The Upshot: Thanks to smart lyrics, a strong mix of synths and sharp guitars and a knack for mixing in some truly inventive elements, Lynn moves well past what could have easily just been standard catchy pop songs.
BY JOHN B. MOORE
The last time Logan Lynn put new music out into the world it was a charming Miley Cyrus cover about three years ago. His latest album, Adieu, is aligned much closer to classic ‘90s college rock – everyone from Liz Phair to the Dandy Warhols – than to ex-Disney stars turned Molly-diggin’ pop divas, though played through a classic theatrical rock filter.
As Lynn described the sound recently, “there are moments on this record that feel really jaunty and bratty and as we were recording them I tried to keep this mental image of myself with a dancing cane, clicking my heels in the rain and moving through these very serious themes with a spring in my step, front and center. The whole thing is very jazz hands mental health crisis, frankly.”
So, yeah, pretty apt.
At 15 tracks, Lynn manages to keep the momentum up throughout the entire record thanks to smart lyrics, a strong mix of synths and sharp guitars and a knack for mixing in some truly inventive elements to what could have easily just been standard catchy pop songs (I’m not certain, but pretty sure they mixed in a loop of a Nancy Kerrigan crying out “Why?” after getting whacked in the knee at the end of the song “The One”).
Adieu is quite possibly his best yet, as each song here builds on the next for an impressively cohesive set, ending in the brilliantly wry “Oh, Lucifer”. Despite a mix of up tempo indie pop and more introspective piano tracks they fit together beautifully. Lynn continues to impress eight records into his career.
Unsettled: It’s the feeling you get when you are forced to experience the unfamiliar. Our senses are accustomed to certain experiences; they are used to an array of sights, sounds, and smells within respective contexts. Break down their boundaries and introduce a new context, however, and the same object may feel foreign. A new perspective on an old idea; what a seemingly benign, simple concept. What an unsettling reality.
An impregnable darkness lies at the root of Occurrence’s new music video “The Things I’ve Always Liked I Now Hate.” It’s an expansive and consuming darkness, the kind that envelops the listening experience and cancels out distractions. Like magnets, viewers are drawn inward, seduced into examining everyday objects in a new light. It’s unsettling and brilliant all at once.
I could make it or not
Watch: “The Things I’ve Always Liked I Now Hate” – Occurrence
Once a solo project, Occurrence used to be playwright and musician Ken Urban’s outlet for experimental, instrumental music to accompany his plays or express the tone of certain scenes. After reaching out to old friends during a rough patch in life, he connected with now-Hallmark voice and writer Cat Hollyer, and the two began collaborating across the country – he in New York, she in Lawrence, Kansas.
The Past Will Last Forever – Occurrence
They were practically strangers, separated by over a decade’s worth of different experiences, but that lack of knowledge and in-person intimacy in their collaboration facilitated a rare of raw honesty and authenticity in their music. The Past Will Last Forever(available for preorder), their inaugural record together (set to release October 7, 2016), comes from a place of darkness, frustration, and other intense feelings that had nowhere to go but into the music.
Neither one realized that while they were recording the album, they were each going through a divorce. How’s that for unsettling?
This life that we’re portraying feels vacant I could make it or not This home we’ve created, it’s breaking I could make it or not
The feeling has faded, you’re jaded I could make it or not The way I’m afraid you’ll berate me I could make it or not
Context is everything: Knowing where “The Things I’ve Always Liked I Now Hate” comes from enhances the song’s already dark cloud. A pounding drum beat lends an unending urgency to the song. Its aggressive slap is penetrating: No matter how hypnotic Hollyer’s voice gets, the drums keep listeners awake and alert. Heavy percussive elements create an almost industrial vibe; when intermittent synth chords and spacey tones make their way into the mix, “The Things I’ve Always Like I Now Hate” becomes a formidable electro-space-post-punk beast.
Hollyer’s singing provides a breath of fresh air for us to cling to, but her words and demeanor anchor even the most sultry of utterances. This is not a song of hope; Occurrence are standing on the cliff’s edge, wondering not if, but when the jump will take place. Have they given up? Maybe. Or not.
This love that we’re making feels hateful I could make it or not These vows that we’ve taken, mistaken I could make it or not
The uncertainty of that repeated phrase – “I could make it or not” – perfectly captures the brokenness lying at the heart of Occurrence’s song. There’s no rest or escape from these feelings: They crop up in every situation, no matter what’s going on. Everything has gone dull, and the question one asks is if this depressive element results from internal, or external sources. That constant we action suggests it’s the relationship causing distress, and not something else. Still, Occurrence are reluctant to go all the way.
The way you won’t say it (I could make it) The way you won’t say it (I could make it) But maybe you’ll say it (I could make it) Or not Or not
Rather than commit to changing, Occurrence are locked in a gray area – a will they, won’t they moment. From this vantage point, they see everything going on around them, how life’s activities are changing for the worse… They are unsettled, but they won’t find resolution in this song.
Occurrence is Ken Urban and Cat Hollyer
Nor will resolution come in their music video, which Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering today. Directed by Los Angeles-based artist Sarah Conaway, the music video for “The Things I’ve Always Liked I Now Hate” does the song true justice by disorienting the familiar. Stark white objects are presented against a pitch black background: a piece of rope; sticks; cloth; roses; a knife penetrating a Styrofoam board, and so on.
Why is it so disturbing?
Sarah Conaway’s Artsy biography sheds light on her work: “Conaway photographs commonplace objects, modified detritus, and still-life arrangements in black and white, such that they appear to be abstract forms. Her images also have a deceptive quality…” Taken out of its context, the commonplace is no longer common. It’s wonderful that we can imagine things outside their natural habitat, but it is jarring to the unsuspecting audience.
The unsettling music video serves as the perfect complement to an unsettled song. Occurrence find themselves in the same clothes, doing the same things with the same people as before, but something isn’t right; something has changed for the worse.
Which begs the question: Now what? They could make it… or not.
The reason this one caught our attention is because the band has a sound that is more 1980s techno than 2016 techno. From the sounds we're hearing on The Past Will Last Forever it sounds as if they're using some analog synthesizers. We've been big fans of electro pop ever since we heard John Foxx's Metamatic album years ago. The folks in Occurrence record songs that seem strangely out of place in the twenty-first century. And, considering the state of commercial music of late, that's a really great thing. Not only are the vintage electronics here appealing, but we also dig the vocals cuz they add a somewhat cold and detached presence. This music will ultimately appeal most to fans of the underground. None of these tracks have that ultra-polished modern sound that is characterized by too many overdubs, samey sounding effects, and arrangements that are over the top. These recordings have a somewhat gritty unperfect sound that's really rather...groovy. Ten nifty cuts here including "The Things I've Always Liked I Now Hate," "A Bruised Ivy Grad," "The Sadness Sure Gets Me," and "I Like You More When You're Stoned" (gotta love those song titles...).
With a voice like Bill Nye the Science Guy, Bill Berry brings a full album of comedic musical pieces with everything from a Southern country kick to a jazzy Broadway number. Focusing mainly on his past experience with both successful and failed encounters with the ladies, Berry brings to the table an enjoyable hour of musical comedy.
The 10-track album begins with the song “Awkward Stage,” which reflects on the dilemmas of this awkward period of his life. Sharing his story that is full of “struggle and strife,” he wants to “rage against his dying age” by refusing to go along with the social standards preset for his given age. “Big Heart” has an easy-going melody although it may sound harsh, resonating like an educational kid’s sing-a-long. “The Piano Tuner with the Lazy Eye” has a little Jack Johnson vibe; a rainy lazy day acoustic number which is met with a Broadway musical kick at the height of the song. “Crabs” is a crescendoing rock track similar to the style of Queen or Billy Joel, which may get a little repetitive with Berry singing, “She gave me the crabs!”
“Love Is the New Black” is a posh piano Broadway number beginning with a sassy narrative accompanied with a female chorus. Beginning with a snazzy saxophone/trumpet introduction, “The Brick” is a song in which Berry says a man can be judged by how he uses his brick. As odd as it sounds, the number provides a detailed analysis of numerous situations of how bricks could be used including a funny one, “if you are hiding from the IRS, use a brick to jam the door.”
“Cross Country Love” hits the soft spot for all long-distance couples out there. Berry explains in the number how he can’t help but end up in a long-distance relationship despite the challenge because he believes in “cross country love” and stacking up mileage points. The take-away number from the album has to be “The Day We Stole Steve Martin,” a nostalgic number reflecting on that one day in high school Berry and his friends continue to laugh about over a six-pack and a box of pizza; the day they attempted to steal a cut-out of Steve Martin. Described in a detailed manner, it is best to give this number a careful listen to see whether or not they were met with success.
To sum up the album, it’s a PG-13 version of the musical Book of Mormon, for those who have seen the absolutely hilarious musical filled with sarcasm and satire. Berry does a good job mixing up the genres of music from country to jazz and is able to skillfully tell stories without disrupting the musical process. Awkward Stage is definitely an album to keep listeners entertained for those long road trips or endless hours stuck in evening rush hour traffic.
Theft of the Sky is a slinky rock track that links together the electro-pop of acts like INXS with bits of 1990s acts like Stabbing Westward and Savage Garden. By making something old and frayed new and alluring, what Texture & Light do on their Inner Space Odyssey is immediately impacting and appeasing to a wide swath of fans. Pictures to Burn builds upon the same electro-infused style to make something hauntingly beautiful; the vocal and instrumental sides push each other to entirely higher plateaus.
This Too Shall Pass is our favorite outing during Inner Space Odyssey . The slower tempo and more intimate sound achieved here is made more compelling as the instrumentation picks up in the second half of the song. Predators has a sharp, angular sound that builds off of the blueprint of acts like Subdivisions-era Rush, Franz Ferdinand, and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn-styled Bright Eyes. Bold synths and drums match well with the robust vocals, making for a single that is funky, hard-hitting, and virtually ensures that listeners will get out on the dance floor.
Post Everything shatters illusions that listeners may have; rather than putting the chaff on the second side of the disc, Texture & Light make a rich effort that opens up considerably with each subsequent listen. So Many Things is the final track on Inner Space Odyssey; an instrumental effort, the track is an absolute must-listen in what it contributes to the overall sound of the album. There is a rich narrative that is weaved through these concluding three minutes that both inform listeners about the conclusion of this album as well as scattering hints about where Texture & Light may ultimately go on future releases. Inner Space Odyssey is out on October 14th.
If I had any sort of musical talent, I might've put out an album like Pat Kearns' So Long City. He sings about the things I've lived through, such as moving to new places, trying to make and keep new friends, being on the road, getting away from it all and leading a simpler life. Like me he's a hobo at heart, not necessarily folksy in a Woody Guthrie sort of way but just sort of perpetually in motion, restless and looking forward to noticing and mentally cataloging all the new vistas. Even the chord progressions on his acoustic guitar are vaguely familiar--like I've stumbled onto them before while practicing. As a result, I made an immediate emotional connection with these songs, one I didn't expect.
If I could sing, and I really can't, I might even sing like him. He has an affable and clear voice, sort of a mix between Jeff Tweedy and Bob Weir, with just a touch of Jeff Buckley for the more dramatic moments. There's a likability here that seems to bleed through the fairly conventional song structures like you're finally getting to see the hometown kid on a big stage and he's far better than you thought he'd be.
Turns out I've heard Pat Kearns before. He fronted the Portland band Blue Skies for Black Hearts for many years, and I reviewed his CD back in 2014. Kearns had focused more on a power pop sound back then, very much in the mold of Big Star. So Long City delves more deeply into alt-country--it's driven by acoustic guitars, pedal steel guitars and even the occasional Dylanesque harmonica. It's surprisingly breezy and it goes down easy.
Kearns' lyrics can put too fine of a point on his themes as if he's quickly scribbling his thoughts down as they come. He's not obscure or overly poetic. In "From Promo Queen to Queen Bitch," the one odd cynical track on the album, he starts off "Let's get drunk/That's what your invite said/But you didn't mean it/You'd rather I be dead." It's hurt he's singing about, not misogyny, bitter regret that might be misconstrued by more literal listeners. (That reminds me of an old girlfriend who freaked out when she heard Wilco's "Via Chicago" that starts off with the line "I dreamed about killing you again last night."No, I don't like this. Not one bit.)
Ultimately it doesn't matter since the album ends on such a strong note with the gorgeous and lyrical "Will You Come With Me Where I Go." This is where the aforementioned Jeff Buckley emerges in Kearns' voice and he feels like he's putting everything he has into this song. I'm not talking about belting it out a la "BabopbyeYa" but rather settling into a beatific rhythm and letting everything you have to say gel into one perfect little tune. Every time I play it for other people, they ask "Who is that? It's good."