The Lark and The Loon- Songbirds and Fog

The Lark and The Loon

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The scent of crisp autumn leaves on a cold early morning, the creaking of an old wooden porch and the flash of a startled barn swallow all exist within the very sound of the wonderfully evocative Songbirds and Fog by The Lark and The Loon.

Comprised of Mid-westerners Rocky Steen and Jeff Rolfzen, The Lark and The Loon are an endlessly talented folk-roots duo that can pen lyrics that make you long for places and people you haven’t thought about in ages. After starting out in the Twin Cities and spending time in Chicago, the duo relocated to a farm in the Ozarks to allow their music to marinate in the rural beauty that surrounded them. What germinated shortly after would blossom into this dazzlingly sprawling double-debut record.

The well-crafted Songbirds and Fog shines with an honest, handmade sound that absolutely reflects the intimate, mostly live analog conditions that the album was recorded in as well as the down in the dirt and close to nature environment that the songs were initially written in. The entire record sounds like a few friends stopping by to jam on a few instruments in your kitchen while you brew a stew.

Reminiscent of Norman Blake, Tony Rice and Iris Dement (with a touch of Music from Big Pink) this laid back record feels steeped in tradition while still showcasing an incredible talent of original songwriting. For instance, “Under The Light of The Moon” is brilliantly catchy, addictive and so picturesque, you can practically see the moonlight shining down on a nighttime prairie landscape. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more pleasant and mellow song from 2016 than this one. 

If you  enjoy folk, bluegrass or can just appreciate a well-crafted song sung by a pair of voices that were obviously made to sing together, then The Lark and The Loon’s Songbirds and Fog is the next album that you should hear (and especially on vinyl).

-KH

The Lark and The Loon can be found at:

http://www.thelarkandtheloon.com/#homepage

2,000+ Instagram Followers Special Mix

I’ve recently went over 2,000 followers on my blog’s Instagram account (@recordcratesunited) and I am over the moon with joy and gratitude. So as a thank you to those followers and everyone else involved, I’ve made a mix featuring music by some of those followers and musicians that I’ve reviewed in the past. From folk to hard driving garage rock to swirling electronic ambience to deeply passionate rap, there’s a lot of greatness within this mix and I am filled with great pride to present it to you here. I really hope you will give it a listen!

There are two places to hear it, through 8tracks.com and through Mixcloud:

 

  1. St. Valentine’s Day Massacre- Be All, End All
  2. Weirdoz Everywhere- The Prefab Messiahs
  3. Romanco- Fabio Kidesh
  4. Tiny Bugs- SunDog
  5. Suzanna on The Hillside- Mulberry Soul
  6. Black Cat Blues- Dangerbyrd
  7. Mercy- Animals of Grace
  8. Oh What a Year- The Lark and The Loon 
  9. Prom Mom- The Rizzos 
  10. Landfill- Magnetic Ghost
  11. Sacrifices- Big Marc
  12. Flu- Dereck Higgins
  13. What We’re Made Of- Mulberry Soul
  14. Dance Me to The End of Love (Leonard Cohen cover)- Luna Arakawa
  15. Yes I Will- Animals of Grace
  16. Vanish Vanishing- Magnetic Ghost
  17. Dollhouses- SunDog
  18. Take Me, I’m Alive- Be All, End All
  19. I Could Tell- The Lark and The Loon
  20. Third Wheel- Dangerbyrd
  21. Cold Blood- Big Marc
  22. Angel Cloud- Dereck Higgins 

Expect to see reviews and pieces about many of these artists in the new year. You should definitely follow the imbedded links to each individual artists’ pages. Each one of these artists are phenomenal in their own ways. I’m totally floored by them all and I am sure you will be too!

Things You Should Hear

Sam Kogon, a favorite over here at RCU Towers, is about to release his latest album, Psychic Tears. Filled with delicious and sometimes gorgeously off-kilter pop nuggets with elements of day glow psych-pop that could make the likes of Van Dyke Parks, Brian Wilson, The Davies Brothers and Jeff Lynne smile warmly. This is ridiculously enjoyable in every way. You need this.

 

Luna Arakawa

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Luna Arakawa was once a noise artist that went by the alias P0stm0rtem, however recently she has dropped the moniker in favor for her real name and has been creating fascinating, imaginative and a far more calmed music in a successful attempt at forging a warmer, personal sound.

Soaring waves of synth-laden dark ambience, poignant yet wonderfully unpredictable solo piano pieces and glitchy minimalist electronica make up the bulk of Arakawa’s inspiring work. Here is a breakdown of all of the releases available at the time of writing on Arakawa’s Bandcamp page:

Ocean of Tears Called Sky

Ocean of Tears Called Sky is a delicate, reverb-heavy piece that sways and twinkles like a star peering out through a thick layer of night-time haze. It glides along quite peacefully until about two and a half minutes in, as the tone unexpectedly shifts and wobbles like a record scratch. The track resumes its earlier course until it wobbles again and spins out of control before the glassy tones build and speed until they sound like a wall of distorted violins that quickly fades back into silence. The entire track glows like a city on a nighttime horizon and feels as intimate as a hushed secret

Blood Ballad

Elements of jazz, neo-classical and avant-garde composers like John Cage and David Tudor thrive throughout Blood Ballad in a wholly vibrant and exciting way. The flurrying notes feel like a musical version of commuters running randomly past a window and city traffic barging its way through congested boulevards. At the same time, frustration, elation and an intense focus can be felt throughout these intricate instrumentals. From moments of gentle delight to sudden bursts of an almost violent energy, the songs here feel like the voice of a soul finally being able to express itself after many years of silence. As a whole, Blood Ballad is thrillingly beautiful and movingly emotional (however without becoming melodramatic). No matter where the listener is from, if they can hear or sense music in any way, this release will surely make them feel something deep inside themselves.

CATape 01

A very textural piece, CATape 01 opens with a subdued fuzziness and drippy reverb that brings to mind long traveling echoes from deep within a mammoth cave system. It feels very crystalline and yet restrained in the finest of ways. The glimmering notes on this track are like resonating dots of light deep within a pool of blue darkness that gets brighter and brighter until it super novas and engulfs the listener; suddenly mutating into a wholly new beast about 7 and a half minutes in.

The second track here, simply titled “A: 02,” is a wonderfully distorted electrical ecosystem of buzzes, beeps and other manipulated synthesized sounds that absolutely pulses with life. The track is so intricately detailed with sound that the listener discovers and appreciates something new with every listen. Even more textured that the preceding track, “A: 02” brings to mind jagged, fuzzy insects all competing against each other’s droning calls. Never before has there been an electronic piece that appeared this…biological.

RATape

Warm, heavily buzzed waves of electrical pulsations draped over a sweepingly evocative melody that sounds like an electro-cover of the Belladonna of Sadness soundtrack. A fleeting ghost of Serge Gainsbourg’s provocative composition style is also detectable in this dazzling yet vaguely haunting recording. The generous use of fuzz and reverb grounds this track into a wholly abstract territory, defying any and all expectations whilst still generating a clear feeling of melancholia. Like a silent film star like Valentino or Chaplin, RATape grips your heart tightly without having to say a single word.

If you like your music to be unpredictable, moving and always trying to progress, then Luna Arakawa is the artist to dedicate your attention to.

 

 

Animals of Grace – Brambles

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We are living in a particularly rough and turbulent time right now, so we certainly need the hopeful sound that can be heard on Animals of Grace’s Brambles.

Comprised of guitarist and singer Erika Lundahl and percussionist Doug Indrick, Animals of Grace play gorgeously written songs that are pure as nature with glossy harmonies and elegant melodies. Backed perfectly by Indrick’s own soothing vocal and sensitive use of percussion along with the occasional expressive violin (played by the skilled Julie Radmilla Cuic), Lundahl’s impressively strong and talented vocals take on both an elegiac and a tender quality. This quality helps to push Lundahl’s heartfelt, often political lyrics through several layers of the listener to reach their soul. Each song here is filled with a genuine passion and charged with an optimism and courage that is a bit rare in today’s music.

Every song on Brambles is a highlight but if push came to shove, I would choose the beautiful opener, “Bartered Time.” The song is serene and slightly lonesome at times, feeling like the musical equivalent to waking to an early, damp autumn morning in a chilly remote cabin. Under the comforting instrumentation, poignant and powerful imagery flourishes in the track’s lyrics like, “a beautiful woman painting a picture of a wilting rose, the flower struggles to hold her pose.” It’s a perfect example of a good opening song, as it grabs your attention immediately, sets the tone of the release and introduces you to the group’s sound.

If you enjoy the evocative alternative folk sound of musicians like Anais Mitchell, Mariee Sioux and Gregory Alan Isakov, Animals of Grace should certainly be on your radar this fall.

You can find out more about Animals of Grace at animalsofgrace.com and facebook.com/animalsofgrace