Sunday, December 31, 2017

December Songs 31 (2017)

It's New Years Eve! Time for a final December Songs 2017. And I am so very glad I found a recording of Devon Sproule's new song, "Turn Back to Love." The first time I heard her sing this––I believe it was at a recent show at the Batesville Market––I found tears streaming down my face and had to choke back audible sobs.   

I’ve got someone new, you may have heard.
She’s hanging on my every word.
I’m becoming the master decoder.
So much to see, so much to show her.
Are you making it safe and OK?
Are you shrugging and turning away?

She wrote it after the events of our Charlottesville Summer and every word of it goes straight to the heart: as a mother, as a community member who was present at the events of July 8 & August 12, as a citizen striving for systemic change, as a human who loves. 

What am I gonna say, when she asks what I did?

Devon is so generous, not only can you listen to her new song here, you can also download it. There is no video as of yet, just her beautiful voice and deeply moving lyrics. I take these words and this experience into 2018, knowing that all that has passed in 2017 is a dangerous, frightening, but enlightening springboard toward change. May 2018 be a very different year for all of us, where we "turn back to love."

Turn Back to Love, by Devon Sproule

Stuck under the northern border,
Why did I let my passport run out?
That clean air is a foggy memory
Getting burnt off in the south.

I thought this was this optional hobby
Before the Nazis came to my town,
Are you quiet or crying it out loud?

I’ve got someone new, you may have heard.
She’s hanging on my every word.
I’m becoming the master decoder.
So much to see, so much to show her.
Are you making it safe and OK?
Are you shrugging and turning away?

Turn back to us.
Turn back to love.

Faster and funnier, you hate 2 lose.
Doubling down on those dangerous views.
I can’t begin to know what you’re thinking.
But I get a whiff of the koolaid you’re drinking.
Are you sneaking beneath your own mind?
Do you really believe he’s a great guy?

That’s not your voice, that isn’t you.
I know because I’ve lost mine too.
I’m terrified to get specific.
What am I gonna say, when she asks what I did?
Are you trying it on for a day?
Are you shrugging and turning away?

Turn back to us.
Turn back to love.

Overnight, overyear,
This little life is long, I hear,
Long enough that I can see a time,
That's quiet enough to listen to the pines.

And while you're here, check out this awesome Wes Swing video (another magical musician I saw for the first time this year) with a cameo by Devon Sproule.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

December Songs 30 (2017)

How about Alice Coltrane for December Songs 30. This really speaks to me right now.

Turiya and Ramakrishna

Friday, December 29, 2017

December Songs 29 (2017)

I'd like to feature Steve Gunn because he is one of my very favorite musicians of late. I saw him in June with Lee Ranaldo and Meg Baird and aside from being incredibly talented, he has a very authentic and humble quality.

Here is Way out Weather, a video that features some Buddhist imagery as we approach 2018.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

December Songs 28 (2017)

Another awesome talent I got to see in the very intimate setting of Low Vintage was Glenn Jones. Here is someone I could spend an entire Saturday listening to, fire in the wood stove, mug of hot tea on the table, notebook in hand, gazing out the window at the snow or rain or sunbeams falling. So very grateful for this sound.

Also, I mentioned Meg Baird in an earlier post. Glenn Jones sometimes performs with her sister, Laura Baird.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

December Songs 27 (2017)

I've fallen behind again. One of my December Songs must be dedicated to Adam Ostrar, who is one of several amazing performers I caught at Low Vintage this autumn. A modern troubadour of celestial song, and excellent guitar player, his was another intimate show that transported me to a quiet healing space. His new album, Brawls in the Briar, is masterful.

Warlock is a favorite, with a quiet work-of-art video.

Spare Me also is lovely, and another excellent video.

Enemy pulls you into it's plodding rhythm and wraps you in poetry. And then it enters some excellent sonic weirdness.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

December Songs 26 (2017)

I found myself being pulled toward "Mutual Benefit." Their music is like a great massage. Sit back and let it uncoil your tension. Visualize a breathing planet. Watch the breeze send a ripple through oatstraw. Street light and the snowy dusk.

Monday, December 25, 2017

December Songs 25 (2017)

I heard this Peter Tosh song on Reggae Vibrations, another favorite WTJU show, while I was loading presents under the Christmas Tree (I was streaming the show from the archives as I'd missed its actual air time). It brought an introspective atmosphere to the culmination of consumerism and stress that surrounds Christmas, inviting reflection and prayer in my moment of privilege as I distributed our gifts. This holiday plays an unsteady rhythm across a variety of families and individuals, christian and not, and has deeply harmful and meaningful affects, alike. I've centered myself on the idea of Solstice––the growth of the light in the darkest season––and a time to refill the coffers, if possible. But I always feel conflicted about perpetuating the materialism and am keenly aware of the impact: the bar set too high for so many by the privilege of a few, the back breaking grind on workers, the heart breaking reality for those who can barely manage the day to day, let alone some big cultural spending event, the anxiety for those who are trying to maintain family tradition but not go overboard or off balance. The aesthetic of Christmas is everywhere, flashing in the faces of a huge percentage of people who have no cultural or religious or personal or familial connection to the tradition. The season can bring people together yet finds people at their loneliest. This song, the cadence of it, the commitment to an enlightened spiritualism, ripped me open a little. I'm grateful. This day is a heart beat that we all share, regardless of what we might have or have not, do or do not. May we bonded in one love.

Creation by Peter Tosh

Sunday, December 24, 2017

December Songs 24 (2017)

What would December Songs be without a version of Joni Mitchell's, River? Yes, Joni is another she-hero, though it seems, realistically, attending a performance is one thing on my bucket list I won't get to tick off. I have seen Beth Orton perform, however, both in San Francisco and Charlottesville. I've learned that if people don't like Beth Orton's voice, they hate it. But I'm cool with it. And she does a pretty sweet version of River, I must say.

I'm not a huge Sarah McLachlan fan, but her version of River is quite lovely.

And here's the real deal, untouchable really, a version of River live by Joni Mitchell. Her intro is so sweet.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

December Songs 23 (2017)

Patti Smith is one of my reigning she-heroes. Here she is singing her own unique version of Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Here is an impassioned live performance of Smith's tribute to Kurt Cobain, About a Boy

Friday, December 22, 2017

December Songs 22 (2017)

The vast majority of my music discoveries are made through listening to the rock programming at local awesome college radio station, WTJU. That's where I learned about this compilation of lost psychedelia, Feel the Music, based on a book of the same title, by Paul Major.

Enjoy Blue Lightning, by Joint Effort. Seems like their album, Two Sided Country Blues, recorded in 1971, may be worth a listen as well.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

December Songs 21 (2017)

Happy Solstice! I heard this song on the radio yesterday, and it seemed the perfect balance of darkness and light. I wanted to share it on Solstice. Haunting and beautiful. May the light––and love––prevail. 

Blow Northern Wind by the Mediaeval Baebes.

And while we're at it, this one is pretty cool.

Veni Veni Bella

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

December Songs 20 (2017)

It's hard to know where to begin with PJ Harvey, because she is always awesome. I came across this video, and aside from it being a kick-ass song, I thought this performance a good example of her elf-goddess-diva energy. Plus you get to meet her band.

To Bring You My Love

This is also pretty sweet, PJ with Nick Cave, another favorite artist.

And this. She can rock the short dress like no other.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

December Songs 19 (2017)

Pretty much everything that Mavis Staples does is outstanding. And I really love the various collaborations she does. This is a Gorillaz song featuring Pusha T and Mavis. So much passion and energy and inspiration. I remember seeing it on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert and being wowed!

Here is Let me Out

Here is something cool too, Mavis with Chuck D, Give We the Pride

And another awesome collaboration, this one with Jeff Tweedy. Showing up quite recently on Colbert yet again, here is Build a Bridge

Monday, December 18, 2017

December Songs 18 (2017)

Here is a seasonal song that is ok by me, Snowflake, by Kate Bush, from a 2011 album, 50 Words for Snow. It's so haunting and spare, I quite like it.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

December Songs 17 (2017)

Here's a new old song that I heard on WTJU's Radio Freedonia on Saturday, Places of Light, by Brainticket, a "krautrock" band from the 70's.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

December Songs 16 (2017)

I'm not sure where I was when this Beck song, Debra, was released many years ago––in a cave nursing my little daughter perhaps? It came on the radio recently and I was all like, WHO is this? I was fairly blown away when I learned it was Beck. It's a ridiculous song, lyrically. But musically, it's amazing, and a great example of Beck's range of talent! 

Check out this live version with Beck, ever the showman, sliding around the stage and throwing his mic about.

And since surely you'll want to hear it again, might as well listen to the studio version.

December Songs 15 (2017)

I heard Greek electronic musician, Lena Platonos, recently on WTJU radio show, Radio Freedonia. I love the hypnotic quality of this song, but also, admittedly, I was pretty stoked to be hearing the Greek language on American Radio. She has a sort of spoken word style that really highlights the language.

Here is Bloody Shadows From Afar. This version is an update of an earlier more minimal version.

I wanted to include this one as it one Best Music Video Award at Cyprus International Film Festival in 2009. Bonus: It includes subtitles.


This one, called Witches, has an awesome creepy quality. I think the video is recording of a tv screen.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

December Songs 14 (2017)

December Songs 14 is by Nay Nichelle, who moved to Charlottesville about two or so years ago from South Carolina. This is a highly meaningful song and video, especially with all that is going on Cville currently. Guest appearing in the video is Charlottesville's vice mayor, Wes Bellamy.

A small write up says that Nay Nichelle got her start through a viral Adele parody! I wish her luck and hope her audience continues to grow!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

December Songs 13 (2017)

December Songs 13 is a band that I saw for the first time this past year at Festy, Elephant Revival, and their song Petals. It's a great song and magnificent video!

Changes will continue, but I’ll never give in to
the woman that you’ve assumed me to be.
Thought that I had seen you,
Could feel me beneath you,
Beneath a distant longing
to arrive.

There’ll be no more waiting,
No sorrowful blaming.
I’m sitting right where I’ve wanted to be.

I am and I am not
these petals pressed into
these pages unnumbered.
I am and I am not.

But then I remember.
And when I remember,
It seems that I become more of what I remember.
Which is not necessarily insanely related
or jaded or tainted by bleak memory.

In fact I’m enjoying
the lifting of morning,
These petals intended for giving release.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

December Songs 12 (2017)

I've been a Kurt Vile fan for a while now, but am pretty stoked about his collaboration with Courtney Barnett. I really like this cozy little tune called Continental Breakfast. I could watch the video over and over again what with all the smiles and kids and pretty spaces and images of friendship & domestic bliss.

This is also a great little concert in which they perform songs from their album Lotta Sea Lice.

Make sure that you listen to the end so that you can catch their incredibly sweet cover of the song Untogether by Belly.  Here is the original version. Followed by another version by Kurt and Courtney.

Monday, December 11, 2017

December Songs 11 (2017)

Today's artist is Bedouine with the beautiful song, "Solitary Daughter". There is an interview on NPR in which the song is discussed.


With the conviction of the woman you made me
I find
Blades of grass from the island you lent me
I find
On every floor
In every drawer
Though I'm not an island I'm a body of water
Jeweled in the evening a solitary daughter
If picked at by noon
by midnight I'm ruined

Leave me alone to the books and the radio snow
Leave me alone to the charcoal and the dancing shadow

If each blade of grass was meant here for me
Split apart, sliced, and wedged in for me
Who's gonna treat it?
I'm not going to need it

Leave me alone to the books and the radio snow
Leave me alone to the charcoal and the dancing shadow

I am a lake
don't need to be watered
I am an ocean
I don't need to barter

I play with the moon
my only friend
It pushes it pulls me
I don't pay rent
I don't need the walls
to bury my grave
I don't need your company
to feel saved
I don't need the sunlight
My curtains don't draw
I don't need objects
to keep or to pawn
I don't want your pity
Concern or your scorn
I'm calm by my lonesome
I feel right at home
And when the wind blows
I get to dancing
My fun is the rhythm of air
When it's prancing

Leave me alone to the books and the radio snow
Leave me alone to the charcoal and the dancing shadow

Sunday, December 10, 2017

December Songs 10 (2017)

Last night I was lucky enough to see David Rawlings and Gillian Welch and band at the Jefferson Theater with a dear friend. It was yet another profound musical moment in a year of many. It afforded me time to stomp off some sadness about my stepmother's passing, and also think about my daughter, so far away in Kathmandu, and tomorrow, boarding a flight to India. Life Cycles. Passages. Poetry.

Seeing Gillian Welch was a major check off the bucket list, of course. She has been a long time favorite and this was my first time seeing her live. So joyful!

"I Hear Them All" really spoke to me, though I would say each song did! But something about this felt more personal after the events of our Charlottesville summer. The version below is a bit different, as last night they had a violinist, another guitarist, and a stand up bass player. But this too is a truly beautiful version. It's a cover of an Old Crow Medicine Show song, and of course, Woody Guthrie.

I hear the crying of the hungry in the deserts where they're wandering.
Hear them crying out for heaven's own benevolence upon them.
Hear destructive power prevailing, I hear fools falsely hailing.
To the crooked wits of tyrants when they call.

I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all

I hear the sounds of tearing pages and the roar of burning paper.
All the crimes in acquisitions turn to air and ash and vapor.
And the rattle of the shackle far beyond emancipators.
And the loneliest who gather in their stalls.

I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all

So while you sit and whistle Dixie with your money and your power.
I can hear the flowers a-growin' in the rubble of the towers.
I hear leaders quit their lying
I hear babies quit their crying.
I hear soldiers quit their dying, one and all.

I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all

I hear the tender words from Zion, I hear Noah's waterfall.
Hear the gentle lamb of Judah sleeping at the feet of Buddha.
And the prophets from Elijah to the old Paiute Wovoka.
Take their places at the table when they're called.

I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all
I hear them all

Saturday, December 09, 2017

December Songs 9 (2017)

My stepmother Shirley Littman passed away on Thursday evening after a long battle with MDS and Leukemia. She was a strong, positive, hard working woman with a commitment to social justice. Her infectious laughter and easy smile will shine on in my heart.

I wanted to dedicate December Songs 9 to her, as she was a member of the Raging Grannies of Metro NYC. I found this pretty great video of them performing in the Hudson Guild, a community center in the Chelsea Co-op residences, where she lived.

Shirley is the one in the yellow and gray striped shirt and the orange scarf. And she's fabulous!

Friday, December 08, 2017

December Songs 8 (2017)

December Songs 8 goes to Valerie June. Not a lot of narrative here, she pretty much speaks for herself! She's truly unique, beautiful, hypnotic, and jamming!

Here's Shakedown

and Working Woman Blues

And a pretty cool collaboration with John Forte, formerly of the Fugees.

My introduction to her was via this NPR Tiny Desk Concert.

Here's a Rolling Stone interview.


Thursday, December 07, 2017

December Songs 7 (2017)

Sometimes my favorite December songs are ones that are brand new to me. This morning while I was perusing Facebook I came upon a post from a childhood friend. Olga lived next door to my papou in Nicosia, Cyprus. I left Cyprus when I was four, but visited throughout my childhood, and Olga's would be the first door I'd knock on after arriving at my grandfather's. We would play into dusk, and I have so many fond memories with my dear friend, into adulthood.

This morning Olga posted an article about her son, Silvio Rusmigo, who is a remarkable photographer. I was perusing his website and came across a music video he made. It's a great song, and cool video. And it's the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the arts in Cyprus. It's a small island that churns out some amazing visual and performing artists. Not surprising for a country that is so ancient and rich in culture.

For those of you who don't know, Cyprus is a divided island, the north side occupied by Turkey since 1974. We were visiting and left just days before the coup that kicked off a brutal war that lead to thousands of displaced people and decades of occupation. You can see some documentaries, The Cyprus Problem, Still Divided (my uncle, Alex Efthyvoulous, a correspondent, appears around 22:31) and Attila 74, Rape of Cyprus, made by Michael Cacoyannis, my mother's second cousin.

But back to the topic at hand. Here is Black Anis from Cyprus, filmed by the talented son of a dear friend!

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

December Songs 6 (2017)

It's a Joanna Newsom kind of day. Not a big introduction here. She is a gorgeous, magical, brilliant goddess. This is a fun description by David Holmes in Stereogum, followed by ten songs he favors: 
". . . the object of their dainty diction is a woman who plays brain-melting solos with only one hand on a million-stringed contraption the size of a small dinosaur while the other hand plucks out shapeshifting polyrhythms in time signatures so tangled they demand three or more semesters of calculus to comprehend, as poetry worthy of T.S. Eliot is propelled into the stratosphere by Beyonce-caliber vocal runs delivered with the splendor and swagger of Kate Bush then tethered back to Earth with pedal footwork so intricate it would trip up Michael Jackson — or, at the very least, Justin Timberlake."

This is Divers, from her latest album, of the same name.

And the lyrics:

A diver is my love
And I am his, if I am not deceived
Who takes one breath above for every hour below the sea

Who gave to me a jewel
Worth twice this woman's life, but would cost her less
Than laying at low tide to see her true love phosphoresce

And in an infinite regress
Tell me why is the pain of birth
Lighter borne than the pain of death?
I ain't saying that I loved you first
But I loved you best

I know we must abide
Each by the rules that bind us here:
The divers and the sailors and the women on the pier

But how do you choose your form?
How do you choose your name? How do you choose your life?
How do you choose the time you must exhale and kick and rise?

And in an infinite capsize
Like a bull tearing down the coast
Double hulls bearing double masts
I don’t know if you loved me most
But you loved me last

Recall the word you gave
To count your way across the depths of this arid world
Where you would yoke the waves and lay a bed of shining pearls

I dream it every night:
The ringing of the pail, the motes of sand dislodged, the shucking, quick and bright:
The twinned and cast off shells reveal a single heart of white

And in an infinite backslide
Ancient border, sink past the West
Like a sword at the bearer's fall
I can't claim that I knew you best
But did you know me at all?

A woman is alive, a woman is alive
You do not take her for a sign
In nacre on a stone, alone, unfaceted and fine

And never will I wed
I'll hunt the pearl of death to the bottom of my life
And ever hold my breath till I may be the diver's wife

See how the infinite divides
And the divers are not to blame
For the rift spanning distant shores
You don’t know my name
But I know yours

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

December Songs 5 (2017)

In sticking with great bands I've seen in 2017, I'd like to give a shout out to a local outfit, New Boss, featuring the very lovely, Devon Sproule. I have seen them each individually, but was really impressed when I saw them join forces at the Forward recovery show at the Bridge. What a good night that was!

New Boss is an uplifting, dance-able, mesmerizing concoction of echo and wisp and shred. What I've heard of their music delivers me to some of the better corners of 70's and 80's nostalgia, without the big hair and gaudy shirt. I drift through memories of frugging in a Buffalo club in my vintage dress, or lolling about in sunbeams, big teenage dreams in a small Pennsylvania town.

But New Boss is here now in the Charlottesville of today (actually, they have been for a while; I'm a little slow on the uptake). I am grateful to them for lightening the load, for bringing some sweet sonics and necessary noise to the unwanted reverberations of Trump's summer (though it's strange that when I search New Boss Charlottesville on YouTube I get a page full of A12 videos). New Boss is all the good aspects of summer––the warmth, the cerulean sky, the beautiful things that fly.

And Devon Sproule. . . She will get her very own December Songs page. . . but I am grateful for her and her collaboration with New Boss. I am particularly wooed by the song, Wildlife. It is beautiful, and haunting, and her description of where she was personally when she wrote it speaks to me on many levels. I will not dive into those levels, except to mention some minor trivia––that I read Mists of Avalon while nursing my newborn daughter.

Here is New Boss on a WTJU radio feature

Read a recent-ish review of New Boss here and a little bit of history here.

P.S. I'd like to add that Thomas Dean, guitarist in New Boss, is a great visual artist. I know that because I purchased one of his prints at a Bridge Gift Forest a couple of years ago. And keyboard player, Nick Rubin, is a DJ on one of my favorite WTJU shows, Radio Freedonia. I know that because I used to listen to it joyfully on my way to pick up my daughter from school (when it aired on a week day). The show took a break for some time, but I'm so glad it's back! Listen from 2-4 on Saturdays.

Monday, December 04, 2017

December Songs 4 (2017)

December Songs 4 brings you Lee Bangah, a local Charlottesville rap artist I saw for the first time at the Nine Pillars Hip Hop Festival last April.

He has an important new video about the Vinegar Hill neighborhood, a once thriving African American neighborhood in Charlottesville that was razed and replaced with strip malls and parking lots.

You can learn more about Vinegar Hill history through this excellent short film, The World is Gone. 

Also see footage of the klan rally that took place in Charlottesville on July 8, interspersed with Lee Bangah's music. 

I have a few shots from the hip hop festival here. So much talent was showcased during this festival, talent that many locals like myself are not exposed to because this town doesn’t feature its local black artists nearly enough at local venues and festivals. 
When black lives are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!

Sunday, December 03, 2017

December Songs 3 (2017)

December Songs 3 is devoted to Meg Baird who I saw at the Broadberry in Richmond in mid June along with Steve Gunn and Lee Ranaldo. I had never heard of Meg Baird prior to this show. She was another performer this year, like Jon Collin, who riveted me. Long ago I fell in love with Joni Mitchell, Sandy Denny, Jaqui McShee––Meg Baird scrawled a fresh layer on the sacred palimpsest of graceful, powerful, magical female folk singers.

There are many lovely songs and performances by Meg Baird captured on video, but this one really takes me to a place of comfort and quiet I long for. I love the aesthetic of the video narrated by her haunting vocals.

You can see photos from the Broadberry show in my Flickr album.

Here is an interview with Meg Baird that was posted just before I saw her live

And here is a groovy video she made with her former band, Espers.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

December Songs 2 (2017)

This year in particular, live music has been deep solace.

In a year of crying––a lot of it internal––music has brought tears to the surface, into the healing light.

Dancing releases the toxins of doom and anxiety. But so too does music that rivets you into a place of stillness, where your heart blooms into a great big om.

Seeing Jon Collin in an underground (literally) vintage clothing shop was a hermetic experience.
I had listened to a few of his tracks for the first time the day of. But really, I had no idea.

The scene of the concert was akin to sitting in a living room with friends, the musician a hearth. There were racks of textiles from many eras, fancy hats of old aunts,  and mod lamps forming pools of soft light. I walked in the snow. Ran from Nazis. Felt a frenetic panic that dissipated into a menthol steam. Flew like a great moth in a beautiful orbit. The whole thing was unprecedented.

These December songs posts should be brief and possible. But I have already troubled for a good hour on how to describe what the experience of listening to Jon Collin was for me. Let's begin with––I can't seem to find the language to capture it.

His was a transcendent meditation through unexpected turns of sound. I strolled from one structure to another, welcome hallways, starlit spheres, expanses of homeland, and found myself huddled in a kitchen from my past, gazing out a long window at winter moors and tall summer grasses.

The video below was filmed almost five years ago, an entirely different scene, and likely a different composition (I don't think I would really know). But it captures the beauty and the mystery and the flight. A parallel universe to the pedestrian.

I wrote this in the notes app of my phone while sitting in the glow of Jon Collin live in that groovy shop. I stumbled upon it recently, and it took me a while to remember whence it came, even though the event was only two weeks ago.

Fog on glass pane
The snow stippled trees
The chamber alike
Light in the mind where shadows threat plays against stucco
Hallows of the hallways
Between a child's bed and the lovers futon
Sheets swiveled into rain
The downward downward

Listen to recent releases of Jon Collin here and here, and more of his tracks here and here.

And here is a simply lovely review of jon collin, that says all that i didn't manage to.

And here is a photo from winters past.