“How come the donkeys and the elephants are sinking ships instead of building things?” – The Brain is a Beautiful Thing
If you know me or have read the blog for a while, you’re well aware of my love for Stephen Kellogg. It’s been close to a year now since I blogged about the hiatus and how it affected me (and presumably a lot of SK6er fans). For me, SK6ers was a way of life, and Stephen’s songwriting was (and is) very different in that I connect to his words more than any other songwriter. As I write this, my first child will be here in the next few weeks, and I listen to each and every song with a new appreciation for virtually every aspect of my life.
My wife and I saw SK play Club Passim solo late last year. Aware that he was working on a solo album, we understood we’d be hearing some songs for the first time. “The Brain is a Beautiful Thing” was an early stand out (along with another song about sons and daughters that I didn’t catch the name of). SK then settled in and trekked through old favorites. All in all, it was exactly what I expected – a fantastic evening of storytelling.
After a short encore, SK ended the evening with a new song. “Thanksgiving” started exactly the way I’d expect. Vivid lyrics, strong vocals and an interesting story. A few minutes in, it was apparent that “Thanksgiving” wasn’t your usual SK song though. It was bigger. It was deeper. It felt more honest. It was just…..more. More everything. It’s happy, it’s sad, it’s redemptive. Walking out of the show, my wife looked at me and said, “I feel like I just read Stephen’s diary.” She’s right, and that’s precisely what makes “Thanksgiving” such an amazing song.
The new album, Blunderstone Rookery, is set to release in June but keep reading – I’ll be sure to remind you constantly once release date gets closer.
I Don’t Want to Die on the Road
“When winter’s burden shows its teeth and tears your autumn clothes apart. I’ll take you by the hand, we’ll flee the world that left you sad. I won’t forget your broken heart.” – Dreaming Free
Bora York’s Dreaming Free is an album that fell into my lap about a month ago. Fronted by Chris and Rebekah Bartels, Bora York was born as Chris began writing a follow up album to his folk debut. Dreaming Free, however, is NOT a folk album, it’s much more airy, with a synth-pop feel. Bartels called the new style a gradual transition from folk as the songs began to take a life of their own.
Rebekah’s voice is prominent throughout the album, and she’s a perfect compliment to Chris’ style. After a few listens, this album have really grown on me. If you are able, listen to this album with a great pair of headphones – trust me, it makes every bell and whistle stand out so much more. Even if the genre isn’t your thing, you have to appreciate the vocals and very solid production of Dreaming Free.
The entire album is worth a listen – my issue is that there are four songs from this album that I like so much, I haven’t really listened to the rest other than a handful of times. I’m interested in seeing where the Minnesota band goes next.
New England Love
“I don’t want to know who I am without you” – Agape
At some point in late 2011, I stumbled upon “Pompeii” by Bear’s Den. I nearly broke the internet trying to find more songs, and failed miserably. I wound up saving the song on Youtube and returning every few days to hear it. It’s one of those songs that I never could quite get tired of. A few weeks ago, I found out that Bear’s Den was set to release Agape in the US. I’d hoped for a full length album, but an EP would certainly hold me over for a while. I had big expectations, and those were met and exceeded.
This summer, Bear’s Den is heading out on the Gentlemen of the Road tour with Mumford and Sons, Alabama Shakes and Edward Sharpe among others and I think they’re due for a rise similar to those bands. If the songs from Agape are an indication of how they like to do things, then a slow build is exactly what these guys are looking for.
There are certainly a few standout songs but overall, it’s a solid EP from top to bottom. There’s a Sufjan Stevens vibe in the instrumentation, but the vocals are far crisper than Sufjan’s. Prominent banjo, strong songwriting and catchy hooks get me every time.
“The future we had is history” – In Two
I love Texas bands – always have. I also have a special place in my heart for pure rock and roll. Enter The 71s. With a handful of available albums, the Houston quartet is trying to revive rock and roll. Named “Houston’s Best Band” after their debut release, The 71s have continued touring and are soon set to release a new album. If their past three releases are any indication, I’ll love it.
All three releases are well worth checking out and are chock full of anthemic hooks and huge guitar riffs. You’ll also find quite a few “whoa-ohs” and “hey heys” which we all know I love. I can’t really identify favorites right now, because I honestly like them all. This is how rock should sound. Take a listen and let me know if you’re digging The 71s as much as I am.
Stretch Out Your Love
All Tied Up
Get Up And Dance