musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: November 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

Introducing… Slow Coyote

Looking for a gently rambling way to ease into your busy day? Or an invigorating back roads journey as a brief respite from city life? Have a listen to Portsmouth, New Hampshire poet, folk musician (and naturalist?) Slow Coyote, who has just released American Supertramp. This 20-track album traverses from quiet acoustic daydreams to a rambunctious woodlands journey (“Wolf Tracks”) to relationship angst (“You Never Call Me”) to a stunning contemplation on deception (“Gypsy Reggae”), and it’s pretty amazing how one man and one acoustic guitar can conjure so many textures and moods. His expressive guitar playing seems to fit each song’s subject matter like a sleek second skin. It gallops along for “Spanish Horseback Riding Song” and kicks up its heels for “Shaolin Shadowdance.”

This is troubadour storytelling at its finest. And if that isn’t enough, there is a stark and elegant spoken word piece tucked in there as well (“Frozen Ground”) and a mournful acapella piece (“Rat Rag”). The album is available as a “name your price” download on Bandcamp. Highly recommended.

Slow Coyote has also self-published two books, “Now I Am Gold” and “Black Gold,” that comprise memoir, prose and poetry. ::: BUY THEM ON AMAZON ::: (p.s. if you’re really poor, you can pick them up for free at Smashwords, but support the artist in any way you can!)

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Tinariwen Live in Paris Celebration with Legendary Singer Lalla Badi

Tinariwen, gifted Tuareg musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali, are magical. I first saw them performing at the Paradise Rock Club in 2012, and was entranced. In 2014, they released Emmaar, a remarkable album. They’re back with a new recording this year, just released, called Live in Paris. It’s a documentation of one of their haunting live performances, made even more special thanks to their guest vocalist, the legendary Lalla Badi. Just on their own, Tinariwen is something very special. With this incredible fellow Tuareg musician, “grand dame” of Tamasheq culture and revered tindé master, the music is elevated to an even more reverent, sacred state. Tindé is both an instrument (a mortar covered with taut goatskin) played only by women and a special poetic repertoire that is sung during ceremonies and special occasions. The result of this pairing of extraordinary musicians is completely mesmerizing.

The concert took place on December 13, 2014 in Paris. This spellbinding musical prayer spoken by guitar and tindé is not typically heard by an audience outside of Malian culture. It is usually the type of music one only experiences while sitting around a fire in the southern Algerian desert or at a private home in northern Mali. Lalla Badi’s presence speaks of the strength and freedom of Tuareg women, and the music brings together vastly different cultures in spiritual communion.

This wonderful recording is more than just a celebration of the music. In the 1970s, Lalla Badi because a guiding force and mentor to the Tuareg people, both because of her commitment to their cause and her mastery of this musical tradition. As the Tuareg left northern Mali, fleeing droughts and repression and migrating to Libya to find a better life for themselves, she took in the ishumars (unemployed vagrants). It was in Algeria, during their long journey, that she became like a mother to them, like a sister and most certainly a shining beacon illuminating the way toward their future. It was at this time that founding members of Tinariwen Ibrahim ag Alhabib, Hassan ag Touhami and Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni began playing guitar and creating their own unique style of performance. This concert was an enticing merging of old and new.

Experience the magic of these old, old souls.


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The Latest Offering from Man Called War – the Broken Circle EP

Rob Kelly

Rob Kelly

We previously introduced you to Man Called War back in March. Since then, this Boston-based band has relocated to Des Moines, Iowa. Why, we don’t know. What we do know is that they have released a new EP, titled Broken Circle. Once again, it’s a hushed, haunted and moody affair, with layers of mournful vocals taking center stage amidst a backdrop of acoustic strumming, soft strings, minimalist percussive beats and occasional whispers from beyond. Gothic graveyard folk at its finest.

“Ten tales I tell of myself
and the cradle I’m stepping out of.
One is the voices of passing strangers
saying terrible things in their cars.
One is a puppet that somebody untied
but still dances along with the strings.
One is a face someone poured from a bottle
to be young, to be beautiful again.

– Ten Tales

Geez, cheer up dude! Just kidding. It’s lovely. As singer-songwriter Rob Kelly describes it, Broken Circle is “a story about a man’s life and journey toward (and through) death. But I swear it’s not nearly as downbeat as that sounds.”

We’re happy to report that the EP ends on a decidedly upbeat note with “A Song For My Son,” and though bittersweet, it fades out with the words “I know I should live in salt for leaving you / but I am always with you / I am in the sun, I am in the moon / and I always love you.”

As you enjoy the wistful contemplation of Rob Kelly and Man Called War, he leaves you with this —

“And when, abruptly,
the god put his hand on her shoulder
and said with sorrow in his voice-
He has turned around-
she could not understand and asked softly- Who?”

– Rainer Maria Rilke (Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes.)

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Introducing… First Pope

photo by Tim Voeten

photo by Tim Voeten

One of the greatest reasons to do a little music blog like this and get pitched brand new artists is that you get to hear the really young ‘uns just out of the gate. At the risk of embarrassing Dublin-based Fabian Molloy, who goes by the name of First Pope, this Irish singer-songwriter shows real promise in his vulnerable and emotional songwriting and acoustic guitar playing, not to mention the fact that he has a naturally gifted voice.

First Pope is so new, in fact, that there are only a few songs available — that last one, his own composition “In The Dark” and this Miike Snow cover, “Animal.” They’re courtesy of Canvas Sounds and their ‘On a Whim’ series. He has been writing his brand of alt-folk music for four years, and is currently working with producer Adam Lyons (producer and co-founder of Canvas Sounds) on new material. Keep an eye out!

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Introducing… Stockholm’s Small Feet

Their music speaks of mystical lakes, enchanted forests and magical creatures. Gentle acoustic instruments are interspersed with a heavier tapestry, somber echoes and ageless reverent harmonies. Small Feet are, not surprisingly, Scandinavian bred. This Stockholm band proudly carries and beautifully portrays long, cold winters and a rich folkloric tradition. This is not to say that I wouldn’t equally welcome a Swedish punk rock band or synth-pop outfit, but I’ll readily admit to falling in love with bands that carry forward the music of their heritage, bringing in their modern sensibilities to create something freshly contemporary yet steeped in the distant past. It’s a beautiful thing. The video for their song “Rivers” perfectly matches this song. That is to say, it’s haunting and mysterious.

The band’s debut album From Far Enough Away Everything Sounds Like The Ocean (on Barsuk Records in the U.S. and CFK Records in Europe) was released back in August. It’s difficult to believe that this is only their first full-length release. They’ve got off to a great start, playing studio sessions around the U.S. and in regular rotation on BBC 6 Music Recommends.

A few songs into the album, “All And Everyone” begins with a whistled melody that’s reminiscent of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ “Home,” but once the vocals and instrumentation kick in, those two bands head off firmly to their unique parts of the world, and therein lies the charm of both. Instead of basking in the sun with a tribe of Southern California hippies, we’re immediately swept away by cold howling winds, wild mountain ranges and majestic sailing vessels.

The band features songwriter Simon Stålhamre on lovely ethereal vocals, along with Jacob Snavely and Christopher Cantillo. From an “island cabin residence,” they created this stunning album, and are clearly poised for great things. For now, they have a few upcoming performances in Italy in December. See their official site for details.


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Introducing… Twin Limb

Listening to Twin Limb’s single “Don’t Even Think” is like gliding on a swift, magical kite through a mysterious mountain canyon. Yes, it’s that pretty. This dreamy and psychedelic, with Lacey Guthrie’s angelic yet insistent vocals pushing out through the swirling sound that she helps create with what I’ll call sad accordion drone, complemented by keyboards, both atmospheric and searing guitar, closely knit female harmonies and a slow, steady funeral march of percussion. Gorgeous. Their debut EP, Anything Is Possible and Nothing Makes Sense was just released on November 13.

This Louisville trio began in 2013 with Guthrie (accordion, vocals) and friend Maryliz Bender (drums, vocals). When they met up in 2014 with producer Kevin Ratterman (guitar, sampled sounds, percussion), they realized how much he could add to their sound and the duo became a trio that amazingly creates an extremely lush and layered aural environment that blends psychedelia with folk. This EP celebrates their musical marriage, and it includes a lovely cover of Can’s “You Doo Right.” It’s unexpected and delightful. Their first single was “Long Shadow,” released back in January.

Twin Limb will be performing in Cincinatti, Ohio on November 27 and in Louisville, Kentucky on December 4.


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Introducing… The Slow Readers Club

I don’t often like comparing bands to other bands, because that can seem limiting — and I like my bands to always surprise me. But upon listening to The Slow Readers Club, and in particular their single release, “Plant The Seed” from their latest album Cavalcade, I immediately thought of ’80s Depeche Mode, and I mean that in absolutely the best way possible. They’ve also been (rightly) compared to Joy Division, Interpol and The National. But they take that gloomy vibe and do their own unique thing with it. Yes, there are those familiar dark tones along with their trancey electro-pop, but it’s then interwoven with a falsetto vocal here and there, going back and forth, and the result is shiver inducing.

Based in Manchester, U.K., their debut single was “Sirens,” which appeared on their 2011 debut album. That song was strongly supported by Q Radio, NME and BBC Introducing, and they’ve built up a big following since then, with additional airplay on BBC 6Music, r101 (Italy) and Virgin Radio (Italy). They’ve performed at various festivals such as the Isle Of Wight, Party in the Pines and the Blackthorn Festival.

One thing I found especially haunting and compelling was a stripped-down performance of “I Saw A Ghost” at Manchester Library — stunning. This kind of acoustic session is a very big deal for me because it’s there that exceptional musicianship truly shines. Bravo!

Slow Readers Club are currently in the midst of a U.K. tour. They’ll be in Liverpool on the 27th, Manchester on the 28th, Preston on December 5 and in Glasgow, Scotland on December 12. See their official site for details. See them if you can and pick up Calvalcade (on Scruff Of The Neck Records).


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Contemplations on Slaughter and Solidarity

Imam teaches the Quran in Crimea, (1850s, lithograph by Carlo Bossoli) - from Islam Wikipedia page

Imam teaches the Quran in Crimea, (1850s, lithograph by Carlo Bossoli) - from Islam Wikipedia page

It has taken me three days to begin to process the Paris attacks. As the story unfolded over the weekend, at some point it occurred to me that Le Bataclan, where so many people were killed and wounded, was not unlike many rock clubs I’ve gone to around the Northeastern U.S. It wasn’t a huge stadium filled with tens of thousands; it wasn’t even an arena concert. It was a mid-sized club, 1500 capacity, with a random rock band playing. Though it wasn’t completely random for me. While I’ve never seen Eagles of Death Metal, as a California-based band, several friends of mine in Los Angeles bands knew them personally and had played with them. And their merchandise person, Nick Alexander, who was sadly one of the victims in the attack, had worked with many other bands I know. So this wasn’t just another terrorist attack in a Middle Eastern marketplace, a government office, an overseas embassy or a mosque (as horrible as all those are) — this was personal.

I understand that ISIL/ISIS, unlike al-Qaeda, wanted to attack civilian targets. They wanted to attack cultural institutions, the Western world’s way of life. But why this concert? That may seem like a ridiculous question to ask amidst all the bloodshed, but has anyone else wondered this? Surely there were many other shows going on in Paris on a lively Friday night. Why that one? Was it the band name? Did the attackers go through a weekly arts paper and, seeing Eagles of Death Metal listed, assumed that the band and their fans were a pack of wild, aggressive, violent and war-crazed heavy metal headbangers? Looks can be deceiving. And band names can be very deceiving. We as a species are very quick to form opinions based on first impressions and initial appearances, without digging deeper to get at the truth. Upon being threatened or attacked, we’re fast to seek revenge without going beneath the surface and examining the ramifications, as one would in an intelligently played chess game.

Eagles of Death Metal — not a bunch of radical metalheads, but a fun-loving group of blues rock musicians. Any music fan familiar with 1970s easy-listening rock bands would understand the irony and humor in their name. Their fans? Just a guess, but probably a more liberally-minded crowd likely including those who are opposed to overseas U.S. military aggression. In other words, at least some of those people who were indiscriminately gunned down by ISIL that night might have been somewhat sympathetic to their primary cause (get foreign troops out of Syria) if not their ideology and methods.

And now, in the aftermath? Those who believe that since all terrorists seem to be Muslims, all Muslims must be terrorists (like my next door neighbor) have one more example to bolster their argument. Those who judge by appearance only, without keeping their eyes, ears and minds fully open, will turn their anger and hatred toward everyone of Islamic faith. At current count, that’s 1.6 billion people. And according to a recent survey, Islam will overtake Christianity as the world’s largest religion by 2070. Demonizing what will soon be the majority of the world’s population because of the actions of a minority group (by latest count approximately 30-50,000; that’s still an infinitesimal minority of the world’s Muslim population) is not a wise move. It will only widen the rift already between us, creating even more hostility and violence and bringing otherwise peaceful people into the extremist fold.

Upon entering the Bataclan with their Kalashnikovs, these attackers apparently yelled that this was revenge for the French troops being in Syria. What do they think will happen, now that they staged an orchestrated attack in the streets of Paris? Do they imagine that the French will oblige their request, remove their soldiers and leave them alone? Of course they won’t. They’ll go in there 100 times stronger to seek revenge. Not a very smart chess move, ISIS. [As I was writing this, French President Francois Hollande spoke at a special session of both houses of parliament and declared that France was at war.]

On Sunday, I was perusing Twitter and watching the morning news programs. There were discussions about the previous night’s democratic debates. Bernie Sanders was ridiculed for answering the question of global terrorism with the need to address climate change and economic disparity. The fact is, the spread of terrorism is strongly influenced by those two issues. Granted, there is not very much one can do about radical Islamists who want to impose Sharia Law and establish a caliphate. They want to take their part of the world back a thousand years, and this will obviously never square with modern society. However, there is absolutely something we can do to cut off their seemingly endless supply of willing soldiers and to stop creating such fertile ground for the confusion, fear and chaos that ISIL thrives on.

On the subject of economic disparity, it is very easy to sway public opinion when civilians have no food or clean drinking water and cannot provide for their families. Without basic human needs, people will do what they have to in order to survive. And those who are destitute and marginalized, or those who are educated but see no path for advancement, believe that they have nothing left to lose. This makes them the perfect ISIS recruits. If someone comes along and says, “this is the only way and we will take care of you and your family,” what choice does one in such circumstances have but to believe them? So long as there is no middle class, there is no middle way. Rich or poor, have or have not. Power or powerlessness.

As for the role of climate change in all of this, it has been predicted by scientists that future earth changes will bring about mass migrations, which could lead to major global instability. As desperate people search for food, water and fertile farmland, these displaced people, separated from their homeland, will create unsettled regions where opportunistic groups might easily obtain a foothold. These mass migrations inspired by the will to survive will make a mockery of our petty border disputes and cultural sensitivities. And it’s exactly in this type of wretched environment where radical groups like ISIS thrive. That’s right, this isn’t some science fiction movie plot — it’s happening now.

In addition to dealing with these colossal global issues, we must go back to the old concept of winning hearts and minds. But this time, the U.S. must be sincere — and not hypocritical. You can’t drop packages of food on one day and then bombs via drones on a wedding party the next.

After reading about the debate, I switched on Face The Nation, just in time to hear the enlightened thoughts of Farah Pandith, former Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the United States Department of State. Her comments were rays of truth amidst all the calls to arms and other emotionally-driven reactions. Her main point was the need for credible voices, possibly even former extremists, to speak out against the senseless violence. The need to scale up messages on social media, to combat with intelligent dialogue the campaign of hate being waged by ISIS and their sympathizers. This has to be done not by American and European voices, but by Arabic Muslim ones.

I have often wondered why more of the peaceful Islamic community (by far the majority) doesn’t speak out when tragic events like the Paris attacks occur. They’re out there, but their voices aren’t being heard. “Where are they?” I ask myself. But who can blame them? In addition to fear of reprisal from extremists, they are marginalized or even persecuted by their American and European neighbors who should instead be supporting and encouraging them to come forward. Anyone who calls a peaceful, innocent Muslim “terrorist” is driving one more individual toward a terrorist training camp. An uninformed racist is in fact ISIL’s most effective recruiting officer.

No, there is nothing we can do about extremists who hate the modern world and our way of life. But we can suck the oxygen out of their cause by helping strengthen the moderate Islamic voice in contemporary society and by no longer persecuting innocent Muslims overseas and in our local communities. We must welcome those families and individuals fleeing war-torn countries in search of peace with open arms.

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Crowded House Release ‘Help Is Coming’ to Benefit Save The Children for the Refugee Crisis

The saddest thing about this song recently re-released by Crowded House to benefit Save The Children’s campaign for the refugee crisis is that I received notice of this back on September 11, and it’s even more relevant now, more than two months later. This is not a problem going away any time soon, but with efforts like this, we can help ease the pain for so many people. The song itself is a both a heartfelt plea and a promise — “Help Is Coming Soon.”


This beautiful song is available as a limited edition 7-inch single and download, and proceeds benefit Save The Children to help in their efforts to provide aid during this ongoing refugee crisis. You can read more about their campaign. For those wondering about the song itself, it is from their b-side album Afterglow, released in 2011. The video is by Mat Whitecross with an introduction by Benedict Cuberbatch.

Download the single to donate to Save The Children and show your support. All proceeds will go to help thousands of refugee children in need of food, safe water, medicine, shelter and psychological support. The 7″ single includes an exclusive previously unreleased b-side “Anthem” with new artwork by Crowded House’s bass player Nick Seymour. All entities (the band, Apple, Universal Music Group and producers) are donating their royalties and all proceeds to the cause.

DOWNLOAD SINGLE FROM iTUNES | ORDER LIMITED EDITION 7-INCH VINYL

DONATE FROM THE UK or INTERNATIONALLY | DONATE FROM THE U.S.
NOTE: Above links go directly to the Save The Children official site.

Additional background from the press release:
Like the rest of the nation, the broadcasters/writers Caitlin Moran and Pete Paphides were saddened and angered last week by the images of three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi and his brother Galip.

Pete Paphides “I started imagining my family in a similar situation, and almost without me realising it, a song I hadn’t heard for several years started playing in my head. Help Is Coming was recorded by Crowded House over 20 years ago, but it evokes with uncanny empathy the howling uncertainty faced by thousands of families arriving in Europe for the first time. The following day, I contacted friends at The Vinyl Factory — a label that owns the old EMI pressing plant in Hayes — with a view to manufacturing a seven-inch single with all the proceeds going to Save The Children. They responded immediately, offering to waive all their manufacturing costs.”

Caitlin Moran “The day after the pictures of three-year-old Alan Kurdi went around the world — it was like a switch had been flicked. My social media timelines were full of people who just could not stay inactive any more; who were exasperated with the lack of governmental action. There were people posting up Amazon wish lists of tents, sleeping bags, clothes; people hiring vans to drive down to Calais; people organising libraries, and soup kitchens. People doing that brilliant, simple, ageless human thing: of wanting to help other people. Whilst committees convene and resolutions are published and squabbles break out between this government and that, normal people just become very practical: they roll up their sleeves, and say: “Right. if I’d just fled my country with my family, what would I need? Shelter, food, and clothing. maybe some books, for the kids. Let’s get started now.” So, Pete and I were just doing what everyone else was doing, really. He’d found the perfect song — Help Is Coming, about refugees on their way to Ellis Island, with “Empires crumbling” behind them — and I just went on Facebook and told everyone what we were doing. And everyone was desperate to help — everyone felt the same way.”

Neil Finn “I am continually amazed and grateful for the mysterious pathways that songs can travel. You never know where they are going to turn up and when they will reveal their true nature. First recorded in 1995, quietly released in 1999 Help Is Coming has had a long journey to find a good home. It was always a song about refugees even if at the time I was thinking about the immigrants setting off on ships from Europe to America, looking for a better life for their families in America. The words of the poem inscripted on the Statue of Liberty are an extraordinary statement of intent for the development of a great nation ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’

There is such a huge scale and urgency to the current refugee crises that barely a day goes by without some crushing image or news account to confront us. We can’t be silent anymore. Like the diverse immigrants that made America great, these are good people that just want to find somewhere safe to create a better life for their families. I am grateful to Pete and Caitlin for imagining my song might resonate — and to Mat Whitecross for creating such a powerful film to accompany it. It’s an honour to be a part of a growing chorus of voices to create action and make it real… help is coming.”

HelpIsComing.org | Save The Children – Child Refugee Crisis Appeal | Neil Finn | Crowded House

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Introducing… The Elwins

There’s quite a cheery indie-pop sound that permeates what, at least lyrically, seems to be rather sad sentiments in The Elwins’ official video for “So Down Low.” This single, which was on the Canadian commercial radio charts for six months, was the first to come from their album Play For Keeps, the follow-up to their debut And I Thank You, released back in 2012. In addition to the upbeat music, there’s an equally upbeat menagerie of strange creatures on post-in notes. What that means is that you might not want to watch this video late at night.

Hailing from Ontario, Canada, The Elwins began in 2006 as the duo of Matthew Sweeney and Travis Stokl, releasing their debut EP in 2008. They then decided to add to their sound with guitar, keyboards and bass. On their first tour, they opened for SPEAK and Jukebox the Ghost, and by the following tour in 2003, they were headliners. With this new release, they’ve continued to tour steadily throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe and Japan. They’re now in the midst of shows in Eastern Canada that run through mid-December. See their official site for more information.


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