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Ramsayings

A Blog About Nothing in Particular

Grails – Deep Snow II

I met Grails in Fishtown, before or after a show upstairs at the old Circle of Hope on Frankford, I don’t quite remember. The show itself was phenomenal. They were out in support of  2007’s Black Tar Prophecies Vol 1-3, a collection I really enjoyed and a sound NPR Music’s Lars Gotrich describes as “doomy Americana.”

He’s not wrong. After I heard, Earth’s great 2005 album Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method, I was intoxicated by this sound. For the uninitiated, imagine an instrumental soundtrack to True Detective Season 1. For me, it was a counterpoint to what had started to frustrate me about freak folk popular at the time.

The guys themselves were really great. I planned to interview them, but Fishtown Tavern was way too loud, so we ended up talking about music and shouting at each other like the regulars. I’d later catch them when they came through on subsequent tours and was surprised to see Emil Amos’ holding down the drums for the mighty Om.

Chalice Hymnal, their first record since 2011, is out in a few weeks. Checking out the new tunes on Temporary Residence’s Soundcloud, it’s a departure from that doomy Americana sound. The title track has elements of dub that were completely unexpected.

“Deep Snow II” is more of the foreboding pastoral I fell in love with when I first heard the band. It’s less witchy and more space rock than the stuff they were doing 10 years ago, but it’s familiar in its tone and mood.

If there’s something I especially love about 2017 musically, it’s that so many of the bands I loved as a music critic are getting back together and making fantastic music. Grails are no exception.

Brian Eno – Reflection

David Bowie was, to me, my Dylan. He was one of the few artists I always felt I could spend more time with and never spent enough. When he died last year, I wrestled with how to mourn him.

Shortly thereafter, I must’ve been watching the documentary 5 Years that I learned how Bowie adored Eno’s Discreet Music, a record that I’d enjoyed but hadn’t devoted myself to in any meaningful way. I must’ve listened to it nightly for weeks, if not months, while putting the boys to bed, letting the opening track 1/1 envelop me in the darkness.

Imagine my surprise when I opened my music app to discover Brian Eno has released Reflection, an hour of ambient music, informed by his earlier work and equally satisfying.

More interesting is how Eno refers to it as generative music. Bob Boilen mentioned on All Songs Considered that for $40, you can purchase an app that iterates the sounds from Reflection in unique new ways and, thanks to an algorithm, without repeating. I plan to spend as much time or more with this music in 2017 as I did mourning Bowie last year.

Spoon – Hot Thoughts

I haven’t been this excited for new music from Spoon in some time. Maybe since Gimme Fiction? I loved Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, liked a few tracks on Transference and then I’m embarrassed to admit that I slept through They Want My Soul altogether.

The lead single, “Hot Thoughts,” strikes a familiar chord: it is unmistakably a Spoon record, finding a groove and locking it in. I’m looking forward to hearing more in March.

Brock Winthrop – Pastoral Scene

I heard this song at the end of an episode of Chapo Trap House earlier this year and found a link over on the Chapo subreddit. This hits all the right notes for me, blending memories of my favorite 90’s pop acts, notably Teenage Fanclub and Matthew Sweet.

LVL UP – Hidden Driver

Heard Sub Pop’s LVL UP on All Songs Considered as I drove to Cincinnati last night. Not only are the perfect for the person who’s still obsessed with Neutral Milk Hotel, but this song, “Hidden Driver,” is about a website co-founded by one of my very talented grad school classmates, Astra Taylor! I’m excited to hear LVL UP’s Return to Love at the end of next month.