Two Songs by Noah Roth

Noah Roth – 800 Miles and Only A Phone Call Away

Regular readers of this blog (both of them, if we include the cat) are familiar with the musical genre known as Underwear Music. For those of you keeping score at home, Underwear Music is music that a person writes and records while sitting on a bed in their underwear following the unsatisfactory conclusion of a Relationship. Like all forms of music, there are sub-genres and micro-genres of Underwear Music. For example, there is Pre-Breakup Underwear Music, which celebrates the incipient breakup (or, more typically, the incipient Getting Dumped) that everyone can see coming from half a mile out, like a hundred-foot-tall bowling ball steamrolling toward you down the gravel path of your heart. With “Sweetheart,” Dog Mom created Next Level Underwear Music, a micro-genre of Pre-Breakup Underwear Music that not only anticipates the breakup, but potentially causes the breakup. And Steven Lipsticks reports that with “Stay Awake, No More Dreams” he created Euro-Underwear Music, a more civilized variety in which he kept his pants on during the recording process.

Which brings us to “800 Miles” and “Only A Phone Call Away” by Noah Roth, two fine examples of LDR Underwear Music, songs that describe the heartache and misery that schleps along beside you 24/7 like a giant, stinking slug whilst you drag yourself through that miasmic chimera known as the Long Distance Relationship. While some will argue that LDR is not true Underwear Music, that’s like saying that Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis should not appear in the same Ken Burns documentary. Besides, I’ve already invested 285 words into the premise that these songs are Underwear Music, and I’m not about to turn back now.

Whatever you call them, these are excellent, well-written songs. Like many of the tracks that are featured in these virtual pages, the performance isn’t perfect (Underwear Music, by virtue of its bedroom origins, rarely is). But I’ll put the songwriting, by Noah Roth and Asher White, up against anyone’s. As a Certified Music Journalist I am obligated to inject at least one Obscure Reference into each review. Otherwise, someone will come to my house and yank that coveted Music Press card from the hatband of my fedora. So we’ll say that “Only A Phone Call Away” brings to mind the slightly campy work of Christopher James on his cult-classic album In the Month of May.

“800 Miles” and “Only A Phone Call Away” appear on Noah Roth’s 2016 album Eyes Wide Open, Staring at the Sun. Noah came to our attention when his noise rocker, “Beater,” appeared on Sematary Forever, a compilation album released last week by Sematary Records. Eyes Wide Open, Staring at the Sun is a rather remarkable album, recorded when Noah was seventeen. It’s always slightly annoying when young people are so talented.

You can support deserving independent musicians like Noah Roth by visiting his Bandcamp page, listening to his songs, and downloading your favorite tracks. He has a ton of music on there; surely you can find something you like (and don’t call me Shirley). And be sure to follow Noah on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Rowan Kerrick – I Can’t Make You Love Me

Rowan Kerrick – I Can’t Make You Love Me

So I’m in my office listening to “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Rowan Kerrick. And my wife comes in from the kitchen and asks, somewhat incredulously, “Is this a Nobody?” Now, first of all, I don’t write about Nobodies. I write about great musicians of whom the world is largely unaware. But the implication underlying the question is that someone with Rowan Kerrick’s tremendous voice – which my wife could detect from the kitchen over the buzzing exhaust fan and a sizzling skilletfull of corn fritters frying in fatback (actually, she was baking a nourishing chicken pot pie, but Truth is no stranger to Fiction) – is surely known to a greater portion of the world than are many of the artists we feature, whose fame currently extends slightly beyond their bedroom closet. In other words, Rowan Kerrick has a voice that will knock the stuffing out of your Christmas goose.

With her interpretation of “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” recorded live at Your Mom’s House in Denver, Rowan Kerrick re-imagines the sorta schmaltzy Bonnie Raitt hit into an edgy, sultry late-night text, the last one that is sent before deleting the contact and blocking all replies. Except the next day you unblock the number and ponder what you missed.

Describing “I Can’t Make You Love Me” on her Facebook page, Rowan writes, “I never understood this song until I experienced my first real heart break. This song taught me that a good song doesn’t need to be complicated or intricate or provocative or even clever to be good. It just needs to be honest. And that’s all I ever want to be as a writer, singer, artist, and person.”

As a Certified Music Journalist, I am obligated to inject at least one Obscure Reference into each review. This one perhaps is not that obscure: it’s a safe bet that Rowan learned to play guitar by listening to Neil Young records.

We previously mentioned Rowan in our News of the World feature, four years and a lifetime ago. Our assessment then: “In the era of wispy-voiced Joni-Mitchell-Meets-Nora-Jones female singers, Rowan stands out as a throwback, more old-style belter than New Age whisperer.” And we said Bones, her album released in April 2014, “comprises 12 tracks, all very good, all cut through with the hard edge of just-beyond-heartache.” I’m going to double down on that evaluation. In light of “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” it’s obvious that I got it right (good job, Me).

“I Can’t Make You Love Me” is a precursor to the July release of Rowan Kerrick’s new EP, Foolish, produced by Justin Gerrish. A single, “Your Song,” will drop this coming Friday. A record release show and party will be held at The Bakery in Denver on Friday, July 6.

You can support deserving independent musicians like Rowan Kerrick by visiting her Bandcamp page, listening to her songs, and downloading your favorite tracks. And be sure to visit Rowan’s website, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Bonus Track: “Needle and Thread,” a fantastic track from Bones. This one will send chills down your spine.

HOTEL – You’ll Never Know Me

HOTEL – You’ll Never Know Me

Sometimes I ask my wife for help in writing these things. Sometimes I ask my cat for help, but tonight Fluffy had a previous engagement to stare out the front window at the bugs on the other side of the screen. So when I ask my wife what I should say about this song, she said, “Just tell them it’s a good song.” I’m going to turn the volume up a stroke – this blog goes to 11, you know – and say “You’ll Never Know Me,” by HOTEL, is a very good song from a great singer.

“You’ll Never Know Me” is dirt simple, lo-fi bedroom rock: just a couple of guitars, one acoustic and an electric with the chorus pedal – like this blog – turned up to 11, and a vocal that is defiant with just enough charm to make it beautiful. There’s a statement of fuck you independence here. If you ignore it, you’re missing the point of the song. But at its core, “You’ll Never Know Me” is power pop with a classic riff.

HOTEL is… well, I dunno who HOTEL is, other than a youngish person who makes, to quote the Bandcamp profile, “angsty bedroom rock in Nashville, Tennessee.” I’m not sure about the angst; I don’t hear it. I hear a person who is very confident, especially on the musical side. Like many new artists, HOTEL may have a slight identity issue name-wise. There are at least ten artists on Bandcamp recording under some variation of “hotel,” including a hip-hop Hotel in Memphis and a captialized improvisational version in Tokyo. Oh well, all the good names were taken a long time ago. For those of you keeping score at home, this is the HOTEL with the good voice.

“You’ll Never Know Me” was released last month as a single. It reappeared today in the new Sematary Records compilation, Sematary Forever. It’s an interesting 11-track collection featuring a plethora of musical styles. Like HOTEL’s voice and the number of songs on the album, my vocabulary goes to eleven. In addition to “You’ll Never Know Me,” we recommend “Beater” by Noah Roth (get ready for some noise rock!), “Mood Ring” by Graves, and “Blue” by Dog Mom, which we previously featured as a Song of the Day.

You can support deserving independent musicians like HOTEL by visiting the artist’s Bandcamp page and downloading your favorite tracks. Which, in HOTEL’s case, would be all of them. Also check out the releases from Sematary Records, “a record label focused on giving Queer and POC youth a larger platform to distribute their art.” There’s some good music in there.

Be sure to follow HOTEL on Instagram. And follow Sematary Records on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Tired Eyes – Despite Your Doubts

Tired Eyes – Despite Your Doubts

“Despite Your Doubts,” by Tired Eyes, is the soundtrack to the movie that plays in the heads of (infinity) former couples, the movie filmed after the breakup, when the screenwriter lets everyone say the things they wish they had said when it actually happened, and no one feels bad about how it ended, and only Good Songs remain on the cassette tape that is furtively removed from the box once a year and played as a reminder, not of What Could Have Been, but of Who We Became.

And as Glynnis O’Connor pauses before walking down the jetway to board the plane for Detroit, she places her hand on Robby Benson’s shoulder (for this is 1973, when non-passengers could still enter the gate areas) and says…

I probably won’t be there when you’re 21
And despite your doubts
You’ll always mean something to someone

You gave me Saint Valentine
I’ll give you Joan of Arc
And American Football in the dark

“Despite Your Doubts” is one of those unapologetic Pop Songs, full of melody, harmony, major chords, twangy guitars, and understated keyboards. There’s a tastefully-plucked banjo in there somewhere, tastefully-plucked being the only acceptable type of banjo. The lead vocalist carries the show, delivering her lines with an irresistibly simple sincerity.

As a Certified Music Journalist, I’m obligated to inject at least one Obscure Reference into each review. If I don’t, they’ll take away that little “Music Press” card that I slip into the hatband of my fedora. Today’s Obscure Reference is: “Despite Your Doubts” brings to mind the songs of Golden Teardrops, a similarly sunny retro duo from California that we have featured twice, here and here. Tired Eyes and Golden Teardrops both convey a wonderfully accessible musical sensibility, the former more 70’s influenced with a sprinkling of Fleetwood Mac, the latter happily rooted in the prior decade.

Tired Eyes is Ellie and Liam from Boston in Lincolnshire, England and… And I guess that’s about all they want you to know about them because that’s about all the information they put out there. I think I’ve written about them before, or at least my cat has. Liam may be Kid Chameleon. Fluffy posted a Song of the Day about “Chasing Rain,” a track from his latest EP, Prelude to Blue, back in March. Ellie sang harmony on the track. I did not know this before I chose “Despite Your Doubts” as the Song of the Day. Good to know the cat and I have similar tastes in music.

You can support fine independent musicians like Tired Eyes by visiting their Bandcamp page, listening to their songs, and downloading your favorite tracks. And be sure to follow Tired Eyes on Twitter.

Wild Light Sound – Low Grey Light

Wild Light Sound – Low Grey Light

“Low Grey Light,” by Wild Light Sound, is a beautiful, understated song about chasing the sun, or chasing the warmth in a relationship. You felt it; it was here. It must have gone somewhere. Let’s go there, wherever there is.

The simplicity of the arrangement mirrors the uncomplexity of the emotions being expressed. Above an acoustic guitar and rhythm section, a pair of slide guitars meander like lovers who are neither dancing nor running, just living and hoping. At 2:37, the track is just short of the two-minutes-forty-two required to be the Perfect Pop Song. Why play more? Songwriter Nick Nicholson says everything he needs to say with a pair of four-line verses and a three-line chorus. Besides, you’ll be hitting the replay button several times to enjoy the great slide work.

As a Certified Music Journalist, I am required to inject at least one Obscure Reference into each review and here it is: the gentle slide guitar lines on “Low Grey Light” bring to mind George Harrison’s slide work on Alvin Lee and Mylon LeFevre’s version of Harrison’s own “So Sad (No Love of His Own),” from On the Road to Freedom. Full disclosure: I am not a Certified Music Journalist and “So Sad (No Love of His Own)” is my go-to reference whenever I encounter an exceptionally evocative slide guitar.

Wild Light Sound is Nick Nicholson (vocals, guitars, bass, percussion) with some help from Kyle Everett (guitar, bass, piano, drums) and Trevor Berecek (bass). “Low Grey Light” is from the project’s new twelve-track album, Love Songs. The “official” single from the album is the Byrds-meet-Petty (a reversal of the usual order) rocker “Pure Gold.” It’s a good song; I prefer “Low Grey Light.” But, hey, what do I know? I’m the guy who saw the first advertisement for an iPod and said, “Why do I need that? I already have a Walkman.”

Love Songs has been released by Robotboy Records of Eugene, Oregon. On the label’s website, we learn that “Wild Light Sound is the creation of frontman and song writer Nick Nicholson, a Virginia transplant who moved to Oregon in 2010. Their music touches on themes of nature, introspection, joy and, love. Nick’s songs are full of an energetic peacefulness, if such a thing exists, that is somehow calm and playful at the same time. I guess what we’re trying to say is that listening to Wild Light Sound is like surfing at dawn: peaceful but invigorating.” I second that emotion.

You can support deserving independent musicians like Wild Light Sound by visiting their Bandcamp page, listening to their songs, and downloading your favorite tracks. And be sure to follow Wild Light Sound on Facebook and Instagram.

And keep up with other releases from Robotboy Records by visiting their website, and by following the label on Facebook and Twitter.

The Pink Stones – Blueberry Dream

The Pink Stones – Blueberry Dream

“Blueberry Dream,” by The Pink Stones, meanders a vaguely-marked path scratched into the Georgia dust between the farms of Country, Soul, and Dream Pop. If I had to play the Genre Game (which I don’t have to but will anyway), I would dub this Southern Shoegaze. I know; it’s a ridiculous name. It’s really just good Southern Music. Think the Allman Brothers’ “Blue Sky” with less sky and more blue. Or is it the other way around?

The track eases to life with a slowly strummed acoustic guitar, joined by a thick lead guitar, and underlain with a soulful keyboard and rhythm section. The guitar lines are the star of this show. There’s enough space between the phrases to put a car up on blocks and then forget about it because you have something better to do. Like sitting under a tree thinking about … heck, I dunno what you’re thinking about. Blueberries, I guess. Listen for the false ending.

The Pink Stones are Hunter Pinkston (vocals, guitars, percussion, lap steel, harmonica) and his friends: Will Anderson (keyboards, vocals), Ryan Lewis (theremin), Jack Colclough (percussion), and Curtis Callis (percussion). The band is based in Athens, Georgia.

“Blueberry Dream” is from The Pink Stones’ new four-song EP, Lil Bit More. The EP is described as “demo songs for an upcoming LP with some covers thrown in too…” The EP was recorded and mixed in Athens by Will Anderson. As a Certified Music Journalist, I’m obligated to provide at least one Obscure Reference with each review. So here it is: the songs on Lil Bit More bring to mind The Prettiest Shade of Blue, the last album by The Loomis Fargo Gang, a probably-defunct band from Norfolk, Virginia, that my cat reviewed back in 2013. References rarely get more obscure than that unless you write for Pitchfork.

You can support deserving independent musicians like The Pink Stones by visiting their Bandcamp page, listening to their songs, and downloading your favorite tracks. I recommend the Neil Youngish “Miss Wind Turbine” from the 2017 EP, Just Some Songs. And be sure to follow The Pink Stones on Facebook and Instagram. And follow Hunter Pinkston on Twitter.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Atlanta next Sunday night, June 17, catch The Pink Stones at The Bakery with Supercrush, Big Bite, Bad Moods, and Harmacy.