Five for Five: Diana Ross, Dramarama, more

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Well I said there were five more. And I’m out of records to review. No, I’m just lazy. But I do love these videos/songs. So enjoy!

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Five for Friday #1: Chain of Lakes

Alright, I’m back again. Here’s this really amazing thing where I talk about music on the internet. Afterwards I’m going to eat food with my mouth, add money to my abysmal savings account with a deposit slip, and adhere to Druidism by praying to a tree. Unreal. Speaking of nature…

1. Chain of Lakes: In&In

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Today’s first album comes from Michigan’s own Chain of Lakes. Named after several I guess alright lakes you may have heard about, Chain of Lakes is the musical brainchild of Kyle Rasche. Speaking of children, Kyle and his wonderful wife have three of them. For a lapsed Catholic, that’s just about the right amount of children.

But all religion and procreation aside, In&Out is the perfect album to welcome in the coming summer’s badly needed lush sunshine and positive vibes. Kyle and his musical colleagues have crafted an album that has all the beauty and detail you’d expect from this band, honed carefully with a craftsman’s touch. It offers a rich, nuanced musical experience that stands up incredibly well to repeated listens. Yet, there’s a pop sensibility here making each song immediately likable. Though Kyle Rasche has to his credit built a reputation for being picky about his songwriting and compositions, he’s built an equally strong reputation for self-deprecation. I have heard Kyle play demos for me that sounded damn near Grammy-winning, interrupted only by his commentary about how much he hated everything about what we were listening to. It’s a dynamic that, while possibly reflective of a need for weekly personal counseling for Kyle, is the most important factor of his particular musical modus operandi.  Kyle’s music has always existed inside a push and pull between ease and struggle. Joy and the complete lack of it. Confidence and crippling self-doubt that, taken together, sounds unsettling and lovely. It’s what keeps us interested, wanting more. It’s an odd balance that we ourselves live within every day and, as a result, is what makes these songs so human, so able to connect immediately with listeners.

Regardless of what Kyle thinks, this is the album of his that’s gonna be best received and will also hold up the best. An album this solid by an artist this talented deserves nothing less.

Favorite Track: The track “Blood & Alcohol” is almost like a musical yin & yang, with  music that smells like bubblegum and lyrics that smell like the breathe of a depressed drunk on his last, fatal bender.  It’s a hell of a song. His vocals have never sounded better, and his bandmates never sharper.

Trivia: Kyle was once the star of a show that aired on MTV. I used to feel bad about bringing this up. Now I don’t give a shit. Who wouldn’t want a show about them on frickin’ MTV?!?!?!? Ya’ll looking for a subject?

Find out more at:  chainoflakesband.bandcamp.com


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Make ‘Em Famous: Nathan Kalish

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Yeah, fame doesn’t really exist anymore. Especially in the music industry, which probably doesn’t exist as a giant whole anymore either. What separates the pros from the amateurs, the successful and the unsuccessful, is essentially the same thing that separates hard workers from lazy  pieces of shit. Regardless, certain singer-songwriters who started with cult followings have risen to a level where most music fans have at least heard of them. Conor Oberst, Ingrid Michaelson, Ryan Adams, and Jason Isbell come to mind, though I’m sure you’ve already thought of others. For shit’s sake, I think it’s about time that Nathan Kalish was added to this list.

I’ve known Nathan for about a decade, as a fellow songwriter, a friend, and as someone who legitimately loves his music. Add to it the fact that he’s been a dead-shot serous musician since he was a kid. Based on my many sober and completely shit-faced conversations with him, I reckon he has never had any other career goal than to be a musician.

His early work with The Wildfire was Americana set ablaze by Replacements-style punk, graced with songwriting chops clearly sharpened by greats such as Neil Young, Sprinsteen, John Prine, and others. After The Wildfire broke up and a couple self-released solo albums, Nathan reinvented his act under the monike Nathan Kalish & the Lastcallers. The punk flair and DIY can-do existed more as an ethos at this point, while the music itself veered into flat-out honky-tonk country. And while few sounds will ever feel as good to me as the early primal rumbles of The Wildfire, the two Lastcaller albums found Nathan fashioning a sound and  image that are truly his own, wisely rooted in Americana’s rich soil. So it’s no surprise that his latest release I Want to Believe is his best album yet.

With a non-Confederate country flag in one hand and a freak flag in the other, Kalish covers everything from the Kingdom of Heaven to the hellish Kingdom of post-Trump America, and alien-helmed flying saucers maneuvering space in between. With standouts like the Tom Pettyish “Winter Phase Revisited” and the catchy, flat-out-bizarre “Roswell,” to the youthful pessimism of “Bullies Win Again,” this effort finds Nathan doing what he was born to do: write damn good songs and put them to work.

Buy his records. Go see him play. Request his music. Seriously, make him famous.

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Favorite Track: “Do You Ever.” The song starts off sounding like a Waylon Jennings throwback, end careens into as incestuous of a chorus as you are about to hear, with strange vibes and traditional rhythms continuing the weirdo balance of earth and space that holds this album together.

Find out more at:   www.nathankalish.us

 

Five for Friday #5: Arctic Monkeys

5. Arctic Monkeys: Four out of Five (single)

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It just now hit me that I should have gone full blown apropos and made this song #4 instead of Selena Gomez. Oh well. No turning back now! Actually, it would be very easy to do so, given the excellent editing features afforded by WordPress. I’m simply too lazy.

Arctic Monkey’s frontman Alex Turner sort of sings like he’s swallowing a loaf of butter. But it has always worked for him. I personally really like their fast tunes best. This one’s more slow, but a little herky jerky. Solid stuff. Enjoy. I’m going to bed.

 

Five for Friday #4: Selena Gomez

4. Selena Gomez: “Back to You” (single)

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Shut. UP!

You’re just jealous because she signed this photo that she took exclusively for me. No, you’re right, she did not.

Even though many of you who have told me how much you’ve enjoyed this new “Five for Friday” thing will now never read it again, I seriously hope you at least give the song a chance. If you like good, sad, entrancing pop bullshit about getting your heart ripped out of your asshole then look no further than this song. I’ve listened to it about 47 times today. I like Selena Gomez. She can write phenomenal fuckin’ choruses, melodically and lyrically. I LOVE the first line of this song’s chorus:

“I wanna hold you, when I’m not supposed to.”

Well geez, how can you go wrong with that? We’ve all felt that EXACT sentiment, and she SINGS how it feels with simplicity and punch. God, why do I feel like I even have to defend myself for Selena’s sakes. Now I’m mad. Alright, just listen to this new track of hers, from Season 2 of “13 Reasons Why I Drank Four Pounds of Drano and Took a Dump in a Loaded Cannon” or whatever it’s called.

Five for Friday #3: Luke Winslow-King

I hope you have checked out Coffin Problem and Sarah Shook  & the Disarmers new albums. Be sure to check out these as well

3. Luke Winslow King: Blue Mesa

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He’s built up a big following and critical acclaim for his smokey vocals, clever lyrics, and respectable “throwback” sound to tin-pan alley goodness and New Orleans bayou blues. All of which is true and commendable. He also should be commended for being the handsomest SOB on the planet. Sorry Luke! it’s true.

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What I’ve always liked best, however, are his guitar chops. That fact that he never intentionally shows off is his biggest accomplishment. Instead, he focuses on getting plenty of tone and the sweetest sounds out of those strings. It’s never too much, always leaves you wanting a little more in the best way possible. His latest release Blue Mesa gives him the space to really showcase his guitar skills. I cannot think of a slide player who I enjoy listening to more. He also puts on a hell of a live show. Take a look:

Blue Mesa has plenty of that kind of spirit you see above to offer. The track “Thought I Heard You” is damn-near flawless. On second thought, it is flawless. There’s also the killer track “Leghorn Women.” Give ‘er a listen.

His lyrics are less notable on this album. Remarkably simple. But the album is better for it. It was high time he released a record that gave his guitar playing every bit of spotlight it deserves. Heady, clever lyrics wouldn’t have allowed this. He’s been at it for a while. I hope and doubt he’s stopping anytime soon.

Favorite Track: “I Thought I Heard You”

Find out more at www.lukewinslowking.com

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Five for Friday # 2: Sarah Shook & the Disarmers

2. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers:  Years

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That whole thing where some idiot says, “If you look up the word ‘dillweed’ in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of (fill in the dillweed)” is tired and annoying. But it actually does sort of make sense whenever it’s used. So I’m gonna play with it a bit. If you look up the word ‘badass” in the dictionary, the dictionary book itself will slam into your face, grow arms and bash your head against the wall, then it’ll yell ‘LISTEN TO SARAH SHOOK, YOU DIPSHIT!!!!” until you do. I both applaud and will purchase any dictionary that does this.

But Sarah, with her audio/visual mix of gutter punk, outlaw, and troubadour, isn’t just a flat out, blow-your-fuckin’-head-off-in-a-showdown badass. She’s also one of the greatest living songwriters out there. And she’s only 33 years old.

Her first release, the 2013 Seven playing under the moniker Sarah Shook & the Devils, was promising, at times brilliant, but overall missing something. In 2015, she’d choose a better band name and in turn make a better album with Sarah Shook & the Disarmers self-released Sidelong. This album is perfect, and I mean fucking PERFECTBloodshot Records wisely picked up the artist and album last year, doing a re-release of Sidelong.

I discovered the album while reading a glowing review of it in No Depression. This was the first time in years an album stopped me in my tracks, rang in my brain like the best siren you’ve ever heard, and has sat there on repeat since.  It sounds like country music should, with touches of religious fervor and agnostic curiosity aplenty. There to stay was just the right amount of slide guitar, train-engine rhythms, and vocal twangs. But what she added was plenty of punk saliva dripping off her microphone, and politically progressive ideas that, quite frankly, you just don’t hear in enough country music. The standout track “Fuck Up” is the best song I’ve heard in ten years. I’m not kidding, not being grandiose. It simply is. Here, listen.

Now, with her latest release Years, Sarah somehow manages to perfect an already damn-near perfect sound. This isn’t a huge departure from Sidelong. But the improvements lie in the overall musicianship of it. Her vocals have never sounded better, thick and meaty with more “don’t fuck with Sarah Shook” than she’s ever had before. The guitar licks are spot on, with solos to stretch her overall sound into new parts of country’s comfortably familiar territory. Lyrically, she joins the ranks of Gillian Welch, John Prine, and others, making big ideas sound simple. My favorite example comes from the title track, where she sings:

There was a time when you were good to me
And we took on new frontiers
There was a time that you were kind to me
But baby, it’s been years

Her lyrics are lean, to the point, but delivered in a ways that get you thinking. Here’s another example from the track “Good as Gold.”

I’m afraid of losin’
Not afraid of losin’ you
Cause I don’t think of you
Like a thing of mine
That I can just up and lose

So please, for the love of hell, buy this album and don’t stop listening to it.

Standout Track: “Good as Gold”

 

I find out that she was in Milwaukee last week, a place close to my heart and home. But unfortunately not close enough. Next time, I hope. In the meantime, check Sarah out by clicking on the word here.

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