Op-Ed: Living and Doing

There’s a sentence that’s deeply dreaded by those among us who try to get right with polydidacticism, whether in person or on dating profiles: “I listen to everything except country and rap.” Country and hip-hop—the two American musical forms with the longest and densest evolutionary tracks—are the genres most prone to criticism leveled against their supposed inauthenticity, the two genres that demand (or are perceived to demand) genuineness at an unprecedentedly granular level. Any medium or genre has, in the minds of cultural gatekeepers, to pass litmus tests; country and hip-hop have to pass an entire battery. Even the creators have to reaffirm their credentials to ensure that they’ve lived through their creative catalysts; notice how our subcategories are based on lifestyles, are “gangster rap” and “outlaw country.” Aside from the relevance-terriers like Taylor Swift and Drake, whose evolution is catalyzed solely by market share rather than creative shift, there’s no point in dissecting whether something is “lived” or “created.” We, as listener, allow a certain creative flexibility to our creators for most art (no one, after all, demands that speculative fiction authors be astronauts in addition to writers), but we have a hard time making that logical leap when it comes to the quintessentially American music of folk and hip-hop, two genres that have created full synthesis out of generations of elements without losing focus. Continue reading

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Feature: The Leak — Steph Stewart & the Boyfriends – “Nobody’s Darlin” and “All Over the City”

Steph_Stewart___the_Boyfriends_ND_CoverSteph Stewart & The Boyfriends is a band grown from the ground up, with a sound as tall and full as a giant oak tree. Their new LP, Nobody’s Darlin’, out 5/30, is a righteous affair that will surely turn some heads. Sure, they’ve got a solid handful of followers and loyal devotees (who will inevitably be excited at this sneak peek), but this is a band that has quietly been producing some of the most quality folk music in the country for several years now, and they deserve your attention. Continue reading

Album Review: Sufjan Stevens, ‘Carrie & Lowell’

Sufjan_Stevens_-_Carrie_&_LowellSufjan Stevens Carrie & Lowell
(Asthmatic Kitty Records- March 31, 2015)
(Contemporary Folk, Indie Rock)
Review by Jared John Buchholz

What is it that people like about Sufjan Stevens?

When it comes to his music, there are generally two stances one takes; the first stance…adoration, the second…boredom. If you play a Sufjan album, you are generally able to make the conclusion of what it will consist of: the angelic voice, the rhyme scheming lyrics, that finger picking of a banjo/guitar. All of these are presumably essential to a Sufjan song. All of these are reasons why people love Sufjan. All of these are reasons one falls asleep to his voice, lullabying, cooing the individual to sleep. All of these are reasons, during a soft rain, in which Sufjan is about as essential as a down filled blanket to warm your soul and toes. But all of these are the reasons behind why others find him to be boring. Yes, there’s massive creativity, abounding within his mind, upon his fingers, but again, creativity aside, some people want chaos, disorder, noise pure and simple. This is not who Sufjan Stevens is. And truth be told, whenever the musician that Sufjan is decides to step away from familiarity or from he who is, it is obvious. It isn’t good. There were many with this sentiment in regards to his last album The Age of Adz, released almost five years ago. Continue reading

Album Review: Mike Collins Jr. ‘Tryin to Stay Ahead’

Mike Collins Jr. Tryin To Stay Ahead
(Fork and Spoon Records –  2014)
(Folk, Minimalist Country)

It’s a hard world out there for “Juniors”—born in a shadow and shackled with an instant, pan-fried nickname at birth, we’re frequently doomed to pick up either a stringed instrument or a NASCAR sponsorship. Mike Collins, Jr., erstwhile member of Say Brother and New Orleans-based banjo-player, chose the first path—and with superb results. Currently signed to Fork & Spoon, Collins’ second full-length record, Tryin to Stay Ahead, debuted last fall, a virtuoso record of classics and, most excitingly, original compositions that fuse traditional tropes to a vibrant sound. Continue reading

Album Review: Nathan Golub/Wood Ear ‘Nothing in Return’ EP

a0538756791_2Nathan Golub/Wood Ear Nothing in Return EP
(Hello Good Friend Tapes – March 11, 2015)
(Acoustic, Blues, Folk)

4 words: American, Primitive, Spiral, Soundscapes

Sometimes when listening to instrumental, or mostly instrumental music, I can’t help but write a tale in my head that follows the song. It turns out that this split EP between Nathan Golub and Nate Tarr of Wood Ear, “Nothing in Return”, is just about perfect for that. What follows is as much a story as it is a review, with each song being a different moment of the listener’s journey.

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Album Review: Joe Pug ‘Windfall’

Joe Pug Windfall
(Lightning Rod Records – March 10, 2015)
(Singer Songwriter, Rock, Folk)

For those who don’t know the story of Joe Pug, it doesn’t take a long listen to any of his lyrically driven folk releases to get a strong sense of who the man is and what he’s searching for in life. Pug is a consummate storyteller, willing to confess his own secrets and flaws, weaving simple poetry into complex narrative, while also examining the simple daily struggles of survival from both a well-read and well-lived place. Without both of these aspects, these songs would come across as predictable, or worse yet, preachy and self-righteous. But Pug has always managed to walk the line with a slight smirk, and a soul-searching gaze, never shy to make contact with his audience members. Continue reading