Album Releases, Artist Focus, Music and Healing, TS10

The Unassuming Authenticity of Lizzy Diane


My relationship with Lizzy Diane’s music has been an interesting one. If you have been listening to the TS10 playlist on weekly basis, you know we have featured several songs off her new album, Otherkin. If you are connected with Tomme Suab or me personally on Facebook or Twitter, I have been actively promoting her for a while now. However, when I first listened to her, specifically her debut EP, Encompass Rose, I’m not sure I could have envisioned myself becoming a big Lizzy Diane fan. Thankfully, first impressions do not always tell the whole tale.

Here’s the thing… Lizzy has a very distinct vocal style. When I first listened to her, I honestly couldn’t tell if this was her natural voice, if it was an authentic outgrowth of what’s in her, or if he she was just trying to sound unique. That threw me off and I really wasn’t all that interested in hearing more. When I sense any possible lack of authenticity, it is easy for me to get all judgy and just walk away. That’s what I did with Lizzy Diane’s music.

And then, something happened. I started getting to know Lizzy. We connected via social media and as I would read her updates and posts, I was drawn to her. There was something about her that I couldn’t define. All I know is that it is evident she has something very special and unique living in her. As she began to mention the imminent release of her first full-length album, I was all in. When the album was released in early December and accompanied by a release show at Stone’s Throw here in Eau Claire, I promoted it actively and was incredibly disappointed that I couldn’t be there myself. In fact, there had been several opportunities to see her perform that I had missed out on. The only way I had experienced her music (and whatever that special thing that lives in her is) was through listening to Otherkin and through our social media connection.

Regarding the album, I enjoyed it from first listen. There is an otherworldly, ethereal feel to the whole record. This feel is created by a cohesive blend of sober melodies, gentle but poignant vocals, somber lyrical content, and an almost mystical-sounding combination of instrumentation. And yet, while the album certainly leads the listener to that otherworldliness, the power in the album is its thoroughly humanizing effect. I wrote about that dynamic in my short review of the album for Volume One. Ironically, I was a little concerned when I wrote about that humanizing dynamic in the V1 piece. After all, Lizzy called the album “Otherkin.” This is a mystical, metaphysical reference. I wasn’t sure if she would appreciate the fact that I am saying her supernaturally-themed album was essentially not supernatural. Regardless, that’s where the record took me personally, so I stood by that thought.

One of the humanizing elements of the album is the lyrical content itself. The themes are pretty dark, and they cover all kinds of relational woes. These are not typical heartbreak songs. These are deeply-felt personal experiences painted in creative ways on a melodic canvas. They not only speak honestly about how Lizzy has been hurt by others, but how she has hurt them too. It is profoundly honest and raw, and there is little that will draw me to an artist more than that.

In her song, Monster’s Lullaby, she shares a couple of lines that illustrate the depth, emotion, and honesty that can be found throughout the album. The song woefully describes an interaction between Lizzy and someone she cares deeply about. The relational backdrop seems to include a history of mutually-destructive behavior, including abusing alcohol. In this context, the listener finds what I consider the most poignant lines on the album:

I’ll drink it all, so you won’t

I’ll be the monster, so you won’t

At first glance, it would be easy to gloss over these lines. But, spend a moment in them. Think about what she is offering to this person. Think about the history that is indicated here. Think about how she is willing to engage in self-destructive behavior to save the other person from the same. There so much relational history and deep emotion, so much brokenness, in these two simple lines. This is the kind of poignancy that can be found throughout Otherkin.

While I really like what I hear in Otherkin, I know there is more and bigger stuff in Lizzy Diane. I’m listening to the album as I write this, and, yes, I am drawn in. Yet, what I hear is just a glimpse of the significant art and self-expression that is yet to come. That idea was confirmed when I finally had the opportunity to hear Lizzy play live and meet her in person. When I found out that Lizzy would be playing live at House of Rock at the end of January, I made sure that I could attend. I am indeed glad that I made being there a priority.

When she took the stage,  it was just her and her guitar. And, honestly, it was enchanting. There was a purity to her vocals and guitar-playing that struck me immediately. Otherkin has a really full feel to it. Lots of instrumentation with lots going on in each song. While I like that, I have to confess that the special something that lives in this artist seemed much freer to come out in this live and stripped-down setting. Her performance was really beautiful.

We were able to chat a little bit that night, but I felt like we needed to finish our conversation. So, I invited her to meet with me last week, and she graciously accepted. The short time helped me better, more clearly, see the significance of what lives in her. Now, I’m still not in a position to put actual words to it, but I can say that she is as genuine and unassuming as any artist I have met. It was clear to me that her music is an organic outgrowth of who she is and her experiences. Of anything I would personally ask of an artist, there would be nothing more important than this kind of authenticity.

Eventually, over the course of conversation, she made reference to the Volume One piece. Thankfully, she appreciated the comment about the “humanizing” effect of the album. For her, the idea of “otherkin” itself is a thoroughly humanizing thing. The legend of otherkin is that there are supernatural beings, often taking the form of animals, that humans identify themselves with (more on that here). When Lizzy was talking about this, she likened it to our fascination with superheroes. While we may like the flashy costumes, big muscles, and superhuman powers they possess, ultimately, it is their human ways of relating, their flaws, and their frailties that draw us in. In other words, it’s what we have in common with such supernatural or superhuman beings that really resonates with us. So, for her, the connection between the mystical and human is organic and about as connected as it gets.

For me, it is not at all unlike how God is creative, and has built us to be creative as well. These are both spiritual and natural realities that mesh together seamlessly. Lizzy’s self-expression and creativity contain both of these realities. So, yes, Otherkin is a significant expression of what it is to be human, while feeling otherworldly at the same time.

Lizzy Diane is the real deal. After our meeting, I walked away even more certain that the best is yet to come for her. Yeah, there may be some commercial success. More to the point, however, I believe she has even more significant art sitting on the tip of her heart, the kind of art and self-expression that not only helps her to feel more whole, more fully who she was built to be, but can have the very same effect on her listeners.

Artist Focus, Live Shows, Music and Healing, Poignant Songs, TS10

The Emotive, Provocative Music of Field Report


I’m spending some time with Field Report’s new album, Marigolden, this morning. This is a new relationship and I’m just becoming acquainted with the album, but I think we’re going to be good friends. It is rich, full, provocative, and emotive. And Christopher Porterfield’s odd analogies and word pictures are ever present.

I will never forget the first time I heard Field Report. In February of 2013, Kalispell, Shane Leonard’s project, was set to play a backstage concert at the State Theater here in Eau Claire. I was super excited about this show, as Shane’s music and friendship has played a central role in the beginning of my personal passion for and investment in locally-rooted music. As the day of the concert approached, Field Report was added to the show as the headliner. I was actually pretty disappointed. I didn’t know who they were and I wanted Shane to have the longest set that night. Thankfully, I was in for a very pleasant surprise that night.

From the time Porterfield and the rest of the band took the stage, they owned it. And, it wasn’t about showmanship. It was about the honesty and vulnerability of their music. As my wife said after the show, Porterfield has a lot to say, and he has no problem saying it. And these things he has to say are filled with passion, pain, suffering, and emotion. He also has a creative and descriptive way of saying them. The first time I heard him sing “pound that pussy (as in, “full of puss,” to be clear), bloody cyst off with a weather-treated two by four”(parentheses mine), that image grabbed a spot in my brain and it’s still there. I’m not sure why that 2X4 has to be weather-treated, or why it is the best prescription for that nasty cyst. However, that imagery has obviously stuck with me, even impacted me.

Those lyrics are from Chico the American, from Field Report’s debut, self-titled album, which is featured on this week’s TS10. After hearing them play at the State that night, I began listening to that album non-stop. It is home to so many poignant songs. Some are quite painful just to listen to… Porterfield’s lyrics are transparently honest and vulnerable. He has no problem baring his shortcomings for the listener, letting us in to his complex emotional world. That kind of vulnerability is, in my mind, Field Report’s biggest draw. I have been challenged, provoked, and saddened by what he has to share.

As much as I have fallen in love with that first record and songs like Fergus Falls, I Am Not Waiting Anymore, Taking Alcatraz, and Chico the American, I am really excited about the new album, Marigolden. As I listen this morning, I am again drawn into the gritty vulnerability. The lyrics and musical moods are still emotive, still painful, still brutally honest. Porterfield’s creative word and image choices are still there. And yet, it feels like there is a musical progression from the Field Report album. The music feels a little richer, deeper. While I  cannot comment on the technical reasons why this may be, I can definitively say that the band seems to have brought something of themselves to this album that wasn’t there on the first one. I am eager to become better acquainted with what lies in Marigolden.

The future seems to be very bright for Field Report. Marigolden has been met with much critical acclaim. They already have a national following that is continually growing. Just this morning, the band announced that they will be touring with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy in Europe beginning in January, which is no small thing.

As their popularity grows, the likelihood of them playing small, local venues continues to ebb. That’s why YOU should get out and see them this Friday night at House of Rock. Aero Flynn and another band (TBD) will be supporting them. The show starts at 9:30 and is only $10 in advance. You can purchase tickets here. If you can make it out, you will NOT regret it!


Artist Focus, Poignant Songs, TS10

Softly, Dear, Sarcasm, and Sober Subjects

I’ve been contributing articles for Volume One for the past couple of years. One of the first ones I wrote covered the emergence of a new band from the Eau Claire area called Softly, Dear (New on the Scene). Back then, Softly, Dear was just starting to figure out who they were musically. Even though the first tracks they released were a little rough, I could certainly here some significant talent and creativity at work.

After writing that piece for V1, I honestly didn’t pay much attention to the band for a while. And then I saw them play at the House of Rock at Adelyn Rose’s CD release show back in February of this year. Toward the beginning of their set, they mentioned that their Portico EP was available for free at the merchandise table. At first, I wasn’t all that interested. Then, they played Lenses, which is featured on this week’s TS10. As soon as they finished playing that song, I quickly grabbed my copy of Portico.

Admittedly, I am a sucker for songs that have at least a semi-epic feel to them, especially ones that start out mellow and slowly build, and build, and build. Lenses is such a song. It is not a song, per se, in that it is instrumental. Truly, no lyrics are needed for this piece. I remember what it was like listening to them play it live that night. I vividly remember feeling the slow build, finding myself moving along with the music as its intensity continually rose. When the band finally reached the emotive crescendo of Lenses, I was ready for it and I allowed the force of that climax to overtake my heart and mind. Moments like that transcend just listening to someone play music. They become spiritual moments for me. From that point on, Softly, Dear has had my full attention.

I’m glad I snagged that EP. Softly, Dear has the extraordinary gift of taking a serious subject and giving it its due weight, while also, somehow, making the sharing of that subject fun. The best evidence of this gift is Know My Name from Portico, which has become one of their favorites among locals. It tells the story of a man who is drafted by the Army, whose life is altered forever, and who, as he ages, can no longer take care of himself. Sad subject matter… and they treat it as such. Yet the song still rocks and is fun to sing along with. Weird dynamic perhaps, but it totally works.

While Portico obviously showed significant growth from those first couple of recordings I wrote about in V1, Softly, Dear’s new album shows even more. They released the self-titled Softly, Dear in August of this year and it is a great listen (you can stream it on their Bandcamp page… and then you should buy it!). When I listen to it, I hear some serious Weezer influence in it, which cannot be a bad thing. There is the raucous fun of It’s Alright, a sarcastic look at poor life decisions, and Alive Now (Paycheck), a desperate cry for a paycheck owed. Alive Now makes me smile every time I hear it. I’ve always appreciated a good smartass. There’s also the tenderness and sobriety of two people falling out of love with each other in Things I Say. It’s not easy to move from silly to sober, but Softly, Dear pulls it off.

Not only is this album well worth your time and money, it also shows how Softly, Dear is continuing to grow, which promises even greater things in the future. So, take some time to listen to Lenses on the TS10. Even better, go to Softly, Dear’s Bandcamp page and stream/buy their music! My guess is that you will be drawn into their authenticity, playfulness, and smart-assedness as I have been.

Album Releases, Artist Focus, Live Shows

picard: A Mixture of Discontent and Melodic, Driving Rock

picard is a project initiated by Jason Ulwelling in 2011 that has grown into a full-blown collaborative effort (including Brad Hanson and Eric Giardina, and various other influences and musicians), resulting in the release of the band’s first album (appropriately entitled “#1”) earlier this year. Style-wise, it’s hard to classify picard as anything more specific than “rock.” Some of their songs are edgy/harder. I can easily hear some grunge influence in several of the songs, as well as elements of epic rock story-telling (especially in “Ed”), like you might hear in classics like Queen or Led Zeppelin. Now, I’m not ready to draw too many comparisons between picard and hall of famers like them, but I truly appreciate what I have heard thus far from this band.

The first track on “#1,” a passionate, pleading song called “Distending,” houses the declaration “I’m holding out for something bigger than myself…” In that statement is what I believe to be the essence of the lyrical, melodic, and instrumental themes throughout picard’s first album. There is this discontent, this longing for more, this longing for deep connection, for something better, something bigger. This theme is one of the reasons that I was drawn to this project.

“Ed” may be my favorite song on the album. I have always enjoyed that epic feel in music, especially when it involves distinct “movements.” “Ed” is not a rowdy song at all, but it is intense, with methodical, driving guitars and intricate, nimble-fingered bass rifts. Probably my favorite part though is how the driving guitar transitions into a quiet segment of the song that is haunted by a gentle chimes. These musical elements combined with the story-telling therein portrays an intense, compelling, and emotive discontent.

While “Ed” is likely my favorite song, the track that drew me into picard initially was “October,” their first release. “October,” for the emotionally engaged listener, can be a pretty painful song to take in. There is such intense longing in the lyrics. The protagonist so desperately wants to be with someone. He is longing for intimate, deep connection with that person. However, obstacles continually appear (“These walls are getting higher”). The frustration rooted in this deep longing climax with a plea for explanation: “Why aren’t you here like you said you would be? You said you would… Tell me are any of these promises any good?” There is so much pain in these lyrics and the music/instrumentation fit the mood and tell the story so well… This is one of the main reasons I enjoy this band like I do is their ability to draw me in emotionally and help me feel what they are feeling. This is a gift and a dynamic that can be healing for both the artist and the listener.

picard is a breath of fresh air for me. Eau Claire has its share of punk and hardcore bands full of all the requisite angst anyone could want. We have many gifted indie rock musicians producing creative, quirky, and provocative stuff. But, we don’t have many melodic, driving, edgy rock bands. picard is that kind of band, without foregoing the angst of the punk/hardcore scene or the creativity of the indie rock community. They are a unique and healthy blend of all those various elements.

If you would like to experience picard’s music, “#1″is available on their website, among other outlets. You can also stream some of their music on their Facebook page. Furthermore, they are playing live this Saturday night at 10pm at House of Rock, along with Letters From Earth and Kids With Boats ($6 cover).

Album Releases, Artist Focus, Live Shows

Coming of Age: Thoughts on Adelyn Rose’s “Ordinary Fantasy” and Album Release Show

I make no bones about the fact that I am a big Adelyn Rose fan. I love their style, the fullness of their sound, the uniqueness of Addie Strei’s vocals, and the incredible percussion talent that is Dave Power. The first time I talked to Addie and Dave back in August of 2012, their debut album, Mezzanine, had only been out for a few months. Even though I, and many others, thoroughly enjoyed that album, Addie and Dave were quick to mention that the songs there were not really indicative of who they were as a band anymore and they expressed their deep desire to record their newer songs.

In Mezzanine and in the first few AdRo live performances I heard, I consistently heard great potential, deep creativity, rich instrumentation and textures, and emotionally intense moods and lyrics. They were, in my eyes, a diamond in the rough. The production value on Mezzanine was a little inconsistent throughout the album and some of the harmonies were a little loose. In their live shows, I couldn’t help but notice what seemed like a bit of insecurity or anxiety from time to time. They felt a little like a teenager trying to find out who they are. Nonetheless, I loved what I heard from them… and longed to hear them go deeper, stand more confidently, and record a truer representation of the creativity and talent that resides in them.

AdRo’s new album, “Ordinary Fantasy,” is an answer to those longings. What I hear on this album warms my heart. That’s not because of heart-felt lyrics or sappy sweet melodies. It is because, when I listen to this record, I hear a clear progression of the band and their sound. And, it is so, so good. I expected the emotiveness, intensity, textures, and instrumentation that I mentioned before. What I also got was higher production value, a fuller sound, and tight musicianship and vocals. The album is unpredictable and highlights what I consider the band’s greatest strengths: creative songwriting, unique vocals (lead and background), and incredible percussion.

My favorite song on the album is probably “It Means Shadow.” It moves and rocks. It is a riff and drums driven tune that should be playing on the radio. I also really enjoy the emotive “Press” and “The Wire.” “The Wire” is one of those songs that starts out quiet (yet intense) and builds louder and more raucous. I love that dynamic, and especially in that song. The album closes with what sounds like a declaration of independence in “Structured Hostility,” another song that builds steadily in intensity throughout, climaxing in Addie’s powerful declaration, “I’m done,” repeated several times. This album is packed full of mood and emotion: tenderness, edginess, sorrow, intensity…


I got to hear these songs as well as the other songs on the album live at House of Rock on Water Street last night at Adelyn Rose’s Album Release Show. They were so good. This was likely my favorite performance of theirs, not because of precision or showmanship (those things were there). I was enthralled by their poise and their confidence. I have always been a fan of Addie’s, but I felt like she was hesitant to be the front-person she can be. That was not the case last night. She totally looked like the face of the band, standing, playing, and singing with boldness and conviction.

And, Dave Power was… Dave Power. In fact, toward the end of last night’s show, there was a moment in which Dave’s drumming caught my attention and stirred me deeply. I’ve had spiritual experiences while listening to music many times over the years. Such a moment may come while listening to poignant lyrics (like those on Matthew Perryman Jones’s “Land of the Living”). Or, perhaps while taking in an epic classic, like Skynyrd’s “Freebird” (especially the guitar barrage at the end of the song). Last night, I had another such experience while listening to Dave play the drums. In that moment, his talent and passion were so apparent that I got caught up in what he was doing and I could see the God-given ability pouring out through the sticks. It was a breathtaking moment.

After becoming acquainted with “Ordinary Fantasy” over the last couple of weeks and experiencing the band live last night, I feel like I have seen something of a coming of age for Adelyn Rose. Their talent, creativity, and potential have always been evident to me. Now, the missing pieces are coming together. The teenager has become an adult and now has a clearer vision of who they are. Addie, Dave, Hannah Hebl, Leo Strei,  and Jaime Hanson should be very proud of what they have accomplished together. I still think the best is yet to come for Adelyn Rose, but “Ordinary Fantasy” represents a huge step forward for them, and I would not be surprised in the least if it gains traction outside of the Chippewa Valley.