Y’all Need to Listen To This: Father John Misty, Fear Fun

Fear Fun, by Father John Misty (aka J. Tillman) is: the soundtrack for an adventure. Not the twee hipster kind either; to paraphrase NTSIB-friend Cam Rogers, this is music for the bad ideas that will end in bruises.

Or possibly with In-and-Out fries, consumed slowly while perched on the hood of a van, watching the sun rise at Venice Beach.

Or maybe with bruises and fries.

I’m Writing A Novel by subpop

Fear Fun is also: a record I want to share with everyone, because, seriously, y’all need to listen to this, and a novel that I find myself circling back to, just to see how the characters are doing.

If it actually was a book, it would be one that I would I know if I lent it out I’d never get it back. It would also be one that I would deliberately lend to people who needed it. And then once they had finished it we could go down to the beach and eat our fries, drink fizzy drinks, wash our cuts and scrapes out in the sea, and watch the skateboarders zoom around the skate-park together.

Now I’m Learning to Love the War by subpop


It’s possible to get lost in this song – to get distracted by the interaction between his voice and the beat and come up for air halfway through a verse thinking Rome is burning, you go on and keep fiddling, I’m going to dance – and then also realize you are Alice standing athwart the Ironic Looking-glass and he probably means every word sincerely.

This happens every time I listen to this song.

Only Son of the Ladiesman by subpop

For good or for ill this one is my favorite.

Tee Pees 1-12 by subpop

This is the one I have listened to the most often, because it came out first. Also because it has steady thump-sway beat which I particularly enjoy.

Everyman Needs a Companion by subpop

Joseph Campbell and the Rolling Stones / couldn’t give me a myth / so I had to write my own: I don’t think I want to tattoo this lyric on myself.

I think I’d rather write it on the back of a postcard and mail it off, and hope whomever I was mailing it to would read it and know it meant come meet me where-ever I am, I want to mis-spend an afternoon (or a lifetime) with you.

Tee Pees 1-12 by subpop

J. Tillman will be taking his show on the road (scroll down for dates) this spring/summer. I won’t be able to see him when he stops through New York, so I’m hoping he’ll be back again in the fall. But the rest of you, if he’s visiting your town: go and see him.

Ray Wylie Hubbard: Grifter’s Hymnal

Photo credit: Todd Wolfson

1. Who is Ray Wylie Hubbard? He’s Gandalf, if The Lord of The Rings had been written as a team effort by Warren Ellis and Charles Portis.

2. Once, very long ago, when I had only just begun to wander, I fetched up in a church in the center of London. There was music playing when I walked through the door, organ music, swelling and rolling and bouncing between the marble floors and pillars and filling up the soaring arches.

I drifted around, muddled by jet-lag, enjoying the music and only vaguely paying attention to the people who were with me. Eventually the music stopped, and a small, gray-haired man emerged from behind the organ, and I realized a) he had been playing the whole time and b) I had been walking quietly so I didn’t disturb the angels that I had thought were there and c) it had not seemed the tiniest bit irregular to me, that an off-duty angel should have stopped in to a random church in central London to keep the organ in good tune.

(I was really jet-lagged. About two hours later I would fall upon the only 7-11 in town like a hungry, homesick locust and eat the hot dogs of the lonesome and far from home.)

Dirty rock clubs are not (usually) churches, and Ray Wylie Hubbard is not an angel. But as the organ music contained within it the solemn peace and worn but still stately grandeur of that church, his music contains stages scratched by amps and dented by stomping boots and upright basses, mysterious unsavory puddles of liquor left by drinks gone astray, the shimmer-shine of rodeo buckles and lucite heels bathed in multi-colored neon lights, the rumble of truck engines out in the parking lot, and the sweet bite of whiskey against the back of your throat and smoke in your lungs in cold night air.

3. This is the video for Coricidin Bottle, from Grifter’s Hymnal, his most recent record:

4. And here he is at Couch by CouchWest, with Trainyard Blues, also from Grifter’s Hymnal:
Ray Wylie Hubbard @ CXCW

5. This one doesn’t come from the new record but I’m going to put it here for you to watch anyway because I like it. It is his cover of James McMurtry’s Choctaw Bingo, and appears on Delerium Tremolos:
Ray Wylie Hubbard // Choctaw Bingo


6. Other songs I’m fond of on Grifter’s Hymnal include: Lazarus, Henhouse, New Year’s Eve at the Gates of Hell and Mother Blues. They are, collectively and variously, bluesy and stompy and rambly and thoroughly delightful. Though really that describes the whole record.

7. Delightful and educational: Ray Wylie Hubbard’s Twitter feed. Young musicians, take note, there’s solid advice in there among the shenanigans.

The Big Nowhere: Pull Down the Moon

Good morning, NTSIBbers. Some of you may recognize today’s band from their recent appearance at Couch by CouchWest, but for those of you that don’t, please meet The Big Nowhere, from Glasgow, Scotland.

Their line-up is still evolving, but the music I’m bring you today is the work of Simon Sinclair (Vocals, Guitar, Slide Guitar, Organ, Percussion, Melodica, Saxophone), Billy Crowe (Guitar, Bass, Vocals, Harmonica, Banjolin, Lap Steel), Joe Keegan (Piano, Organ) and Peter Morgan (Drums).

Together they make music that sounds like it belongs somewhere (or some-when) a little bit wilder than now; some place and time where people are just starting to build dance-halls on the frontier.

The song that hooked my attention was, as it happened, the first song on the record: Some Kind of Sickness. Something about the tune was familiar, but I couldn’t quite work out what it was – something about the melody, maybe. I found myself humming it at odd moments, trying to figure it out. The penny finally dropped one afternoon when I was listening to it on the uptown 4 train, and both humming along and playing the drums on my knee.

See if you can work it out:


(The answer is: It’s built on the frame of an old Appalachian ballad called On Top Of Old Smok(e)y, the first recording of which is lost in the mists of time; the one the link uses the arrangement created by Pete Seegar in 1951. Burl Ives and Bing Crosby sang a duet version, and Hank Williams Sr. covered it as well. And that’s not even getting into the many parodies, starting with On Top Of Spaghetti, recorded by Tom Glazer in 1963.)
Also fun to sing along to is (Why Won’t You) Make My Telephone Ring:

and my personal favorite, Untitled Song Regarding the Dangers Of Making Faustian Pacts (short form: Untitled Satan Song):

Also worthy of note is the three-part super-creepy murder-ballad song series called “Hansen’s Trailer Park Suite”: Johnny Walker Red, My Name is Bob Willis and Song for Suzannah. This is one of the few times I will say this, but, be sure to listen to them all together and in order, or else the story doesn’t quite make sense. There’s a full explanation here, which I encourage you to read; meanwhile, I’ll start you off with the first one:


And now, on a somewhat lighter note, I give you two videos. The first one for a song called Junk Band, and is from their Christmas in the Gutter EP. I love it because it approximately what would happen if someone had made Twin Peaks as a silent movie.

It has many of my favorite things, for example: a moody black and white color scheme! title cards! a man in a bowler hat! Magic tricks! Shadow dinosaurs! I could say more but that is my allotment of exclamation points for this post!

The Big Nowhere - Junk Band (official video)

And finally their CXCW 2012 performance of No-one Here But Ghosts, new and as-yet-unreleased:

The Big Nowhere - No-one Here But Ghosts (Couch by Couchwest 2012)

Jon Gant & His Band: A Rough Start to the Night

A Rough Start to the Night is Canadian singer/songwriter Jon Gant‘s eighth album. It was recorded in Calgary with Lorrie Matheson, and Gant’s new band, which is Scott Munro (Chad Vangaalen, Gunther) on upright bass, Chris Dadge (Lab Coast, Samantha Savage Smith) on Drums, Chris Vail (Key To The City) on mandolin and Lawrence Nasen (No River) on banjo.

Gant’s been around for a while and done some hard traveling, and on this record, it shows. Though while these songs are world-weary, only two – Broad Street and That Way Again are really sad.

My favorites are the love songs: And I Always Will and Wild Irish Girl.

The former is wry and sweet – sample lyrics: I used to tell you through the radio / but the radio don’t play my songs anymore / I’m hoping somehow this song will make it to your stereo/I just want you to know / I love you / and I always will – and got me to thinking about both love songs and radio songs and the sometimes fleeting nature of both.

It’s also interesting as part of a dialogue, of a kind, a third voice in a conversation between Courtney Love’s Boys on the Radio and the Felice Brothers Radio Song.

The latter is an “I will always come home to you” song with a clap-and-sing-along chorus, and I have a special fondness for that sort of thing. Here it is so all y’all can appreciate it with me:

Plus also some videos. The first one is for Never Gonna See Me Again:

And the second one is for Motorville:

If you like what you hear, you can get the rest of the record and a big chunk of Gant’s back catalogue at bandcamp.

Dolly Varden: Mouthful of Lies

Dolly Varden is: Steve Dawson (vocals, guitars, piano), his wife Diane Christiansen (vocals, guitar, organ), Mark Balletto (back-up vocals, guitars, lap steel), Mike Bradburn: (back-up vocals and bass) and Matt Thobe (back-up vocals, drums and piano). My favorite fact about them is that they named their band after a “rare and beautiful trout” that was named after a character in Charles Dickens’ short novel Barnaby Rudge and not, as it may sound, after Dolly Parton.

They are from Chicago, and Mouthful of Lies is actually their debut album from way back in 1995, freshly remixed and remastered and returned to the world. It’s a little bit like a time capsule: there’s some grunge echoes in there, some shoe-gaze-y filigree around the edges, and a couple that have some sweet pop shimmer.

This is the title track:

Dolly Varden "Mouthful Of Lies"

And this is the one I go back to over and over again:


And you can hear the rest of the record at their bandcamp page!

Let the Wrong Light In: Kasey Anderson and the Honkies, Heart of a Dog

Kasey Anderson and the Honkies are from both Seattle and Portland, and are Kasey Anderson on vocals, guitar, percussion, Andrew KcKeag (Presidents of the United States of America) on guitar, vocals, Eric Corson (The Long Winters) on bass, and Mike Musburger (The Posies, The Supersuckers) on drums.

Heart of a Dog is the result of Anderson’s desire to move beyond being a solo artist and “just make a rock n’ roll record” and, dear readers: he, the band, and their all-star guest stars (Jenny Comlee of the Decemberists and Dave Harding of Richmond Fontaine, among others) have most definitely succeeded.

I’ve been carrying the songs around with me for a while now, and listening to them in all kinds of situations: while studying for exams, while on the train, and now, poolside, and they always improve both my mood and my day, whether I apply them directly or they float up on shuffle.

I can’t really isolate one or two favorites for you – the whole record is strong – but I can say that the slow dirty burn of Let The Wrong Light In was an especially fantastic contrast to the anodyne confines of law school. I’m also fond of My Baby’s a Wrecking Ball and Kasey Anderson’s Dream.

Here’s Let The Wrong Light In in video form so you can listen for yourself. Be sure to turn it up: