Tag Archives: Folk

THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS – The Raconteurs

Eleven years. Eleven years of waiting. I know you’re a busy guy, Jack White, but I (and thousands of others) have waited so long. And then like the sun bursting through an endless grey sky – you and Benson and Lawrence and Keeler have delivered. And just like the first two The Raconteurs albums – it’s fucking awesome.

Help Us Stranger is the junior album from The Raconteurs and hot off the June press this year. And while I genuinely love every song on it (I’m obsessed with this band, truly), I decided on doing a little write up on “Thoughts and Prayers” – a title that carries some irony as a modern throwaway phrase as Jack White put.

Starting off with a very quiet and short piano bit that is then answered by a guitar, “Thoughts and Prayers” is one of the slower tracks on the album but carries more weight than most. Guitars continue to echo, creating a layering effect that is both eerie and calming. A deep synthesized bass joins in shortly, putting a solid base against the moving strings.

The lyrics then branch into some thoughts on the grim reaper without time, a sunless sun, a sleepless man who doesn’t own a clock, and the absence of friends. The first three verses finish with a useless prayer of hoping for another way to feel OK – but no action to resolve it.

A brief interlude of the melody with a new introduction of a screeching, down spiral of a mandolin and violin (via the Richie Sisters) follows as the next verses play out. Again we reach into someone’s thoughts on how people live, how to grow money, and writing letters. The latter referencing Sullivan Ballou who used to pen eloquent letters to his wife, one being only two weeks before the battle of Bull Run in 1861 – in which he was killed. In 1862, his wife would have received the letter and been in mourning (a good reason to be blue).

The lyrics then seem to get a little more desperate, being our protagonist thinks himself a cast away, led astray, and very much alone. Is there even any worth in making it to the end if you are the only one left?

Then the song dips into a very frantic and wild build with the mandolin and violin taking front and center. The trills and runs are building force pushing the song to its end.

The last verse is loud and present, reminiscing in a sense of what was and the gray that now is. Again, a prayer is said for a better way – asking God (notably a her) for assurance that there are reasons why it is this way. The song ends quietly on those last words, dropping to nothing.

So many meanings can be pulled from this one. For me there are two. The first is an apocalyptic scenario where the protagonist is the only surviving person on Earth. Everything (and everybody) has been destroyed by some unknown force and he is trying to find a positive outlook on this grim world that he must get through alone.

The second is the tinging of a person’s outlook on life, perhaps after a catastrophic and senseless event. They are counting the sad things in life, wallowing in the gray. They see the future as bleak and even death doesn’t seem to matter. It seems impossible to get back to even a sliver of happiness. Thoughts and prayers are just as useless, and they don’t change anything.

No matter how this song speaks to you, I hope you enjoy it just as much as I do. Please take a listen of this charged tune via whatever your music provider may be. Don’t forget to check out the full lyrics below.
Enjoy!
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“Thoughts and Prayers” by The Raconteurs

How can the grim reaper creep
If he really doesn’t have the time?
And how long would you sleep
If the sun decided not to shine?

There’s a man who lives up the block
He doesn’t even own a clock
Sometimes he stays awake for days
He’s doing it his own way

I used to give my friends a call
Now there’s no one left at all
I think my father used to say
There’s got to be a different way
To make myself feel OK
Or maybe that’s just how he used to pray

And who cares how people live
If living’s all they got?
And who knows how money grows?
Drop a nickel in the pot

I wrote a letter down to you
Like I’m Sullivan Ballou
It’s a recipe for blue
Like it’s 1862

Maybe I’m just a cast away
Or a poor boy led astray
There’s no one left here to betray
The only child of the earth
Nobody left here to give birth
It’s hard to tell what that’s worth

I used to look up at the sky
Up at the beautiful blue sky
But now the earth has turned to gray
There’s got to be a better way
To talk to God and hear her say
There are reasons why it is this way

IRON AND WINE – Communion Cups and Someone’s Coat

So, I know it has been a while – both for me and a music review. But, you know, life happens. And lately, life has been crazy. New, old, unstable, unrelenting, busy life. I’ve been more stressed in the past few months than I have for the entire year.

And so, with all that anxiety in worrying about the past and future, I decided to pick a song that, I believe, is all about focusing on now.  “Communion Cups and Someone’s Coat” from Around the Well, is one of my favorites from Iron and Wine. Sam Beam is the man behind the name and has one of the most calming voices I have ever heard. One that I, frankly, cannot get enough of.

The acoustics in this song are simple and beautiful, repeating this flowing melody with sharper upper tones and a ghostly echo. Like so many Iron and Wine songs, there is an earthiness to the sound and an easiness that is both relaxing and familiar. There are no drums, no bass, and nothing fancy – just Sam’s voice, the guitar, and a woman’s voice backing vocals to enhance the wonder.

Sam starts in with the first set of verses and answers:

Talk of yesterday and she will show her
brothers photographed in calloused clothes.
Say tomorrow and she’ll say come find me,
on a beach and there will be no moon.

But say
today
and she will
kiss your face
and maybe
forgive.

Looking at this, many meanings can come forward from the lyrics dependent on a person’s history and life experiences. For me, right now, it is about today. The woman Sam talks about goes off on a sad nostalgia (photographed, calloused clothes) when asked about the past and when it comes to the future, it is dark and unknown (no moon). However, when you ask about the present and what is happening now, she is delighted.

The second verse continues this:

Talk of yesterday like bargain shoestring,
she will kick the car and find her friends.
Say tomorrow and then she’ll describe some
old communion cups and someone’s coat.

But say
today
and she may
look your way
and lead you
home.

When the past is mentioned, the woman is angered and begins to look for her friends.  To me that is a reaction to find comfort now in the people that surround you. When the tomorrow comes about, she diverges and reminisces on details that are not important in life. As if to say, why focus on things to come and not enjoy right now? I love how when today is the topic, she pays attention to the speaker and leads them home. She is so delighted to be in the moment with another person that she will share her home.

This song is a reminder to me to stop worrying about what happened yesterday, quit analyzing the probabilities of my futures, and just enjoy the now. Be present in the moment and live life.

Please take a listen to the song here .  I encourage you to then keep exploring Iron and Wine and bathe in Sam’s heart-wrenching sound.

ENDS OF THE EARTH – Lord Huron

Led by Ben Schneider, Lord Huron is an Indie-folk band out of Los Angeles with a smooth, rolling sound. “Lonesome Dreams” was their freshman album released in 2012, largely composed of songs Schneider himself wrote while surrounded with the beauty of the Michigan area around Lake Huron.

Ends of the Earth is the first track starting with a gentle rhythm guitar and subtle humming harmony. The initial sound itself puts me in the mind of a western, perhaps the start of a day rising to the morning sun. Schneider then starts in describing rivers un-traced, mountains un-climbed, and land untouched by time. And that is where Lord Huron began to steal my heart.

This song is filled with imagery of the world left to be discovered and found. “To the ends of the earth would you follow me/There’s a world that was meant for our eyes to see.” He goes on to ask, a lover perhaps, if she would follow him. If she said no, then it was time for them to say their goodbyes and he to go on wandering alone.

The steady pace of this song seems to fits perfectly with the theme. The percussion is gated to a point that reminds me of a gallop with a nice echo that resounds in endless space. At other points the violin mimics trills that gives way to a fluttering, light feeling. Birds dancing in the sky? Or just the excited emotion for an unknown adventure? There are several layers in the song to be explored on their own – so much that I think the live experience would be amazing.

One of my favorite lines from Ends of the Earth is “What good is livin’ a life you’ve been given/ If all you do is stand in one place.” As an avid hiker, wanna-be explorer, and someone that rarely says no to something unfamiliar and new, I love that lyric. Experience has always mattered more to me than the material side of things. I couldn’t imagine always staying put, doing the same job, and living the way as everyone before me. Don’t misunderstand me – for some people that is their dream – but for me, “there’s a world that calls…” and I’m always trying to “head() out into the unknown.”

Please take a listen and check out the neat-o animated music video here. Don’t forget to check out the full lyrics below.

Enjoy!

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“Ends of the Earth” by Lord Huron

Oh, there’s a river that winds on forever
I’m gonna see where it leads
Oh, there’s a mountain that no man has mounted
I’m gonna stand on the peak

Out there’s a land that time don’t command
Wanna be the first to arrive
No time for ponderin’ why I’m-a wanderin’
Not while we’re both still alive

To the ends of the earth, would you follow me
There’s a world that was meant for our eyes to see
To the ends of the earth, would you follow me
If you won’t, I must say my goodbyes to thee

Oh, there’s an island where all things are silent
I’m gonna whistle a tune
Oh, there’s a desert that size can’t be measured
I’m gonna count all the dunes

Out there’s a world that calls for me, girl
Headin’ out into the unknown
Well if there are strangers, and all kinds of danger
Please don’t say I’m going alone

To the ends of the earth, would you follow me
There’s a world that was meant for our eyes to see
To the ends of the earth, would you follow me
Well if you want, I will say my goodbyes to thee

I was a-ready to die for you, baby
Doesn’t mean I’m ready to stay
What good is livin’ a life you’ve been given
If all you do is stand in one place

I’m on a river that winds on forever
Follow ’til I get where I’m goin’
Maybe I’m headin’ to die but I’m still gonna try
I guess I’m goin’ alone

WILD ANIMALS – Trampled by Turtles

Wild Animals by Trampled by Turtles is just one of those songs that plants itself in my head and continues to grow and grow, my mind and emotions completely entangled with it by the end of a week.

The song begins by swelling and then plummeting to only a pluck of strings. I’m immediately thrown into that feeling, inhaling and exhaling right with them. (It’s actually kind of stress relieving!) The first verse is curious and mysterious. Simonett’s voice starts in telling us about another world that’s really “made for us” because the one here leaves us “trapped in bodies” that are “made to rust.” Is he talking about the afterlife? Continuing, he sings “It’s one that I can break right through/I am ready, how about you?”

After posing that question, the beginning of the song shines through again as the chorus. The wave-like swells take hold and the eerie, scratching of the violin becomes more noticeable, giving way to the spooky side of this track.

The next verse travels further into the theme of afterlife and death. There is a feeling of misbelief with “and this just can’t be happening,” as if to question whether or not death is possible and that it could affect them. But this is directly followed by a strong understanding in finding “everything we need buried deep beneath the leaves.” Almost as if so to say they are comfortable with the final outcome. The chorus’s howl starts back in after this. One could believe that the howling is almost a mark of pain in realizing the finality of life throughout these verses.

In the last verse, a light string arpeggio plucking is heard that reminds (for some reason) of twinkling stars. I doubt that was their intention, but I find it fitting. It as if to say the night is settling in, but even with the darkness there is still light.

The song continues with the Simonett saying that he “can see the better part of you.” But even though that good exists, “I’m a monster just like you/Wild animals it’s true.” I believe this verse gets away from the death theme and delves more into human nature. That even though our intentions are mostly good, there is still flares in the opposite direction stemming from the fact that we are “wild.” Within a person, instinct still exists and can control your reactions/emotions. Whether it be good or bad. Whether that even leads you to bury something under the leaves. Human nature, right?

By the end of the song, I’m always howling with it. It’s too much to resist and to just let yourself be carried by the waves of this song is fantastic. I did get to see these guys at Red Rocks this year, and I nearly jumped out of my skin when they started playing this one. Outside, with the wind blowing on your face and the cool mountain air creeping in, is possibly the greatest way to hear this song.

Please take a listen of the track here and check out the full lyrics below. Please also do yourself a favor and listen to this song with something that can carry bass. Put those five dollar headphones far away.

Enjoy!

“Wild Animals” by Trampled by Turtles (Wild Animals)

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There’s another world, it’s made for us
Trapped in bodies, they’re made to rust
It’s one that I can break right through
I am ready, how about you?

Ooooooooooooox4

By the coming dark, we try to breathe
And this just can’t be happening
We found everything we need
Buried deep beneath the leaves

Ooooooooooooox4

I see the better part of you
I see the better part of you
But I’m a monster just like you
Wild animals it’s true

Ooooooooooooox4

SAUCY SAILOR – Wailin’ Jennys

Oh, this song. It’s one of those that loves to bind itself to my brain and stay attached for days. You’ve been warned.

The Wailin’ Jennys is a folk trio from Canada consisting of three women who focus mainly on the wondrous harmonies that their voices can carry.  I actually find that the lead singer sounds a bit like the lead for the Cranberries, but that may also just be the accent that’s carried through this particular tune.

The song, Saucy Sailor, is actually a cover from an English Folk band named Steeleye Span. I found the original itself to be forgettable, but the Wailin’ Jennys version is the opposite.

I have a special soft spot for any song that tells a story. And this story is one that always makes me chuckle. You have a rough, young sailor come back from voyage to try to get himself a maiden. He’s turned down by the one he favors immediately just based on his looks and smell. She doesn’t even give him a chance.

But the joke’s on her! He then lets here know that he’s rich and then she’s crawling for him to take her back. He goes on to tell of how good of man he is, beyond the money, and that another girl deserves him. Stings lassie, doesn’t it?

The song is sung in an older fashion, as if the people of that time were speaking outright. As I mentioned before, it almost sounds as if they sing with an accent throughout; at least to the tuning of my own ear. The acoustic feel throughout is fantastic and the wavy breaks in between are dreamlike.

Click here for the lyrics and enjoy the video below. Take a listen and breathe it in.

Lyrics: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/wailinjennys/saucysailor.html

 

YOUR ROCKY SPINE – Great Lake Swimmers

For my first post in my new category, Music, I’ve picked Your Rocky Spine by the Canadian band Great Lake Swimmers from the album Ongiara.

The Great Lake Swimmers are considered a folk rock band and have been around since the early 2000s. I’ve been playing this particular song on replay for the past week or so. Tony Dekker, the lead singer and writer for the band, has a rounded, soft voice that I find both alluring and soothing.

Dekker’s lyricism is beautiful on this one combined with a sweet melody and some plucks from the banjo. It’s debatable on what the song is truly about. I personally believe he is romantically speaking of the features of mountains, expressing a full devotion to the power that is nature. But, it could also be taken as speaking metaphorically about a certain person in his life.

I can’t say I have any favorite lines or parts since I love the entire song, but I will say I have two hanging moments in this song. The first would be in the beginning with the repetitive emphasis on “that your body makes.” I love the way he pulls the words, dragging out what is surely a hard stated point to him.

The second is the verse dealing with the resolution of the song, saying that we are from the clay for the earth to display. The music takes it all the way down to just the kick-drum bass, making a clear path for the words to come through.

The link to the lyrics and music video are below. Take a listen and breathe it in.

Lyrics: http://www.metrolyrics.com/your-rocky-spine-lyrics-great-lake-swimmers.html

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQ6W_cq-zQ0