Welcome to the first issue of Listening Now! In this weekly newsletter, I will spill my current jamz, only the best YouTube links, concerts you should put on your calendar and why, and I may sprinkle in some other things. Hugo will probably offer his two paws. And there’s already talk of some guest posts.
I’m starting this for a couple reasons: (1) I love music, (2) and people ask me what I’m listening to or when I share a concert I’m interested in, they sometimes say they don’t know the artist. After polling some flatteringly eager friends, this came about. A heads-up that my musical genres vary, but are primarily indie and folk. So I’ll probably be pulling in some of my friends that know more about other genres from time to time. It’s important to look up every once in a while, to hear the world through different eyes.
The Low-down: the newsletter will be a brief weekly scroll thru of the good stuff. The blog post(s) will be that and more. Subscribe to what you want. Tell your friends. Music is made to be shared.
Niche genre: folk-pop bordering on instrumental
Andrew Bird is talented. His performance at the Kauffman a few weeks ago was one of the more synesthetic experiences of my concert career. Every light and sound bounced off of the walls and cascaded into this dance that he created as he hopped from guitar to violin to whistling (he’s an acclaimed whistler yes that’s a thing) to singing to pretty much anything else he could get his hands on. It was a full experience to have the symphony behind him for the first part of the set, but honestly, he didn’t need it. His music is wonderfully magical and still personally revealing. He talked about writing an apology song to a college roommate that just wanted to be his friend but who Andrew did not feel similarly toward. “I just thought about how hard it would be to be friends with me,” he said, half laughing to himself. He often uses loops to build a symphonic experience with his minimalistic ballads. It seemed natural for the orchestra to be behind him, though he said he hadn’t played with an orchestra in over 10-ish years since before his recent tour.
Best Line: “Are you serious? Are you serious? Every night of your life, you’ll fight for it.” – Are You Serious?
Intro: Pulaski at Night, Imitosis, Are You Serious?
For fans of Sufjan Stevens, Ben Howard, Punch Brothers, M. Ward, Fruit Bats.
I’ve had “Love Letters” on repeat. It might be solely for the line “are you still in love with the sound of your voice?” It’s poetry delivered with a gritty voice and showered in power chords and rapid piano keys with a violin coming in at just the right moment to sound like an outcry of heartbreak. Sorry. I just really love breakup songs. (See HEARTBREAK:HEALING playlist.)
Anyway, highly suggest listening to them at any point in your day where a montage would play.
Intro: The Winner Is, Love Letters, How it Ends, Straight Shot
For fans of The Decemberists, STARS, Bright Eyes.
Another Bridge intro that will forever make me associate this band with fall. Their name itself invokes all things folk. And maybe the days of Mumford are coming back (hint), but if you like any type of fast-paced banjo folk that makes you want to abandon the city for a jolly time down at the river, I recommend these guys. But not like in a hokey way. I mean it more like the way I remember my time in the Ozarks: a lot of good music best heard outside to the rhythm of cicadas.
Best line: “’Cause I was lost like a politician / Caught up in a game of tug of war / When I found my feet slipping / Found myself wishing / I knew what it was that I ever stood for.” – Van Dyke Brown
Intro: Van Dyke Brown
For fans of Lord Huron, David Wax Museum, old Mumford, Ha Ha Tonka, GIVERS.
Upcoming concert: Maggie Rogers and Mallrat
Truman, Oct 26
Girl crush alert. Pharrell Williams told Maggie Rogers in a viral YouTube video that her stuff is unlike anything out there. And when I first saw that video, that was so true. To the point that my Spotify radio algorithm couldn’t come up with a radio for her. Thankfully, I’d like to believe she’s inspired others around her, like her tour mate Mallrat.
Also, how do you NOT want to be in her posse with this release of Give a Little?
Best Line: “Cut my hair so I could rock back and forth without thinking of you / learned to talk and say whatever I wanted to.” – Alaska
Intro: Alaska, On + Off, Give a Little
For fans of Overcoats, Sylvan Esso, HAIM
I started listening to Mallrat as soon as I bought my Maggie Rogers tix when I saw she was opening. And y’all. I’m equally as pumped to see her as I am to see Maggie. Umm, how do I describe Mallrat? The name is a cheeky nod to her writing. Her beats are so fresh and catchy they will no doubt be in your head. I’ve had “Groceries” on repeat and suggested it to friends who have said the same. Her lyrics, which border on hip-hop influence, break down the tension in daily life. Songs like “Groceries” and “Uninvited” bring the listener into all the common thoughts and desires of the sweetness of getting groceries with someone, juxtaposed with showing up to a party you feel obligated to go to but don’t feel comfortable at (“Uninvited”). Couple that with her light voice, layered mixes that include finger snaps, a few synth beats that were totally mixed in a garage, and you’ve got an original indie hit.
Best line: “Real sorry about your broken heart / Tryin to walk on broken glass.” – Groceries
Intro: Groceries, For Real, Inside Voices
For fans of Childish Gambino, Maggie Rogers, CHVRCHES, new Bon Iver, Chance the Rapper
Upcoming Concert: Gregory Alan Isakov
Truman, Oct 20
I would just like to make a hipster claim to fame and say that I saw good ole Greg like 5 years ago when he was singing tunes on the free stage by himself at Arkansas Roots Fest on a Saturday morning. I was eating a peach. It was a good morning. Pics to prove it happened.
Thankfully, a lot of people noticed how great Gregory is and now he’ll be at the Truman (all hail) Oct 20th. All the folksy hipsters will be there, probably wearing their unbuttoned vests in solidarity.
His stuff is the definition of chill folk. But his latest release is a refreshing nod to southern gothic rock. (The kind of musical transition I’ve been praying for.) Interestingly enough, he used to be a botanist, so that’s why his work is full of nature analogies. Cool. Cool.
Best line: This town closes down the same time every day. – Caves (If you grew up in a small town like me, this line rings true.)
Intro: Caves, Big Black Car, Chemicals
For fans of new Mumford, Iron & Wine, old Shakey Graves, Head and the Heart, Lumineers
YouTube Emerging Artist
I can’t take credit for this find. My friend Paige introduced me to Hobo Johnson when he was an NPR Tiny Desk submission this year. His blew up. If you’re into that weird intersection of hip-hop and spoken word, this is for you:
Plus, they made it to Tiny Desk! And Bob Boilen made them peach scones. Adorable.
They’re BACK! “Guiding Light” by Mumford & Sons.
Switched on Pop – Podcast where they break down how pop songs become successful
Good Christian Fun – podcast hilariously discussing Christian subculture by one of the hosts of Gilmore Guys.
LISTENING NOW – latest jamz
EASY LISTENING – most artists featured in today’s newsletter. I’ve been told it’s “💯”