TS10

TS10: Glitches

I’m so thankful that my mind was opened to electronic music a while back. I had lived with the perception that it wasn’t “real music” for years. Now, electronically-oriented music is some of my favorite stuff. This week’s playlist contains a couple of “bookend” songs that represent my progression from dismissing this music to fully embracing it: SOLA-MI’s Mother Mother and Bon Iver’s 29 #Strafford Apts. Aside from these two songs, there is plenty of emotion to be felt in this playlist. So, take a listen and engage, my friend!

-Ed

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TS10

TS10: Eaux4Pools

Welcome to a special edition of the TS10. It’s special in that there are several strains running through this playlist which carry different kinds of significance. Eaux Claires is this week and I’m excited to partake in that incredible event once again (I’ve undergone something of an evolution in my thinking about the festival over the last couple of years, which I will likely share more about later). With the impending “return to the river,” the playlist kicks off with Bon Iver and The National, a small nod to the creators of Eaux Claires, Justin Vernon and Aaron Desner. J.E. Sunde is also included because of the festival, not because of his involvement, but because in my opinion he really ought to be involved!

Independence Day is also upon us here in the States. I am quite ambivalent about the 4th of July. While I’m grateful for the immense freedom we possess here, I am also aware of the racist and bloody past (and present) we tend to whitewash not only this time of year, but pretty much all the time. As a follower of Jesus, it’s hard for me to be excited about celebrating rebellion from our governing authority (wink wink, Jeff Sessions) and the facilitators of that rebellion who were, by and large, slaveholders and/or proponents of the slavery as well as the subjugation and dehumanizing of indigenous peoples. I find the  4th to be a prime opportunity to grieve and repent, personally.

Based on this approach to July 4th, we have Derek Webb’s King and a Kingdom, an anthem from what has become a functional time-capsule in Webb’s 2005 album, Mockingbird. Even though Webb disavows what he once believed, the truth in this song stands: “My first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man…” Sylvan Esso’s Parad(w/m)e adds a little political commentary regarding current events. Muse’s Uprising is a call to stand up against the bullies. Marvin Gaye invites us to sit at the table, have a conversation, and bring “a little love in here today.” Lastly, Jimi Hendrix’s legendary version of The Star-Spangled Banner closes out this “Americana” aspect of the TS10.

Lastly, I am very pleased to debut a new song from what is quickly becoming one of my favorite bands, LASKA, rooted right here in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Their new track, Dirty Pools, is creative, a little mesmerizing at times, and rife with anger and pain. Those spill out throughout the song and eventually manifest in a few choice F-bombs at the end (you’ve been warned).

So, yeah, there’s a lot happening in this week’s TS10. So, take a listen and let yourself feel through it all!

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TS10

TS10: The Problem

Just recently, I heard a preacher speak on the New Testament book of James. He spoke with passion as he implored the audience to gain perspective, to see things from the proper viewpoint. During his discussion, he referred to a newspaper editorial from years ago in which the paper asked its readers to define what was wrong with the world. Things felt amiss. Something was wrong and the paper wanted to know what the problem was.

Renowned theologian G. K. Chesterton apparently sent an answer to that question. His response was simply “I am.” From what I understand, Chesterton was a good man and his writings have impacted lots of people. However, when considering the malaise hanging over the world, he saw himself as the cause. He was the problem. And so am I. And so are you.

Racism exists because we let it (and sometimes we facilitate it). Same with sexism, senseless gun violence, police brutality, and on and on and on. I am the problem. You are the problem.

While that seems heavy (and it is), that concept is also laced with hope. If the problem is in me, I can do something about it. I can’t control what anyone else will do. But, I can do something about the hideous stuff that lives in me.

-Ed

WARNING: This playlist contains some intense language here and there.

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TS10

TS10: Mood

A while back, my boy became obsessed with mood rings. I didn’t really understand it. Some other kid from school may have turned him on to them. However this fascination originated, he was not going to be content until he got his mood ring.

Well, he ended up with three different mood rings, all of them either lost or broken. That’s okay, though, because my man wears his mood like an overcoat. It is evident. I don’t need a phony ring to try to discern it.

This week’s TS10 is full of mood, I think. And the mood shifts from song to song, sometimes continuing a specific strain of mood while launching into some other mood simultaneously. Not sure what kind of mood you’re in right now, but if you’re like me, your moods can shift and pulse in different directions just like this playlist.

-Ed

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TS10

TS10: Changing Times

No, I’m, not talking about “springing ahead.” I’m talking about the change which seems to be in the air these days. It’s good. It feels, little by little, as though many of us are coming to our senses about a number of things. Reminds me that love always defeats hate in the long run, as if life is designed that way.

This playlist runs the gamut of emotional stimuli. While it’s not all about these changes, it can still be about change. Maybe something needs to shift in your soul right now. I know I could use some soul-shifting. So, let’s listen and engage and see about that change.

-Ed

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General Thoughts, Music and Healing

It Might Be Over Soon (But It’s Not Likely)

It doesn’t matter that the album was released seven months ago. Nor, does it matter that I first heard these songs eight months ago at a concert. No matter how many weeks and months pass, all I have to do is start listening to the opening few seconds of 22 (Over Soon), from Bon Iver’s 22, A Million and I’m pulled right back in. I am virtually powerless against its tractor beam. It’s like an invitation back onto a musical and emotional rollercoaster. I have a feeling this dynamic isn’t going away.

 

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Uncategorized

2016 Tomme Suab Song of the Year: Bon Iver’s #29 Strafford Apts

I love this song. I hate this song. Let me tell you why. When I listen to this song, I hear this gentle, heart-on-the-sleeve tone throughout. That combined with Bon Iver’s talent and artistry would be the initial draw for me. There is a tender heart at the core of #29 Strafford Apts.

But then there are the technological, intentional blemishes that run throughout the entirety of Bon Iver’s 22, A Million record, and they are prevalent in this one. When I was first becoming acquainted with #29 Strafford Apts, that additional layer was not welcome as far as I was concerned. I wanted that tender heart to reign supreme. Not only did the techno-glitchiness interrupt that vibe, it totally “corrupted” the climactic third chorus in the song. Dammit. What was Justin Vernon thinking?

I cannot be sure what Mr. Vernon was trying to do, but my suspicion is that he did with this song exactly what he intended to do, and that was to disrupt the portrayal of that tenderness on purpose. At first, I was not very happy about that. And, I think maybe that was the point. As I’ve listened and contemplated further, there was another related dynamic I found provocative.

 

The techno-muffling during that third chorus sounds very reminiscent of when a tape got warped back in the day. Those of us who used to listen to cassettes on a regular basis know what I’m talking about and are well-acquainted with that malady. You’re listening to your favorite Thompson Twins song and then all of the sudden the voices are muffled and music is warped. Then it everything returns to normal. I’m quite sure this was the dynamic Vernon was going for.

However, when I heard my muffled version of Hold Me Now (look it up, kids), I knew if I heard it on the radio or someone else’s tape, I would hear the regular, pristine recording. That’s not the case with #29 Strafford Apts. I may NEVER hear the pristine, pure version of that chorus. And, that makes me mad. Furthermore, it convinces me further of Vernon’s genius. And when I consider that, it makes me smile.

So, yeah, I love this song and I hate this song. Which is why it is the 2016 Tomme Suab Song of the Year.

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Uncategorized

2016 Tomme Suab Album of the Year: Bon Iver’s 22, A Million

If you happened to see who was named the 2016 Tomme Suab Artist of the Year, then you may see a theme emerging with the Album of the Year. Yep, it’s Bon Iver’s 22, A Million. It just is. It’s been a long time since an album captured my heart like this one. Without going into great detail (I already did that in my post, Caught in Bon Iver’s Web… 22, A Million), this album is still in regular rotation in my personal playlist and it ain’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s beautiful, deep, provocative, and terribly creative. Congrats to Bon Iver for not only creating the 2016 TS Album of the Year, but also for making what could be one of my favorite records, period.

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Artist Focus

2016 Tomme Suab Artist of the Year: Justin Vernon

I know, I know. This feels like it could have been impacted at least slightly by the artist’s hometown. Yes, I live in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Justin Vernon resides in the area. But I swear, this recognition has only been indirectly influenced by that reality.

The truth is, like many of us Chippewa Valley denizens (let alone people around the globe), I have been aware of Vernon’s various music projects for years. And, I have appreciated his earlier Bon Iver work, as well as his work with Shouting Matches, Gayngs, Volcano Choir, and others. He is clearly talented and committed to his art and his craft. None of that changed in 2016.

What changed for me this year, regarding Justin Vernon, has everything to do with my own personal experience of Vernon’s genius. That experience began at the second annual Eaux Claires. I won’t recount too much of what that weekend was like for me, as I shared it some time ago in my post, The Eaux Claires Impact: Connection and Belonging. But, without trying to sensationalize anything, it was in some ways a life-changing experience for me. And Vernon’s imprint, obviously, was all over those two days.

Certainly, my initial Eaux Claires experience in and of itself was enough to make me a bona fide fan. But it was Bon Iver’s 2016 release, 22, A Million, that cemented the deal. That record, of course, was also ingrained into Eaux Claires. Vernon debuted the entire album live during the first night of the festival. That was my first time hearing Vernon/Bon Iver play live, and it was absolutely incredible. The new music was mesmerizing, and I felt like I was a part of something important that night.

22, A Million is an amazing record. Again, I wrote about that a while back as well, in my post, Caught in Bon Iver’s Web… 22, A Million. Just like the Eaux Claires experience and the Bon Iver live show, this album has captivated me in ways I would have never expected. Because of all these factors, as well as Vernon’s inarguable influence on the cultural path of the Chippewa Valley and western Wisconsin, Justin Vernon is this year’s Tomme Suab Artist of the Year.

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Album Releases, Artist Focus

Caught in Bon Iver’s Web… 22, A Million

There’s a pretty good chance my feelings about Bon Iver’s new album are a bit tainted. Certainly, I’ve enjoyed Justin Vernon’s music for a while, whether it’s Bon Iver, Shouting Matches, Volcano Choir, or any other of his projects. However, in August of this year, I truly became a fan when I experienced Bon Iver live at Eaux Claires. Not only was it my first time seeing him perform live, but it was the debut of all the songs that make up his new record, 22, A Million. And, admittedly, every time I listen to the first track on the album, 22 (Over Soon), I am immediately emotionally transported to that moment, to that amazing experience. So, I bring some baggage into first impressions of Vernon’s most recent creation.

Those considerations aside, the most definitive thing I can say about the album is that it moves me deeply. I resonate with the words of one of my favorite artists, Derek Webb, who when describing 22, A Million, simply stated, “mind/heart blown.” Yep. I get that. Me too, brother. Me too, brother.

Frankly, in a vacuum, it would be surprising to me that I am so drawn to this music. Vernon employs so much Autotune and constantly manipulates everything electronically. There are times when it seems like I’m listening to a warped cassette tape. I’ve gathered that’s what he was trying to create, but that kind of stuff usually grates on me. For instance, one of my favorite tracks on the album is 29 #Strafford Apts. It builds a little and offers a high-note crescendo, with emotive movements throughout. But, just as we’re getting to the main crescendo, the payoff is muddled by that warped tape sound. Again, this would normally turn me off… and yet I continue to be drawn in. And then there’s the whole principle of using current technology to make sounds reminiscent of older technology, and specifically it’s failings. Yeah, usually, that’s not for me… and yet I can’t walk away.

There is something magnetic and provocative about 22, A Million that I can’t even really describe. Certainly, Vernon and his team have worked hard to build some mystique and intrigue around its release. When he debuted the album at Eaux Claires, each song was accompanied by vivid, yet distorted video imagery. And as each song began, the official Eaux Claires app would inform us of the name of the song. Throughout the first day of the festival, Sam Amidon and his Guitarkestra walked the grounds, teaching everyone the words and melody of the album’s finale, 1000000 Million, “where the days have no numbers…” so we could all sing along later that night. Then, there were the “unique” listening parties a couple of days before the release in which hundreds of people would show up to catch an audible glimpse of the album as it was played on a small boombox (a fairly fruitless venture, from my personal experience). Certainly, the cryptic artwork on the cover/liner notes add to the mystique as well.

Another element contributing to this mystique is the utter unpredictability of the album. I mean, seriously, the first few times I listened, I had little idea what was coming next, not only between songs, but in the middle of each individual track. It is all over the place in the most precise, intentional manner. It leverages unique samples, traditional rock/pop instrumentation, incredible creativity, and Vernon’s signature falsetto to create a meandering, yet purposeful work of art.

I don’t know what the lyrics are really about, other than to say it certainly seems as though Vernon is tackling some deep and heady subjects. There’s God, the Devil, numerology, hope, and despair, among other such issues. All of this seems to come together in a central message. I’m not sure what that message is yet…but it seems to be something powerful. Something meaningful. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.

As an Eau Clairian, it is incumbent upon me to be at least interested in Bon Iver. I’ve gone from being interested, to liking, to being an all-out fan. My 22, A Million experience has solidified that. And even now, as I listen to the emotive closing anthem of the album, 1000000 Million, my heart is captured and held in suspense. The emotional tension and grip is almost palpable. I expect that captivity, suspense, tension, and grip to hang on for a while to come.

 

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