Two Story Melody https://twostorymelody.com How people write songs. Thu, 29 Oct 2020 19:05:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.1 Andrey Azizov’s “Back of the Car”: Nostalgic Bedroom Pop https://twostorymelody.com/andrey-azizovs-back-of-the-car-nostalgic-bedroom-pop/ https://twostorymelody.com/andrey-azizovs-back-of-the-car-nostalgic-bedroom-pop/#respond Thu, 29 Oct 2020 19:05:38 +0000 https://twostorymelody.com/?p=6838 There’s something magical about bedroom pop. Not only is the prospect of turning DIY tracks into hits utterly inspiring, but the sound that’s created from these private ventures always feels…

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There’s something magical about bedroom pop. Not only is the prospect of turning DIY tracks into hits utterly inspiring, but the sound that’s created from these private ventures always feels refreshingly intimate. Usually comprised of layered synths and simple, danceable backbeats, bedroom pop tracks seem to consistently evoke nostalgia for a bygone era of teenage love, lust, and heartbreak. With this genre, we see an artist unfiltered and unbridled in their emotions, and as a result, we get music that feels crushingly real.

NYC-based producer Andrey Azizov’s upcoming release, “Back of the Car” is no different. It has all of the elements to make a great bedroom pop track: an 80s-inspired synth carries the tune and rests under breathy, light vocals and subtle percussion. However, this track is a deviation from Azizov’s usual sound: chill EDM dance beats that feel at home among other chart-topping tracks that have dominated the current musical scene and have become synonymous with the teen movie soundtrack. Yet while tracks like “Feel Like” certainly capture the carefree summery attitude conjured in hits like Lauv’s “I Like Me Better,” “Back of the Car” seems to seek out a more special narrative.

The track begins with four repeated rising notes, immediately reminiscent of bedroom pop artist Dayglow’s single “Hot Rod.” Yet this dreamscape inducing sound, which feels like a modern electronica take on the harp-induced daydream trope, quickly descends into the 80s arcade-esque synth beat that hasn’t seemed to leave popular musical discourse since Stranger Things debuted in 2016 and left us in a state of perpetual nostalgia.

The onset of “Back in the Car’s” lyrics only further drive us back into our memories. With sweet, breathy vocals we are immediately transported to tender childhood moments of agitating car trips and sibling quarrels. You’re with your brother/Back of the car/Punching each other/I hurt my arm. However, there is a constant theme of these rose-tinted memories being disrupted in favor of a less perfect reality. You met your hero/You got along/He smelt like coffee/You left alone. But nevertheless, the warm synth tone makes us want to savor these less than optimal memories, or at least dance until we forget them.

As we reach the second half of the track, Azizov shows his EDM finesse with a gorgeous drop that’s met with disparate electronic, celestial noises. This section of the track evokes the feelings associated watching old home movies, a mostly warm optimism with a hint of yearning melancholy. Ultimately, the celestial elements and fuzzy synth combine in “Back of the Car” to produce a sound that’s both stunning in its enormity and comforting in its intimacy—a perfect bedroom pop soundtrack to descend into rose-tinted nostalgia.

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KINO MOTEL on “Waves”, Gritty Pop, and How a Blonde Wig Brought Them Together https://twostorymelody.com/kino-motel-on-waves-gritty-pop-and-how-a-blonde-wig-brought-them-together/ https://twostorymelody.com/kino-motel-on-waves-gritty-pop-and-how-a-blonde-wig-brought-them-together/#respond Wed, 28 Oct 2020 17:54:21 +0000 https://twostorymelody.com/?p=6832 KINO MOTEL (stylized in all-caps) has broken into the music world with their debut single “Waves,” and its unique, post-modern, other-worldly sound is making a place for itself in that world.…

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KINO MOTEL (stylized in all-caps) has broken into the music world with their debut single “Waves,” and its unique, post-modern, other-worldly sound is making a place for itself in that world. Thanks to the works of Ed Fraser and Rosa Mercedes, KINO MOTEL has been born, and might just pave the way for a new kind of genre, something they label “grit pop.” Fraser and Mercedes plan to release more songs with this style in mind. If they’re just as fantastic as “Waves,” then listeners will be in for a treat.

First, the (good) elephant in the room: the violin. You hear this unusually distorted instrument from the very beginning. KINO MOTEL has chosen to include it with other traditional band instruments, and its inclusion is a wonderful stylistic choice. It brings the song up to another level, helps it avoid slipping in amongst the typical kind of rock. Honestly, there’s nothing typical about the song, and that’s a great thing!

The tone of the song has a very gritty, dark texture to it, provided by the distorted violin (of course), a nice and slow foot-tapping bass tempo, the mixture of low and gravelly male vocals with gentle but powerful female vocals, and, interestingly enough, a synthetic sound that sounds curiously like a UFO (could this be symbolic?).

The lyrics are a little less up-front, and at times requires intense listening to decipher, but I can’t help but wonder if that was on purpose (or perhaps it’s just me). They’re elegantly easy, essentially repeating the same verse about three times (I say about, as there’s a couple of changes near the end). One set of lyrics stand out, about two and a half minutes into the song, as Fraser comes in with his Leonard Cohen-style vocals:

Cut through a winding path

Among trees shadows hung

Under leaves

Under your feet

As you run

This is your debut single. What was the process like of putting the band and music together?

Rosa Mercedes: The first song I ever heard Eddie sing was Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, and he was wearing a blond wig at the time. I thought: here’s someone I can play music with. We both have this innate need to travel, tour and go on adventures, so the band is kind of an extension of that. But when we write the music together it’s a calm thing we do, a kind of down time. In the middle of our road trip, we haul ourselves up in a motel room and just indulge in the vibe. Then we whittle all those ideas and experiences down in the recording process, and the band becomes a mix of all those impulses.

Can you talk a little about the song’s meaning and where the inspiration came from?

Ed Fraser: It’s about escaping, getting out, leaving a toxic situation – and how hard that can be. You really have to fight for it, it’s not easy. And then the idea that you need to go in whichever direction you need to go in. That part’s up to you.

“Grit pop” seems to be a new style that’s cropping up among artists. How would you describe it?

RM:  I come from the folk scene and Eddie’s played a lot of heavy music, so we both prefer things a little rougher around the edges. We love a good pop song, an addictive chorus, synths and all that, but we don’t want it to sound fake or pristine. It’s pop music for people who like dirt.

EF: I like dirt and Rosa likes dirt, so it works.

What was the thought process behind adding in the violin sounds?

EF: From the beginning we were going for something very cinematic for this song overall; we really wanted “Waves” to sound like the soundtrack to a film. And the violin is really just the perfect instrument for that. Josefin Runsteen, who also plays drums on all the songs, is primarily a violinist, so as soon as she’d finished tracking the drums with us she busted out her violin. She’s really an incredible player, it was just beautiful, and really perfect for what we were aiming for with this song.

RM: It’s all about the romance of the road.

What was it like recording different parts of the song in different places and different times? Did it inhibit or enhance the songwriting experience?

RM:  I think it definitely gave the song (and our upcoming releases) time and space to evolve into what they are now. We didn’t rush anything. We had some songs ready to go around the time Josefin was passing through Berlin, and so we booked a studio for the two days she was in town and recorded drums and violin there and then. She’s the kind of musician who can just immediately feel where a song wants to go and do it without hesitation. When we recorded the rest in Melbourne, we gave ourselves free rein to put down ideas, and then over time distilled the track down to whatever felt essential. Eddie did an incredible job of mixing it to our very specific tastes. We both love getting people we admire involved, so you’ll see a lot of features from more great musicians in this band if we can help it.

You have some other new upcoming releases. Can you share a little about them?

EF: For sure. Our next single is called “Simple Desire” and it was also recorded and mixed in the same sessions as “Waves” in Berlin and Melbourne. This one is a little more pop-heavy, and there’s a bunch of bendy guitars that I really enjoy playing in there. Vocally it’s Rosa’s time to shine and she surely does shine. We’re really excited about the video for “Simple Desire” – it continues the series we started with “Waves” – our main characters return for a new adventure, this time in Vietnam. From there the video series will take us to Australia, and the rest we can’t tell you yet, but rest assured it’s pretty out there.

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Henry Nozuka on “When the Sea is Quiet and Calm”, Meditation, and His Creative Process https://twostorymelody.com/henry-nozuka-on-when-the-sea-is-quiet-and-calm-meditation-and-his-creative-process/ https://twostorymelody.com/henry-nozuka-on-when-the-sea-is-quiet-and-calm-meditation-and-his-creative-process/#respond Tue, 27 Oct 2020 16:04:30 +0000 https://twostorymelody.com/?p=6822 To hear the gentle vocals and thoughtful guitar plucks of Toronto singer-songwriter Henry Nozuka’s new, aptly named single “When the Sea is Quiet and Calm” is to access the part…

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To hear the gentle vocals and thoughtful guitar plucks of Toronto singer-songwriter Henry Nozuka’s new, aptly named single “When the Sea is Quiet and Calm” is to access the part of your mind where only calm exists. Here, in this state of peace, you can be almost as ethereal and lightweight as the gentle breeze you imagine washing over you while listening to Nozuka’s soothing illustration of a serene ocean scene.

The slightly distorted sound effect of the guitar plucks creates a nostalgic, authentic feeling, and adds a little more depth to the song than if it were plain and clear strumming. The eloquent background strings and humming also contribute to depth of sound, while pulling us further into the song’s romantic essence. Later in the song, we hear light, bell-sounding tones that truly elevate the production to the realm of effortless whimsy. The simple yet sentimental lyrics depict the heartwarming landscape that is the ocean on a calm evening.

The world feels pretty crazy lately, and the best moments of reprieve, at least for me, are found in losing the world in a song. In those moments, only that song and wherever it takes you exist.  This single by Nozuka is that kind of song: it takes you to a faraway place where the sun is setting over the sea that “looks like a piece of glass”, and where any problems that might be on your mind are far far away, masked by the “quiet and calm”.

Did you have a specific time or place in mind when writing this song? If so, when/where?

I’m not sure if I had something specific in mind when writing this song, but it rather was a reflection of the time I was in. I remember that I wrote this song at the time when I began learning to meditate, and so I was drawing upon the beautiful things that I was reading and inspiration I was getting from the meditation.

How do you find the inspiration to write such a peaceful song (considering the crazy state of the world right now)?

I took some time away from the world right around the time of writing this song, and lived at a meditation retreat center for three and a half years. During this time, I was away from all internet, and could spend my time in nature, and focused my time living as simply as possible. With a simple lifestyle, and a strong focus on meditation, I found that when I returned to the world, I was able to cope with the difficulties a bit more. It still does get to me at times, but the pillars that help me through these difficult times are: not over-saturating myself with the internet/social media, focusing on a simple lifestyle, and meditation.

Could you describe the process of playing and recording the song? I.e., the specific elements of sound such as instruments, vocals, etc.

I wrote this song in 2012 actually, and left to the meditation center soon after. When I returned back to Toronto in 2015, I reached out my friend Tommy Paxton-Beesley (River Tiber), to see if he would be up for recording it. We began with a few hour sessions at his studio. This was probably the biggest learning experience I have had as a producer. Just watching him work, and seeing how he did things with such quality was incredible. He recording my guitar to tape, I think with an SM 58, and then I did a scratch vocal. He recorded his cello and violin in about a half-hour. We looped the section and he just continued creating the parts up as he went, using his mind to create the arrangement on the spot. It was quite remarkable. He also recorded his vocals in the same way. It actually took us another three years before I was ready to sing the vocal, and could get a good take! My voice was a bit underdeveloped after taking so much time off music. We finally did a session at my place last winter, and I ended up using this song as the main inspiration for the whole album.

How did you decide on or come up with the guitar riff for this song?

It just came up randomly! I think things just come out magically sometimes, and to me writing music is something that can’t fully be described. When you start doing it, things just happen nicely sometimes. I think once you get accustomed to an instrument, parts will just come.

What does your songwriting process look like? Do you take your time writing songs or can you conjure them pretty quickly?

When I start writing I usually take like a week and just focus on writing songs all day. I try to get as many ideas as possible, and then I’ll sit with them, and decide which ones I want to pursue and spend more time on. I like the intensity of this process, and I find that it’s a nice way to really delve in. Sometimes things come in like a half-hour, and other times it takes several revisions. I think that it’s important to write a lot of bad songs, and then out of five or sometimes ten songs there will be one that is good. Sometimes songs come though after I’m inspired from watching a film or after an important life experience. I like listening to audiobooks as well, and I’m a big fan of [Hayao] Miyazaki.

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Julianna Money on “27”, Stevie Nicks, and the Chattahoochee Valley https://twostorymelody.com/julianna-money-on-27-stevie-nicks-and-the-chattahoochee-valley/ https://twostorymelody.com/julianna-money-on-27-stevie-nicks-and-the-chattahoochee-valley/#respond Mon, 26 Oct 2020 19:03:07 +0000 https://twostorymelody.com/?p=6819 On her new song “27”, Julianna Money is preoccupied with a lot of things. She’s growing older, and even though she’s still young she knows she won’t stay that way…

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On her new song “27”, Julianna Money is preoccupied with a lot of things. She’s growing older, and even though she’s still young she knows she won’t stay that way forever. She’s ruminating on the inexorable passage of time. She doesn’t know what the future holds for her, except for what the future eventually holds for all of us. Over a delicate acoustic guitar, Money sings: “I’m as young as I’ll ever be/I’m as old as I’ve ever been.” Her voice is rich with feeling, filled with wistfulness for what came before and anxiety for what comes after.

Money namedrops Stevie Nicks, whose “Landslide” partially inspired “27”, and it’s another reminder of the song’s theme. When Nicks sang that “children get older/I’m getting older too”, she was 28 years old; now, she’s 72. Money never directly talks about death, her own or anybody else’s, but the message is clear: time waits for no one, not even Stevie Nicks.

If this all sounds a bit heavy, Money makes sure to offer some hope. Anyone who suffers from anxiety has been told to “live in the moment”, but Money puts that sentiment at the end of “27”, and after the lyrical journey we’ve been on it feels earned. It’s easier said than done, certainly, but there’s no sense in worrying about what you can’t control.

What was the inspiration behind “27”? Was there a story behind it?

It’s less a story than a feeling that had been building in me for a long while. Having crossed over the first hump of existential anxiety in my mid twenties of asking “What am I going to do?”, I sort of entered the next realm of uncertainty which is – “Why am I going to do it? Is there a reason for doing anything? Can I make a mark in this life?” A future full of possibility started to look claustrophobically blank when an infinite amount of choices meant I had nothing to be sure of. It’s just trying to come to terms with that uncertainty and live in the present.

I suppose there is an element of a story in it though – many years ago I heard Stevie Nicks sing

“I’ve been afraid of changing cause I/built my life around you
Time makes you bolder children get older/I’m getting older too”

And I read an interview asking Stevie many years after she wrote that what she thought of that line, or if it sounded silly now that she was so much older and she said something along the lines of “well, I was 28, and you can really start to feel old at that age.”

And that’s always resonated so much with me, especially through my twenties – being young enough to feel like you still don’t know anything, but old enough to know the weight of your decisions and feel crushed by the magnitude of the life that lays ahead of you. As I grew closer to my 28th birthday (which is next week, in fact) it resonated with me more and more, so this song is a tribute to her, in a way. Hence the line “Stevie said she’s ‘afraid of changing/well that’s starin’ down 28”.

You grew up in a musical family. What sort of music surrounded you when you were younger, and how did that shape your own musical journey?

The music I grew up with is a really esoteric mix! I grew up Baptist so there was a lot of Jesus music, and we would periodically purge anything secular, but some good stuff seeped in there. My mother loved Vivaldi and raised me and my siblings on the four seasons. My dad really loved soul music, some rock and roll, and old country. The soundtrack of O, Brother, Where Art Thou? was a huge hit for our family as well. I was the youngest of four, so around age 14 my siblings started to expose me to a lot of alternative music and that’s when I really fell in. One of the first records that I became completely consumed by was Death Cab for Cutie’s “Plans”. I would listen to that and Radiohead and Explosions in the Sky lying in bed with my headphones on, trying not to fall asleep because I couldn’t get enough.

Similarly, how did the musical history of the Chattahoochee Valley region in Georgia, where you grew up, shape you?

The Chattahoochee Valley has a rich tradition of blues, country, and folk. That’s something I didn’t fully appreciate until I got older, but the influence seeped in as I was growing up nonetheless, just by virtue of exposure. I think there is a definite twang to some of my music, and I’ve been really inspired and influenced by the country tradition of laughing through your tears. I think there’s something so beautiful about that that definitely runs through a lot of my music. The blues and folk elements show up strongly through my music as well; a lot of this upcoming record walks the line of folk/indie rock/alternative country and I hope to make a full on blues record one day.

What are your aspirations for the future?

I have so many! Right now I’m looking at getting this record out, and I’m already planning the next couple. I tend to have more written material than I know what to do with, so it would feel wonderful to kind of catch my recordings up with my writing one day. I also have plans to do some world travel when that’s safe again. Currently, I’ve started to get involved in some community work and that’s something I’d like to learn more about and continue to invest myself in over my lifetime. Overall I just want to experience life with open arms and try to share love and authenticity with others, which is really the essence of what I’m trying to do with my music as well.

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Clarissa Connelly’s “Holler”: Beautiful and Unsettling https://twostorymelody.com/clarissa-connellys-holler-beautiful-and-unsettling/ https://twostorymelody.com/clarissa-connellys-holler-beautiful-and-unsettling/#respond Mon, 26 Oct 2020 17:32:29 +0000 https://twostorymelody.com/?p=6816 The space between trees. Fields of meadowsweet. Craggy cliffs slick with sea spray. Clarissa Connelly’s October 2020 release “Holler” will take you to each of these places – and you…

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The space between trees. Fields of meadowsweet. Craggy cliffs slick with sea spray. Clarissa Connelly’s October 2020 release “Holler” will take you to each of these places – and you may not want to leave.

If you’re near why don’t you come by/Or do I need to holler?

“Holler” is both a whimsical and unsettling track. It’s a study of contradictions, simultaneously an exploration of movement and stillness, of light and dark, of here and there. The piano bobs up and down like it’s floating in a river. A flute scribbles overhead. The vocals drift in and out of focus. It’ll make your skin prickle.

I’ll keep trying/When you try to holler

The music video features close ups of hair and teeth, as well as masks that glitter under the ripples of a creek. Like the song, these images are both unsettling and mesmerizing. This contradiction, I believe, is the crux of this song’s power: it embodies paradox, contains multitudes, holds many conflicting truths at the same time. It produces a nearly spiritual effect. Another strength lies in the song’s insistent uniqueness, its refusal to conform – the song seems to resist even against itself, the soundscape constantly shifting beneath itself while the vocalist stands still, looks you in the eye, and tells you a story.

You’re here/I thought you’re someone else

Perhaps the most central contradiction of the song is the disconnect between the lyrics and the soundscape. The lyrics seem to describe a relationship between the speaker and a character who continuously leaves and returns, “hollering” when they return get the speaker’s attention. This frustrated love story, while intriguing, feels worlds away from the eerie, earthy soundscape. And this contrast feels – at least to me – intentional. Maybe we’re meant to ponder the relationship between our material and spiritual lives. Maybe the marriage of these contradictions can lead us to understand better how to live.

But I’m here/Won’t you make me come back?

In terms of overall structure, the song doesn’t do much. There’s no rise and fall, no build and break. It’s tense, all the way through. The intimacy of this tension makes you feel like you’re witnessing a secret ritual – or like you’re eavesdropping on a prayer between the vocalist and the earth.

“Holler” is both intimate and detached, honest and guarded, gentle and defiant. Listening to it feels like walking barefoot in the forest – the pinch of pine needles beneath your toes, the warm sunlight pooling on your back, the sense of stillness, of security – of certainty that this world was made with and for you.

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Tiggy’s “Share This Feeling”: Your New Pop Obsession https://twostorymelody.com/tiggys-share-this-feeling-your-new-pop-obsession/ https://twostorymelody.com/tiggys-share-this-feeling-your-new-pop-obsession/#respond Fri, 23 Oct 2020 18:01:03 +0000 https://twostorymelody.com/?p=6813 Tiggy may have just become my next favorite artist that I obsess over for the next seven days (as one does, of course). If you’ve got time, check out “Two…

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Tiggy may have just become my next favorite artist that I obsess over for the next seven days (as one does, of course). If you’ve got time, check out “Two Year Stand.” It’s my favorite of hers.

Anyway, her upbeat, chill, beachy vibes are just the right sound for the times. We can all use some of those escape-the-world vibes right now.

Her song, “Share This Feeling,” begins with some noticeable nature sounds. The birds are singing, the crickets are chirping, the wind is blowing…it feels like you’ve just been dropped in a beautiful forest. Then you’re transported to the beach as the drum and guitar chime in, along with Tiggy’s ethereal vocals. Imagine driving with the windows down along the Golden Gate Bridge as the sun sets over the Bay, and that’s the mood.

The song has some rock origins, which makes sense. Beach pop origins began with Rock/R&B pop from the 50s and 60s, and that’s very much the vibe of Tiggy’s style. If you listen to her other music, you can hear that beachy 60s influence. The tempo alone gives a throwback to a Beatles kind of rhythm, with vocals and a style that are like a slightly higher pitched 2017 Lorde. Tiggy is tapping into the classic sounds of a good ol’ guitar, a simple but iconic drumbeat, and raw vocals.

Tiggy’s voice is versatile; she hits those low notes in the beginning of the song, and then jumps pristinely into some beautiful high, breathy notes. Again, it kind of replicates those vintage vibes of the 60s, but with modern touches of some synthesizing.

The message of the song seems almost straightforward. The beginning lyrics give us a hint:

You’ve used all your energy

Worrying about your enemies

Spending all your intellect

Wasted on the internet

When you consider the decision to include nature sounds and beachy vibes to the mix, it seems that Tiggy is trying to say something about getting out and tapping back into nature; go outdoors, get some sun, some fresh air, get off the computer. Tiggy reaches out her hand and invites us to join her on this very excursion:

I’ll take you to a place

Where we don’t have to put on a show

She knows what’s up:

You can fake a high

When you feeling this low

And in the bridge she describes just the place to go (strategically accompanied with the chirping birds and breezy nature sounds):

There are places where you see no faces

And you learn to be alone

Your mind’s not racing

And you’ve got more patience

And you learn to leave your phone

The words match the vibe of the music. It’s attempting to get us up out of our chairs, out of our dark rooms, away from artificial screens, and into nature. She wants to “share this feeling” with us. Maybe she knows how wonderful it is and wants us to know it too, or maybe she just doesn’t want to experience it alone.

Overall, there’s a freshness to Tiggy that lets us step into another world that’s all our own and escape the world for just a little while.

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Amelia Ray’s “Hambone Says”: A Harrowing Role-Reversal on Race https://twostorymelody.com/amelia-rays-hambone-says-a-harrowing-role-reversal-on-race/ https://twostorymelody.com/amelia-rays-hambone-says-a-harrowing-role-reversal-on-race/#respond Thu, 22 Oct 2020 18:01:23 +0000 https://twostorymelody.com/?p=6809 In February, Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed by three white men as he jogged in Georgia. In March, Breonna Taylor was killed in her own home by three white…

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In February, Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed by three white men as he jogged in Georgia. In March, Breonna Taylor was killed in her own home by three white plainclothes officers in Kentucky. In June, the Black Lives Matter movement re-erupted amidst widespread outrage over systemic racism in America, tensions that stoked both civil rights activists and neo-Nazis alike.

Amelia Ray never knew her father’s father because he was murdered after his son failed to address a white man as “sir” in Alabama, 1962. As Amelia Ray watched the BLM movement resurge, she was struck with emotion. “I was going crazy, wanting to yell, cry, hit something, run through the streets, stay locked indoors and sleep all at the same time,” she described. After all those decades, it seemed like nothing had changed. Emboldened by this disillusionment, Ray teamed up with longtime collaborator Jake Wood to produce one of the most chilling and moving pieces of the year: a history of civil rights, told through the voice of a white overseer.

“Hambone Says” spans less than 3 minutes in length, but it is cavernous in its scope and effect. Ray begins with the bubbling weariness of a chain gang chant, contrasted soberly by her lyrics: “Dis Red Shift / Don’t eat dirt / Do good work / My Lord / Dis here gun / Hunt bluegum / Coon get some / My Lord.” To hear Ray invoke the perspective of a white supremacist group heralding their “Lord’s work” over a traditional African American drawl is unnerving but deeply poignant; perhaps it should be unsurprising to have yet another example of white exploitation of Black suffering, she reminds us.

As the song unfurls Ray continues to channel this striking theme, framing the words brimming with the violence of white supremacy through traditionally Black musical genres. “The Good Book says we are the chosen race / If it weren’t so, we wouldn’t have his face,” Ray sings over a smiling gospel tune. In a rap verse she flips the script to a more current cry: “Yo, I can’t be a racist if I can’t see color … Squabblin’ bout statues and pancake batter / ‘Knock, knock’ ‘Who’s there?’ / All lives matter.” Ray deftly navigates African American history both through genre and contemporary headlines, connecting 1920s massacres and 1960s white supremacist manifestos to the murder of Breonna Taylor and debate over the place of Confederate monuments in America. Ray traverses these eras with levelheaded ease, an effect amplified by a vocal delivery underscored by suffering and simmering with rage.

The role-reversal in “Hambone Says” is a resonant exploration of contemporary past aesthetics of racism in America. Amelia Ray fuses the vicious rhetoric of white supremacy across a century, weaving a haunting story out of cloth cut from the rich history of African American music. It’s just a tambourine and her voice, but there’s never a moment in the song that feels small. Ray delivers an incredibly powerful and moving exclamation of indignation in “Hambone Says,” a condemnation of hatred and racism that feels at once indelibly universal and intensely personal. This song demands self-reflection; it implores us to readdress our continuous failure to secure racial justice. If I had one song to recommend a listen to so far this year, this would be it.

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Brother James Displays Thoughtful, Literary Songwriting on “Give Yourself a Break” https://twostorymelody.com/brother-james-displays-thoughtful-literary-songwriting-on-give-yourself-a-break/ https://twostorymelody.com/brother-james-displays-thoughtful-literary-songwriting-on-give-yourself-a-break/#respond Wed, 21 Oct 2020 17:30:31 +0000 https://twostorymelody.com/?p=6804 I love the fall. The leaves start to change color, the temperature dip just enough for you to whip out that sweater you’ve been eyeing all summer, you can feel…

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I love the fall. The leaves start to change color, the temperature dip just enough for you to whip out that sweater you’ve been eyeing all summer, you can feel a little less guilty wasting all of your money at Starbucks. But fall is also a pain—with every latte there’s another assignment due, another exam to study for, another thing to get done. Fall brings change, but it can also bring stress (and a lot of it at that). Admittedly, it’s a bit of a selfish stress. There are far worse things going on around the world, after all. But, really, who’s to say your problems aren’t valid? Brother James gets that.

Brother James, otherwise known as Justin James Sinclair, is a songwriter and producer based out of LA. Scroll through his website and you’ll find fascinating thoughts on universally spiritual musings like monasticism, self-searching, and mysticism; he even claims Plato and Leo Tolstoy as equally influential figures to him as Paul McCartney and Randy Newman. With such a philosophical captivation, it’s no wonder his songwriting centers around what makes life meaningful. With “Give Yourself a Break,” Sinclair takes the lens and rearranges it to focus back on the individual, a heartwarming reminder of faith and perseverance.

In the music video, gloomy images like daunting COVID-19 death toll updates and barren grocery store aisles underlie a tune that wouldn’t feel out of place nestled in a Pixar movie. “Hurricanes and wars being waged / Will our species be erased?” he wonders aloud. It all sounds depressing at first, but the melody never wavers. “Take a breath, and just address / what’s here today.”

True to form, there’s a sense of deep spirituality injected into the lyrics of the song. Sinclair has an unusual ability to infuse his songwriting with this sense of mystic wondering, even though he seems to recognize the artifice of it all. “That’s plenty existential questions for a day / Give yourself a break,” he sings, right before he remarks on the cosmos’ ability to reset your spirit: “Use your heart, don’t think too hard / Let the stars and sky align you … Just let your body draw your spirit to the earth.” Sinclair’s music carries a heavy weight, even when it feels lighthearted.

“Give Yourself a Break” by Brother James comes at quite an appropriate time. It really seems like nothing is going right in the world at this moment, a feeling that’s hard to reconcile with individual feelings of anxiety and questioning. It’s easy to fall into a trap of self-doubt and existential crisis during times like this, but we’re reminded that it’s okay to not be okay: just give yourself a break.

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“A Million Times” by Rosehip Teahouse: Tackling Your Anxiety Head On https://twostorymelody.com/a-million-times-by-rosehip-teahouse-tackling-your-anxiety-head-on/ https://twostorymelody.com/a-million-times-by-rosehip-teahouse-tackling-your-anxiety-head-on/#respond Wed, 21 Oct 2020 17:26:02 +0000 https://twostorymelody.com/?p=6801 Sometimes, when moving to a new location, you’ll find that you change in order to fit in. Whether that be moving schools, jobs, or just the area in which you…

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Sometimes, when moving to a new location, you’ll find that you change in order to fit in. Whether that be moving schools, jobs, or just the area in which you live, it’s almost as if changing who you are is the easiest path to success. However, at the end of the day when you’re alone again, you might reflect upon how you aren’t being true to yourself in the hopes of being liked by others. It’s one of those short-term success things, in my opinion, as it is hardly ever sustainable. From an outside perspective, we have the opportunity to see this firsthand with Rosehip Teahouse’s song, “A Million Times.”

From the beginning, this song’s sound brings back memories of alternative bands from the early to mid-2000s. Off the top of my head, early Coldplay comes to mind, as well as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Over a simple drum pattern, a crunchy sounding guitar plays a lead part which leads you into the first verse of the song. Singer Faye Rogers’ voice immediately takes its seat in your ears, pulling you into the emotionally driven story she begins to tell. With nothing but a guitar accompanying her, she sings, “Figuring out what it means to use space / I guess I’ll just hide again.” I believe that in this context, she is referring to the space between people, especially that which is needed in a healthy relationship. As more instruments join the track, including a lead guitar and tambourine, Rogers gives more insight into her situation, “But this silence does nothing for me / Unless you’re there to share the tension / And even then, I try my best to fill it up.” Setting up her expectations of “space,” we learn that while she always wants to be together, her anxieties are also eating away at her, “Cause I’m all teeth and panic, will I ever be enough?”

Moving into the chorus of the song, the instruments all take a step up, becoming more prominent. With the drums and bass now fully introduced, everything begins to move along more quickly. Rogers begins singing in a melody which moves around more than it did in the verses, which is welcome, as she admits her personal undoings, “I don’t know what it is that you need / And it scares me to think that I’d reshape myself a million times to work it out.” Combining this with what we learned in the first verse, we can see that Rogers has become attached to the point that she will do anything to keep this person in her life, including changing who she is for them. Continuing, she sings, “Oh, I’d love to lose myself / I doubt you’d change for anyone / But I still change for everyone.” Playing more into her anxieties and insecurities, she admits that she would rather be whoever it is others want her to be, yet, the person who she wants the most is confident and would never do that for her.

Entering the next verse of the song, the instruments get a chance to shine on their own for a few seconds before they quiet down to become a backdrop for the vocals again. Although following a similar theme in lyrics, Rogers does begin to realize the effect her feelings may have on those around here, “I’ll start to swallow these feelings / I know they’re too much to take.” Resigning to just internalizing everything, she continues, “And I know you didn’t ask for this / But I didn’t mean to be like this.” Although she states her resignation, she also makes it known that while she is aware of any trouble she may have caused, it was never intentional. The song re-enters the chorus, and then fades out with a single guitar chord ringing. Through its sound and delivery, the track provides a clearly vulnerable look into the mind of singer/songwriter Faye Rogers. While it’s never easy to cohesively channel your anxieties and insecurities into a successful song, it is clear that Rosehip Teahouse has succeeded in doing so with this track.

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“Live Another Life” by Son Lux: Remembering to Live for Yourself https://twostorymelody.com/live-another-life-by-son-lux-remembering-to-live-for-yourself/ https://twostorymelody.com/live-another-life-by-son-lux-remembering-to-live-for-yourself/#respond Wed, 21 Oct 2020 17:21:35 +0000 https://twostorymelody.com/?p=6798 A lot of the time, when you’re stuck in an unhealthy relationship, it can be difficult to see it until someone points it out to you. After putting so much…

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A lot of the time, when you’re stuck in an unhealthy relationship, it can be difficult to see it until someone points it out to you. After putting so much time and energy into one person, those around you will see you change, but you won’t recognize it. That being said, once you recognize the situation for what it is, it’s important to take a step back and do what is best for yourself, not for the other person. If you find that you’ve been living somebody’s life for them, then it’s time to reevaluate your relationship with that person, and that is the message which Son Lux is speaking about with their song, “Live Another Life.”

Beginning with an industrial-sounding loop, which continues for over twenty seconds before anything else joins in, the song does not immediately reveal its true nature. However, once those twenty seconds have passed, something truly beautiful begins to blossom. Accompanied by a backdrop of electric keys, singer Ryan Lott begins singing in a soft voice which, when combined with the instrumentation, reminds me a lot of the band, The Antlers. Bringing up the topic of putting others before yourself, Lott sings, “I’m done asking you to be healed for me / I’m done asking you to heel to me / I’m done asking you to breathe out / So I can breathe in, so I can be loud.” It seems as though this person whom he is singing to has required all of his attention and care, causing him to put himself on the back burner. He continues, “If you can leave me here / Just release me dear / Don’t live another’s life.” Perhaps pleading to the listener, Lott asks that you don’t live someone’s life for them.

Entering the chorus, a thick bass joins the instrumentation, along with a boosting of the vocals and occasional added effects. Lott repeats the lines, “If it’s not love enough / Go live another life / Go live another life.” Basically stated, if you feel as though you aren’t getting enough out of a relationship or person, get out while you can. It’s never too late to “live another life.” At this point in the song, things really pick up as an acoustic drum set joins the fray of industrial loops, creating a sort of controlled chaos sound. The best comparison I could come up with is the song “Lotus Flower” by Radiohead. By the time the vocals kick back in, the rhythm switches up again, with Lott singing, “I’m beautiful but I’m dying / Ice weeping into the sea / Silently at first, now it’s screaming out of me / Oh, I can bleed right here / And leave a crimson smear on you.” Essentially elaborating on his thoughts from the first verse, Lott emphasizes that although he is a wonderful person, he still feels as though he is dying because every bit of him is going into someone else.

After the build-up of the previous verse, the song suddenly goes dark. As if all the air has been sucked out of the room, we are left with a sudden uncomfortable quietness. Lott sings, “Run for your life and don’t look back / And don’t look back,” and just like that, the song begins to build up again. The same line is repeated, however this time with a chorus of voices, only increasing the power of the line. The instrumentation continues building until we eventually meld into the final chorus of the song, where Lott sings, “Live another life / And don’t look back.” The song then slowly begins to peel back its layers, becoming more and more isolating until the final line of the song is sung, “If it’s not love enough / Go live another life / Go live another life.” With that, the song goes silent. An important message is only the first thing Son Lux got right with this song, as that can only take something so far. What really makes this song excel is its creatively chaotic nature. Allowing the emotions of the lyrics to not only be felt through Lott’s delivery, but also by the instrumental performances, will push this song into success.

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