Tag: folk

New Audio: Stockholm’s Santero Project Releases an Atmospheric New Single

Stefan Kasapovski is a Stockholm-based singer/songwriter and musician — and the creative mastermind behind the emerging solo recording project Santero Projects. Kasapovski’s Santero Projects full-length debut will reportedly feature 11 songs written performed and recorded by Stockholm-based artist in one take, without overdubbing or digital effects to capture the material at its most genuine.

Kasapovski’s latest Santero Projects single, the gorgeous an sparse “Knossos” features the Stockholm-based artist’s sonorous baritone accompanied by atmospheric synths and strummed acoustic guitar. The end result is a song that — to my ears, at least –sounds quite a bit like acclaimed Swedish folk artist Jose Gonzalez.

Acclaimed  Seattle-based folk/indie rock act The Head and The Heart — currently, founding member Jonathan Russell (vocals, guitar, percussion), Charity Rose Theielen (violin, guitar, vocals, Chris Zasche (bass), Kenny Hensley (keys), Matt Gervais (vocals, guitar) and Tyler Williams (drums) — can trace their origins to a series of open mic nights at Ballard neighbor based bar, Conor Byrne Pub back in 2009: At the time, the band’s Jonathan Russell relocated from Richmond, VA — and Josiah Johnson (vocals, guitar, percussion), who had relocated from Southern California were both relatively recent transplants. Russell and Johnson met Kenny Hensley, who was relocated the previous year to pursue a career in film score writing. Charity Rose Theilen, who returned from a year abroad studying in Paris became the band’s fourth member. Russell knew Tyler Williams from the Richmond music scene: Williams was a member of  Prabir and The Substitutes and he quickly relocated to Seattle after Russell sent him a demo of Down In The Valley.” Chris Zasche was a bartender at the Conor Byrne pub and was a member of Seattle-based bands The Maldives and Grand Hallway before joining The Head and The Heart.

As Johnson explained in press notes the band’s name came from a very relatable situation that many musicians have in which “Your head is telling you to be stable and find a good job, you know in your heart that this [the band] is what you’re supposed to do, even if it’s crazy.”

Since their formation, the Seattle-based folk/indie rock act have released four critically applauded albums — 2010’s self-titled and initially self-released debut (which later caught the attention of Sub Pop Records, who re-issued it), 2013’s Let’s Be Still, 2016’s major label debut Signs of Light and 2019’s Living Mirage. And with each successive release, the band has received greater critical and commercial success while earning a rising profile: They’ve opened for the likes of  Vampire WeekendThe WalkmenDr. DogDave MatthewsThe DecemberistsIron & WineMy Morning JacketDeath Cab for Cutie and Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers among a list of other equally acclaimed acts.

Back in 2017, they played Newport Folk Festival, Coachella, and Lollapalooza, and they added to a milestone year with headlining stops at Red Rocks Amphitheater,  and Central Park SummerStage among a growing list of others.

The band’s latest effort is a lovingly straightforward and gorgeous cover of the Graham Nash-penned Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young hit “Our House,” which appears on the act’s 1970 release Deja Vu. (Admittedly, I’ve somehow just loved the since I was a small. I loved the harmonies — and the melody is an earworm, man.) But most important, The Head and the Heart’s cover is a reminder of two things: Graham Nash is an amazing songwriter and that “Our House” is a pretty song full of longing for the sort of domestic tranquility that’s sadly so very rare. Interestingly, the members of the critically acclaimed Seattle-based act recorded the part of an expansive 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of Déjá Vu, which features an additional two hours of rare and previously unreleased audio.

Of course, it shouldn’t be surprising that the members of The Head and The Heart are huge Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fans — and that the song holds a deep personal meaning for them: “When we first started as a band, we shared a two bedroom apartment where ‘Our House’ was played so much, it became like a mantra of unity and connection to each other, as we discovered what we wanted to do within our music. To say it’s an honor to be asked to cover that very song is an understatement. Happy 50th anniversary to you legends! Déjá Vu Forever!

The single art for the cover serves as a homage to the original Déjá Vu artwork and features an image of the actual house in Seattle that was The Head and The Heart’s early home.

New Audio: Renée Reed Releases a Hauntingly Gorgeous Single

Lafayette, LA-born singer/songwriter Renée Reed grew up in an intensely musical home: a young Reed grew up on the accordion-bending knee of her grandfather Harry Trahan in the middle of countless jam sessions at the one-stop Cajun shop owned by her parents Lisa Trahan and Mitch Reed. And as a result, Reed wound up being surrounded by a who’s who of Cajun and Creole music legends — both backstage at the many festivals of Southwest Louisiana and at her family home. Reed also soaked up the stories and storytelling of her great uncle, folklorist Revon Reed and his brothers from Mamou.

Reed’s self-titled debut is slated for a March 26, 2021 release through Keeled Scales Records and the album will feature music that Reed describes as “dream-fi folk form the Cajun prairies.” Thematically, “this album is a collection of songs about toxic relationships, seeing ghosts, ancestral baggage and blessings, and daydreaming about love,” Reed explains in press notes. “It is about certain feelings and experiences I’ve had over my life coming to fruition in the past three years. It was all made on a four track recorder at home, in a place and in a way I feel most natural, and I believe that quality comes through in the sound.”

“Neboj,” the soon-to-be released album’s third and latest single derives its title from a Czech word that Cajuns pronounce as “nuh-boy” and represents the amalgamation of influences and cultures that inform Cajun music. Centered around a hauntingly sparse arrangement of delicately picked, looping guitar and Reed’s ethereal vocals, “Neboj” manages to be a self-assured yet vulnerable fever dream of full of earnest longing. Interestingly, for Reed the song is about letting go and not being afraid to fall in love, to just trust her heart.


New Audio: JOVM Mainstay Chelsea Wolfe Teams Up with Emma Ruth Rundle on a Hauntingly Gorgeous Single

Throughout the course of this site’s ten-plus year history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink cover the acclaimed Northern California-born and-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Chelsea Wolfe. During that same period, Wolfe has maintained a long-held reputation for channeling somber and eerily haunting beauty in a variety of styles and forms including gothic rock, doom metal and folk.

Wolfe’s unique gifts as a songwriter is made much more apparent whenever she strips her material down to a few key elements. Wolfe’s latest single, “Anhedonia,” features guest vocals and guitar from labelmate Emma Ruth Rundle, and the slow-burning and hauntingly gorgeous song continues in the vein of the JOVM mainstay’s last full-length album — centered around a sparse arrangement of shimmering acoustic guitar, reverb-drenched guitar and ethereal effects. Interestingly, the song manages to evoke our current moment of socioeconomic and political instability, of constant death, fear and heartache. Pleasure and happiness right now just seem inappropriate and impossible.

“I wrote ‘Anhedonia’ after I experienced it during summer of 2019, then tucked the song away and moved forward with my acoustic album and subsequent North American tour,” Wolfe says of the new single. “When COVID-19 hit and stay-at-home orders began in 2020, my European tour was canceled and I had to fly home. Restless, I started listening through my archives of unfinished songs and little unused ideas. When I heard Anhedonia again, it hit me how strangely relevant the lyrics felt to current times. I’d been wanting to work on a song with Emma [Rundle] for a long time, so I recorded it and sent it her way. She graciously added her gorgeous vocals and lead guitar, and then Ben [Chisholm] mixed it, adding his signature sound landscape as a fortress around the song. As I listened back to the final version, I was finally able to set free those emotions which I couldn’t feel back in 2019. I had worries around releasing the song, not wanting to romanticize the condition of anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure), but I also understood that it could possibly be cathartic for others who are struggling, as it was for me, to sing and dance my way out of a depression.”

Emma Ruth Rundle adds “I was moved to tears when she sent me Anhedonia, which made getting through the tracking very emotional and slow on my end. I love the way the guitars I tracked morphed in Ben’s mix. The whole song swirls in a poignant eddy of sorrowful sound and still takes a hard swing at my heart hearing it now.”

Le Lac Long 814 — poet and lyricist Bengt Söderhäll and vocalist/musician and composer Daniel Österjö with a cast of collaborators — is a rising Swedish folk act that creates French chansons out of Swedish poetry. As a result of their internationally acclaimed full-length debut Treize chansons and a string of singles, the Swedish duo toured across Europe to support the album with stops in France, Belgium, Denmark, Czechia and their native Sweden.

The duo close out 2020 with the three song EP La bôite. Centered around an unfussy and unhurried production that allows the material’s gorgeous arrangements and Österjö’s achingly plaintive vocals to shine, the EP for me evokes a complex and confusing array of emotions, thoughts and images: I can’t help but think of late fall and early Winter walks with no apparent direction or motive; of the weariness and exhaustion of a long and difficult year full of profound loss and isolation; of the hope of a new year with new beginnings and possibilities; the fear of things somehow getting worse; the unending cycles of life and death.

Much like the music box from which the EP derives its title, the EP’s material possesses an infinitely looping structure in which songs hint at and refer to each other. “L’ombre d’un bourdon” is a delicate song centered around twinkling keys, strummed guitar, Österjö’s achingly plaintive vocals, soaring organs and a sepia-toned nostalgia that ends with an old-timey round before gently fading out. “Ils ailment,” is a shimmering and bittersweet waltz with an opening verse that prophetically hints at life during the pandemic — although it was written long before. And much like its predecessor, the song features a gorgeous yet simple arrangement of twinkling piano, strummed guitar and vocal. The EP’s last track, EP title track “La bôite” refers back to the coda of the opening track, evoking the music box concept — and the unending cycles of our existence.

With a this year coming to a close, why not be reminded that while life is painful and difficult, it can be beautiful as well?

New Video: JOVM Mainstays The Parson Red Heads Release a Gorgeous Nostalgia-Inducing Visual for “Fall And Be Found

With 2017’s Blurred Harmony, Portland, OR-based JOVM mainstays The Parson Red Heads — currently Evan Way (guitar, vocals), Brette Marie Way (drums, vocals), Robbie Augspurger (bass), Raymond Richards (multi-instrumentalist, production), the band’s newest member Jake Smith (guitar) and a rotating cast of friends, collaborators and associates — intended to do things much differently than anything else they did before: the band recorded and tracked themselves. They would set up drums and amps and furiously recorded their fourth album’s material after everyone put their kids to sleep, finishing that day’s session before it got too late.

As the band’s Evan Way said at the time, “the record is more a true part of us than any record we have made before — we put ourselves into it, made ourselves fully responsible for it. Even the themes of the songs are more personal than ever — it’s an album dealing with everything that has come before. It’s an album about nostalgia, about time, change, about the hilarious, wonderful, bittersweet, sometimes sad, always incredible experience of living. Sometimes it is about regret or the possibility of regret. These are big topics, and to us, it is a big album, yet somehow still intimate and honest.”

After the release of Blurred Harmony, the band’s founding member Sam Fowles left the band, and the band’s remaining members were frocked to ask themselves tough questions about both the future of the band and its creative direction. The band recruited their longtime touring guitarist Jake Smith to join the band full-time. They then decided that any new material they would write, would be be approached with a new lens.

The band’s fifth album Lifetime of Comedy was released last month through Fluff and Gravy Records across North America and You Are The Cosmos across Europe, and the album finds the band excavating the bedrock of their well-honed and beloved sound, and allowing it to be remolded and remolded. While remaining a quintessentially Parson Red Heads album, the material as Evan Way contends in press notes is among the most collaborative, they’ve written and recorded to date.

The Portland-based JOVM mainstays started recording Lifetime of Comedy earlier this year and much like countless acts across our globe, they quickly found themselves and their plans in limbo as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions. Once studios could reopen, recording sessions continued at a snail’s pace for small, very intimate sessions. With much of the album’s material being recorded in a decollate, touch-and-go period, Lifetime of Comedy seems imbued — and perhaps also informed by — a sense of perseverance and hope.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written about three of the album’s released singles:

“All I Wanted,” a classic Parson Red Heads song that superficially sounded as though it could have been part of the Blurred Harmony sessions but with a subtly free-flowing, jammier vibe that evoked the sensation of longtime friends creating something new with a revitalized sense of togetherness centered around incredibly earnest lyricism, born from lived-in experience.
“Turn Around” is a heartfelt deflation of devotion seemingly influenced by 80s and early 90s jangle pop that’s simple yet absolutely necessary. After all, sometimes all that ever needs to be said to our loved ones is “I’ll be always there.”
“Coming Along,” song that manages to balance lush and anthemic instrumentation with the sort of introspective lyricism that can only come from a living a full and messy life. And as a result the song is an accumulation of weariness, regret, wisdom, resiliency and hope that seems to say “yes, life will break your heart sometimes but we find a way to love, to dream, to love — and that’s what makes life endurable.

Interestingly, despite its 2:47 runtime, Lifetime of Comedy’s fourth and latest single “Fall and Be Found” is an expansive bit of cosmic featuring shimmering, reverb-drenched guitar, strummed acoustic guitar, a propulsive rhythm section and an enormous, soaring hook paired with Evan Way’s plaintive vocals. Interestingly, “Fall And Be Found” is centered around two very different yet related things: the recognition of the wonderful, deeply human and seemingly fleeting moments of our existence (i.e., birth, childhood, friendship, love and the like) and the hope that better days are just around the corner. And as a result, the song is a much-needed blast of hope when things seem at their most dire, while arguably being among the most hopeful song of their catalog.

“The song, ‘Fall & Be Found,’ is about a belief in the possibilities of beauty and transcendence in this world, both natural and supernatural,” The Parson Red Heads’ Evan Way explains. “It’s about embracing the idea that there is so much more to this life and existence than we ever really take time to acknowledge while we’re in the thick of it. More so now than ever, life often seems to be full of chaos, pain, heartache, confusion — not always, but often. And when we’re in the midst of those seasons, it often seems impossible to realize that despite that, there is beauty, there is an unexplainable magic in life and existence. This song is an attempt to communicate that, and an anthem proclaiming a belief that one day in the future, I believe we will see that reality, and know it in a more full and true way. ”

The recently released video for “Fall and Be Found” is a feverish collage of nostalgia-tinged found footage of young couples in love, kids playing each other and their parents as well as footage shot on family vacations and childlike animation. And much like the song it accompanies, the video captures life’s beauty, joy and meaning — but while hinting at the fact that there’s more to this world.

“The video captures so much of that beauty, magic, and mystery,” the band’s Evan Way says. “It’s mysterious without feeling foreboding, and it visually communicates that mysterious, unknowable beauty surrounding us all in such a profound way. “