Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lend Me Your Ears: Morgan Manifacier

Music and the music community has always been a source of inspiration, connection and acceptance for me. It has been my tribe, my relief society, my oasis in the desert, and obviously a source for dramatic (but true!) descriptors. This blog has given me another outlet to not only talk and share about music, but also connect with other community members; fellow listeners, toe tappers, audiophiles and music makers and performers.  It has been, still is, and will continue to be a heartfelt labor and joy. As I work on clearing tangles and briars in my off camera life, some trusted and melodic friends will be sharing some favorite finds, of the music variety, that have found their way to our inboxes, record players and ears. ---Katherine,  your faithful gentlewoman of the road. 

~ Our first guest post is from Miranda, a lifestyle blogger, music lover, wordsmith and all and all swell human person that currently calls St. Louis, MO home. You can follow her adventures at My Bookbloom.~

Morgan Manifacier launched his first album, Grande, in 2011, a collection of tracks that blend together to create something similar to the spontaneous chorus of voices gathered around a campfire. Calming melodies and slow rhythms are achieved through colorful and deliberate layering. Whether through plucked guitar, piano chords, rich French vocals, or even whistling, Manifacier achieves the natural balance of a carefully crafted talent. Personally, I find Manifacier’s second collection, Tape Club, a little grittier. Not in a musical sense per se, but in a depth and wisdom often associated with sophomore albums. Insightful lyrics make the pieces resonate on an intellectual level. Contrast that to Manifacier’s fourth and latest album, Hues and Calm, where listeners are introduced to a new tone. Between familiar shades of calm, a jagged energy filters in, giving some songs a stronger rock vibe than previously experienced. However, maybe the most compelling song of all the albums combined is found in the ballad Ourselves. Which will undoubtedly receive a wider audience before long. But no matter the album, one thing remains constant. That is, without noticing it, each song wraps around you. Sending you, if only for a moment, to a familiar place. A place altogether too good to leave anytime soon.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lend Me Your Ears: Shareef Ali

For me, this last year or so  has been a time of comings and goings, of breaking up and starting over, with people, places, dreams, and plans, so it is not completely out of nowhere that the music that I have really connected with lately has been tunes layered not only in melodies and harmonies but also with gritty, hard earned lyrics  created and crafted from raw and honest experience, some outward, third party witness of shared human inner struggles. And that is what makes music a beautiful and wild thing.  The creation of music or really any form of art,  is almost a primal scream of self expression and importance; this is me, this is my world, this is my story. But  a great part in this creation process, that seems to be so selfish and self serving, is the willingness to share the final product, to throw it out into the great unknown, but not for prideful admiration or earthly success, but because of that other primal desire to not be alone, to connect our lives with each other.

I deeply appreciate the bravery that it takes a songwriter to basically give away little pieces of themselves with each song, each record and every performance. As a listener, all these little pieces that we get from those songs and records and performances, at least the good ones, don't just entertain us or give us a beat to dance to, but can help me and you and us understand our own little stories and give us an anchor in the madness of life.

And fitting perfectly into this musical pattern of give and take is A Place to Remember the Dead, the new solo album from San Fransisco based songwriter Shareef Ali.  Ali takes the familiar themes of life, love, and struggle and adds his own unique voice and musical talent, creating new, rich, anthems and ballads that fuse together folk, punk rock, country and the blues into this haunting and spirited beast of an album.

For these ears of mine, a strong example of Ali's craftsmanship and heart is the song The Tenderness in Me. The draw in this song is Ali's voice, he beautifully uses it to tackle the emotional complexities of a relationship. At times it is strong and defiant and other times it is quieter, and seems to strain under the heaviness of whatever true life struggles created those words. And the guitar is a tender conspirator in the song, carrying the heartfelt lyrics gently along.

The rest of the album is filled with strong songs that showcase Ali's talent, from the harmonica that I swear sounds a heart breaking on the album opener, Reno, to the bluesy benediction of Marigny Love Song. What struck me most about the record is all those things that I was talking about in the rambles up in the beginning of this post. In the 10 songs on this album you hear the rawness and honesty of a life wanting to be heard and shared, and in our age of overly produced noise, you don't always get that sincerity. But when you do, it makes you want to stop and listen to the songs, not just hear them in the background, but really listen to them and gleam from all  the little bits and pieces of truths, and when you boil life down, isn't that what we all want; to share, and to be heard? (And a harmonica. We should all also want a harmonica).


Monday, February 17, 2014

Weekend Things

1. I love music. Duh. But sometimes I get overwhelmed by the amount of music out there, and then I spend an hour trying to find that right song to listen to and nothing feels right. Whenever I am all muddled like this, the only cure seems to be to go back to the beginning, to strip music down to the raw, and that means the blues. The blues is my reset button. Put that on a t-shirt. This afternoon found me listening to Robert Johnson's "Hellhound of My Trail." Sweet roads made of cheese, this song is so good. I honestly have to keep pausing every couple seconds because I just can't take it all in at once. It is just so deep to the bone.

I am also trying this "strip things down to the only the elements of survival" in other aspects of my life. The difficult part seems to be figuring out what exactly I need to survive. Sometimes comfort kills creativity, not that I plan on going out and stabbing myself in the leg just to be uncomfortable, but sometimes it is frustration and tension that pushes us to keep  moving.

2.I've come across this article a couple time now and I think it makes some pretty interesting points about the modern single and the modern single stereotypes. My favorite line is: The single life isn't a prison sentence nor is it a cocktail party. It is simply a life.  

3. So, I gave into boredom and did that "what state do you belong in" quiz online. I got Massachusetts, which in many ways makes a lot of sense, but I am preeettty sure that the main reason I got the Bay State was because I picked Dunkin Donuts for the preferred restaurant. Don't get me wrong, Boston is one of my most favoritiest cities on the planet, I was just hoping that I belonged in a state that doesn't believe in winter.  Here is my little blurb:

I would like to point out, that while I take most of it as a complement, I actually love the state of Connecticut.

5. The next time someone rolls their eyes at me for complaining about the weather, which you probably just did after that jab in the last point, I can just say, "I'm not being obnoxious, I'm just being British:

6. Speaking of British things, watching  this clip of Stephen Fry trying to put together an Ikea desk, has been the best stress reliever this week.

6. If nothing else, watching the Walking Dead has taught me that even during the zombie apocalypse, teenagers will still be filled with angst. Oh, Carl, just go drown your feelings in pudding.

7. Best keyword search term found in my blog stats as of late: meaning of life found in tacos. You better believe it.

8. Shoot. I am posting just after midnight, technically on a Monday. I just made a liar out of this Weekend Things.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lend Me Your Ears: Isle of Rhodes

I was first introduced to the Brooklyn based band, Isle of Rhodes, through their lovely animated video for the song "Islands," and completely fell in love with their delicate melodies that burst triumphantly into an explosion of sound. The duo, comprised of Rob Farren on keyboards and Colin Behram on drums, weave their songs together so seemingly effortlessly and eloquently that you don't even miss the guitars, giving new meaning to the saying, "No strings attached", said with a wink and smirk, of course. Farren's dreamy, yet sharp vocals fused with powerfully constructed lyrics about the forward movement of life makes quite the modern anthem. 

But this band isn't a one trick pony, oh no.  Their 4 song Affirmation Caravan EP which is being released today (!) is a parade of their creative energy and musical talents. "Tic Toc Take II"another favorite around these parts of blogosphere, is a little jazzy with an addictive punch of power pop, definitely prone to  put a swagger in your step, or ears, or any space in between.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Lend Me Your Ears: To Kill A King

As I type this, it is 26 degrees outside, the landscape is covered by almost a foot of snow, and there is a stillness in that outer night darkness that is only found in these cold months.

Even if I try to wax poetic about the symbolism of the seasons and to know warmth you have to know cold and there is beauty in all things, etc, etc, etc., winter is hard time for me. Believe you me, I keep questioning the decision making processes that keep me moving to snowy places.  And just for you kids, I am learning to keep it all the emo/aggro inside, because, holy abominable snowman Batman, I can be obnoxious when I am cold, which if I haven't mentioned it lately, is all the time. But there is comfort knowing that these cold months will come to end and once again we can have outdoor barefoot sing-a-long parties with all our friends.

To King A King and their outdoor barefoot sing-a-long friends (including the fellas from Bastille) totally get it. Boy, I needed this song and this video this week, a little postcard from summer filled in with our favorite postcard words : wish you were here. And in this case, summer totally has a British accent. Totally. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Weekend Things

1. On Friday I locked my keys in my car . . . during an ice storm. Which by the way, is the most awesome time to lock your keys in the car since you can barely even feel the pain of beating your head against the car window because you are being pelted by daggers of ice. My mom not only drove over to wait with me as I wait for AAA, but also brought me Chinese food. She wins all the mom points. This was my hilarious fortune cookie fortune:
So. Hooray. 

2. I am 100% sure that there is an owl in my chimney. I keep hearing "Whoooo, Whooo" echoing down the bricks. Crap. Now I am thinking of that one scene in The Birds where birds come flying out of the fireplace. Excuse me, while I go freak out and move every single piece of furniture I own in front of the fireplace, and try to convince the cat to make some very aggressive sounding meows in that general direction.

3. Sometimes it truly breaks my heart that I can't read all the books all at once. I will be posting about my January reads soon, but I think I am going to have to postpone my monthly themed reading.  I recently joined two book clubs,  which are happily dictating what I read. One is a at the local public library where I sit with nice, older retired ladies and talk about slightly scandalous books. The second is a virtual book club with a couple of my far away friends.  On Friday I finished the book for the library group, The Devil in the White City by Erick Larson and started the one for my virtual one,  Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. This, however, hasn't stopped me in the least from building a tower of books that I still want to read. I want to know all the things. 

4. This blog article, and really the whole blog,  has inspired me to start a travel savings account. I took a severe pay cut when I moved back to the Midwest, I am making less than half now than I was making in DC, so my budget it pretty tight, and I've had to cut a lot from my previous lifestyle. However, I aways want to be able to say YES! when someone asked me to meet then in Paris, or to eat our way through Northern Italy, or, {gasp} become brave enough to become a solo traveler.

5. Speaking of the inspiration stuff on the Internet, this list of 19 Hard Things You Need to Do to Be Successful, really made me think about a lot of the choices I made in the last little while, sure it is a little hokey and feel good, but there is a lot of truth in there too. There is great danger in playing life too safe too much.  I know that growth and change, etc, etc, etc (said in The King and I voice) always requires stretching and pushing and a whole lot of uncomfortable or pain inducing things. And pain usually triggers our natural fight or flight instincts. There are times, right times and wrong times, for both fighting and fleeing.  The hard part is figuring out which is which.