folk rockers like Fleet Foxes nearly merge with mainstream success). Earley’s work has been praised by the powers that be, and the band has generated more than a cult following, but Destroyer of the Void will be BT’s biggest commercial success. Listen to “Heaven and Earth” here, the only single made available for the upcoming release:

Tracklist for Destroyer of the Void:

  1. Destroyer of the Void
  2. Laughing Lover
  3. Below The Hurricane
  4. The Man Who Would Speak True
  5. Love and Hate
  6. Heaven and Earth
  7. Dragon’s Song
  8. The Tree (feat. Alela Diane)
  9. Evening Star
  10. Lover Leave Me Drowning
  11. The Tailor
  12. Sadie
Click on the cover art to pre-order album:
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Scrabble-Rousers #6: Garret

23 May

I should preface each edition of Scrabble-Rousers with the concept’s explanation: A word is chosen at random by blindly flipping the pages and finger-pointing a word (in this case “garret”) from a book also chosen at random (in this case The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen). This is how Leif Garrett all of a sudden appears on a blog.

Interestingly, my computer’s dictionary defines “garret” as “a top-floor or attic-room, esp. a small dismal one (traditionally inhabited by an artist).” I’m not sure if anyone actually uses the word “garret” anymore, what with “attic” seemingly more available on the brain; I’ll try as hard as I can not to ruminate on musicals and limericks (which most certainly make lyrical use of “garret”).

The Honeydripper

The only song with the word “garret” in the title that exists in my collection (and I was shocked to even see one) was Roosevelt Sykes’ “Skeet and Garret.” Sykes was a blues artist from Arkansas known to music historians as the father of modern blues piano. He was also known as “The Honeydripper.”

“Skeet and Garret” by Roosevelt Sykes

The most popular songs dealing strictly with the subject at hand is the traditional Irish folk song “Old Maid in the Garret.” (The song title is commonly misspelled with two T’s). The song is sung in a cheerful way though the story is of a single, desperate middle-aged woman resigned to her attic. At one point, she welcomes “any man at all that will marry me for pity.” Sign me up. The traditional version, almost always sung by a man, can be construed as a horrid artifact of sexism. This is why Steeleye Span, a folk rock band of 40 years, liberated it with their own rendition featuring two female leads (Maddie Prior and Gay Woods). Here are both:

The Clancy Brothers version:

Steeleye Span version:

Sexism indeed, but try not to chuckle from this lyric: “There’s nothing in this wide world would make me half so cheery/As a wee fat manny who would call me his own deary.”

Time to cheat. There really isn’t much out there musically by way of garrets outside of show tunes, so what happens if we slyly switch synonymously over to “Attic.” Same idea, less ye olde arcane. The instinctive thought of an attic should be the same to everyone – dark, damp, Anne Frank, ghosts, grime, dust, sadness, isolation, old, musty, things forgotten. “Attic Lights” by Atlas Sound has a striking connection to all the aforementioned indirect connotations of an attic. It is a song of great pain, density and sadness, yet has an ending of pure triumph and closure.

The Antlers, when it was still just the solo project of Peter Silberman, released In the Attic of the Universe, an album he has now stated was written during a dark period in his life. In an interview with Ca Va Cool, Silberman said the album “was made at a time that I was really screwing up my life and very unhappy, and for some reason was finding some kind of comfort in the enormity of space. I was really disconnected at the time.” What doesn’t come up is the interview is the juxtaposition of the timelessness/infinite space and the confinement/claustrophobic nature of an attic. However, like Bradford Cox’s “Attic Lights” found paradise, Antlers’ “Stairs to the Attic” found  “The answer, the feeling, and the truth/ That I’m small.” In that cosmic sense, yaknow?

Scrabble-Rousers #4: Hypocrisy

18 May

Hypocrisy and its bedmates – pretenders, fakes and phonies – have always been a source of consideration for artists. Just as in Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice where today’s word comes from, musicians have taken aim at social and political hypocrisy as far back as Ludvig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3. In 1804, Beethoven titled his third symphony “Bonaparte” in honor of Napoleon, who then held the title of First Consul. Beethoven cast Napoleon in the same light as great Roman leaders because of their staunch opposition to tyranny and dictatorships. However, Napoleon announced himself “Emperor of the French” which so deeply angered Beethoven that he renamed his third symphony “Sinfonia eroica, composta per festeggiare il sovvenire d’un grand’uomo” (“Heroic symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man.)”

Here is a great Dutch site streaming No. 3 in its entirety.

Folk music is a genre almost exclusive to exposing the hypocrisies of war and oppression. Peter Seeger and Phil Ochs wrote and sang with a purpose and summoned a reckoning.

John Cage just before he went deaf.

Some artists, like composer John Cage, even adapt their sociopolitical ideals to create innovative new forms of music. Cage, of the “purposeful purposelessness” school, was hugely influenced by anarchic writers and created a compositional process based on chance resembling these beliefs.

Rap pioneer Gil Scott-Heron, inspired by watching the moon landing in 1969, called out society for its racial and social inequalities with “Whitey on the Moon.” “Was all the money I made last year/For whitey on the moon?”

The Dead Kennedys and Jello Biafra were masters of finding the hypocrisy in just about everything and releasing it in their famous scathing sarcasm.

Jello Biafra exposes hypocrisy in his own madeup name.

“Holiday in Cambodia” is a perfect example, setting side by side a typical Reagan-era yuppy youth to a Pol Pot-era slave worker to display the West’s blindness and indifference.

This is endless subject and it would be great to hear from others, so please post your thoughts and songs related to “hypocrisy.”

Here are a few noteworthy literal associations of hypocrisy:

“Circle of Hypocrisy” by Napalm Death

“Hypocrite” by The Heptones

“Hypocrite” by Antibalas