Heartbreaking Bravery

stevenmps2@gmail.com | @steven_mps | @hbreakbravery

Tag: Songs: Ohia

Mutual Benefit – Not For Nothing (Stream)

Image Credit: Whitney Lee

Image Credit: Whitney Lee

One of the fiercest chills I got while listening to music last year came on a Sunday morning in Chicago. I’d just seen the immediate aftermath of a horrific accident the night before and had a lot on my mind. Day 3 of Pitchfork was just kicking off, with a scarcity of people combing the grounds after gates and before the first bands kicked off. Feeling uneasy heading into the day’s festivities, my mood was soon assuaged by the kindness extended by friends (there have been few things over the past few year that have felt as reassuring as the hug Meredith Graves greeted me with at the start of that day). One of those friends, the absurdly talented Sasha Geffen, joined me in taking in the day’s first set: Mutual Benefit. Something about the emotional turmoil brought about by the previous night, the perfect weather, the comfort of having friends joining an experience, and the surprisingly open park fields managed to culminate in a perfect storm of cognitive dissonance; I was a blank slate in a gentle breeze. Then Mutual Benefit started playing and everything faded almost instantaneously. Gentle tones, a hushed reverie, and an underlying sense of personal triumph and genuine feeling cut across Union Park with a transcendental force.

Jordan Lee’s kept his musical project fairly quiet in the time following that tour but recently unveiled the gorgeous “Not For Nothing” and all of those memories came back in an instant. Before further addressing that particular song, though, it’s worth taking one last aside to catch up on some of the strongest tracks to have emerged in the past week and a half. For the sake of linear functionality, they’ll just be listed in order with no descriptors (though they should really all be given a considerable amount of attention): Farao’s “Hunter“, Black Baron’s “Watch Me Sleep“, Envy’s “Blue Moonlight“, Bishop Nehru’s  “Bishy In Japan 16 (Knowing Nothing)“, Abram Shook’s “Perfect“, John Vanderslice’s Songs: Ohia cover “Long Dark Blues“, Table Scraps’ “Bad Feeling“, Native Eloquence’s “Doldrum“, and Ancient Ocean’s “Beargrass Creek“. Now, with everything brought up to this week and that necessary tangent out of the way, let’s move back to the track contained in the headline.

“Not For Nothing”, the latest masterpiece from Mutual Benefit, isn’t just a reaffirmation of Lee’s enviable songwriting gifts, it’s a warm, welcoming song that’s arriving at the exact right time. For whatever reason, sincerity has become something that’s more derided than celebrated in the gradual come-down that’s happened in the post-Funeral landscape. Whether that’s because it was reduced to a cheap imitation in a lazy cash-grab effort by so many acts in an effort of miserably failed appropriation or because the world’s just been forced into a time where being cyclical, jaded, detached, and increasingly apathetic has made more sense, it’s tough to tell- but sincerity, when it’s done honestly, has the capacity to move more effectively than just about anything else. Lee brings that sincerity, and- just as importantly- empathy, to vivid life when he’s at his very best. And “Not For Nothing” just may be his very best. Strings swell, drums shuffle, and a beautiful atmosphere descends into the song from the outset, letting Lee’s deceptively impressive vocals and extraordinary lyrical ability drive everything home. As “Not For Nothing” calmly washes over its listeners, it becomes transportive: this is a song with the uncanny ability to elicit memories and nostalgia through dulcet tones and genuine feeling. By the time it winds down, the only appropriate course of action seems to be going back and hitting play, just one more time.

We only get songs like this every so often. Make sure this one isn’t forgotten.

Stream “Not For Nothing” below and watch the Weathervane session that features the song here.

LVL UP – DBTS (Stream)

lu

After a surprisingly slow Monday, Tuesday’s offered up an expanse of riches that included (but weren’t limited to) an incredible Beat Happening cover by Girl Band, a spectacularly lush new offering from Kevin Morby, a stunning demo from the dearly-missed Jason Molina’s Songs: Ohia project, a fierce first look at Vetter Kids’ upcoming Logan, and a strangely hypnotic- and extremely visual- music video from Bear In Heaven. Even with all of that factoring in, it just wouldn’t feel right to neglect LVL UP’s “DBTS” today’s featued spot. After all, it’s entirely likely that Hoodwink’d will wind up as this site’s pick for Album of the Year (if it doesn’t scratch the top 3, then everyone’s in for one hell of a last quarter).

Following both “Soft Power” and “I Feel Ok“, “DBTS” showcases yet another side of LVL UP- one that’s influenced by sludge as much as it is outsider pop, which is something that’s especially visible in the song’s outro. Somehow, it winds up working as well as anything else the band’s ever done. There’s a brutality to “DBTS” that, while not entirely absent from their past work, is emphasized heavily here. Distortion and low-end get pushed to their breaking point, crackling and hissing with a determined relentlessness as everything surges forward. “DBTS” brings Hoodwink’d to its midpoint and goes a long way in setting the stage for what’s to come- but makes a big enough impression to ensure that it gets a very large number of repeat listens. September 23rd can’t get here soon enough.

Stream “DBTS” below and pre-order Hoodwink’d directly from Double Double Whammy (who, incidentally, are having an absurdly strong year) here.

Help Save Fort Foreclosure (Indiegogo Campaign)

Photos by Rich Dionne William Schaff is an internationally known artist who works mostly on commission and has designed dozens of album and CD covers, prints, posters and other works of art. His name cuts such a wide swath and carries such pull that he's had visitors travel from as far away as Sweden, unannounced, to meet him. But he considers himself as much a Warrenite as an artist of international acclaim.

Continuing tonight’s trend of unusual coverage is a very important cause: saving Fort Foreclosure, home of artist William Schaff. For those not familiar with Schaff, he’s the artist behind some of the best album artwork of the past 15 years, from Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven to Songs: Ohia’s Magnolia Electric Co. to all of Okkervil River’s artwork (the pieces he put together for the Black Sheep Boy series deserve to be celebrated into the next century). Unfortunately, Fort Foreclosure is currently living up to the latter portion of its name and he needs all the help he can get to change that.

That’s why Schaff’s started up an Indiegogo project that offers some unique rewards for very fair prices. From a stunning deck of individually designed playing cards ($9) to little books containing the sketches for Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven ($15) and sketches inspired by In the Aeroplane, Over the Sea ($10) to packages containing all three of those things in addition to a project-exclusive benefit CD full of project-exclusive songs from a variety of artists connected to Schaff ($60) to more decidedly extravagant rewards like a five day, five night residency at Fort Foreclosure with Schaff himself ($800). There are several other offers on the table and they’re all for a very worthy cause. Each offer can be viewed and selected here.

This is a serious situation that can yield serious rewards for both the artist and the contributors. It’s a unique project that deserves investment and a way to help one of this generation’s most gifted artists thrive. It’s an opportunity worth seizing for both the cause and the effect. Most importantly, it’s a good way to provide a healthy environment for the creation of great art- a cause that this place holds sacred. Stop waiting, contribute now, and make anyone and everyone aware that they can too. The clock is ticking.

A note from Schaff about the situation can be read both in the above link and below.

“My Name is William Schaff. As most of you here know, I have been a working artist for the the last 20 some odd years or so. I have started this campaign because the studio and home that both myself, and the band, Brown Bird, inhabit is again in Foreclosure. I am looking to make this stop, once and for all, and I am hoping you can help. Please check out the rewards I offer for contributing, and see if there is anything that catches your fancy. I’ve tried to make sure that each of you, no matter your situation, can be part of this effort. If we are not able to raise all the money, what is raised shall still go towards covering the mortgage, and dealing with the utilities. Keeping the Fort, out of foreclosure.

So please watch the attached video, see what you will be getting involved with. Share, and tell your friends. Become a part of the arts in a way you may not have before!

Thank you.”