Lately, I’ve been wondering where my fight went. I have a birthday coming up and it makes me wonder if I’m old or if my desire to flip a switch and break things has simply subsided. This week, we have Sufjan Stevens, The Silver Rabbit, Ryley Walker, Aurora Aksnes, and the White Birch. I love noisy, raucous, angry music, but it seems like I am in a slump. However, it was nice to listen to Pop Top Five‘s favorite punk band list last week (click to listen). It reminded me of bands that I hadn’t listened to in years. But this week, for SoundCloud Sunday, I am gonna remain contemplative and curious. It seems as though there is a beautiful side-effect of mining SoundCloud for music. The platform is from Berlin, Germany, so many of the most interesting independent bands and musicians I listen to are from Norway, London, or Sweden. I am sure it has not always been this way.
Sufjan Stevens – No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross
No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross seems to be a song of lament, of a human fallen too far from God. For me, the song is about drug addiction and alcohol use and the desperation to go back to something that you remember to be good and right. But that something is broken and will never be what it was to you again. This is a sentiment to which even an atheist can relate. This new track, off Sufjan Stevens‘ upcoming album Carrie and Lowell, marks a return. Or perhaps not a return, but something else. Stevens has enveloped himself in extraordinary experimentation since the beginning of his career. People discovered Illinoise and then went back and listened to awesome albums like A Sun Came and Enjoy Your Rabbit and began experiencing a new kind of anxiety: Will the new Sufjan Stevens album be another Age of Adz or another Michigan (I want both)? If No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross is any indication, Stevens will be singing in the soft devastating voice we listened to over and over again from 2005 through 2006.
The Silver Rabbit – Badland Folk
Perhaps because I have been working in the Badlands as of late, I have become enthralled with this amazing track. The Silver Rabbit unfairly clock this beautifully crafted song at exactly one minute. It is a single fleeting moment of a banjo, a man, and a woman crooning a perfect melody with evocative lyrics. The spectacular minute is captured on a tape recorder, which adds oscillations, becoming an instrument of its own. Could I ask them to do a cover of Walking the Cow? The best part about discovering The Silver Rabbit is that there are so many other treasures in their back catalog. Click above and listen to more.
Ryley Walker – Sweet Satisfaction
Dead Oceans has put out a lot of great acts over the years, and I think I may have just found another. Walker is coming up through the Chicago scene, so I am sure he plays some of my favorite venues like Schubas and Double Door. While there have been a number of musicians making a nostalgic turn toward dream pop of the sixties, Ryley Walker has looked to Steven Stills, Three Dog Night, Jim Morrison, and Seals and Croft for guidance. Sweet Satisfaction, from his upcoming release Primrose Green, is a smooth rhythmed testament to Ryley Walker’s relevance in a day where everyone is looking for some combination of past, present, and future to fill the soundtrack of their lives. By the way, he is 25 fucking years old.
Aurora Aksnes – Runaway
Dear America, your pop music needs a few pointers. Aurora Aksnes is such an incredibly young and talented storyteller, and yet she does not come across as naïve, plastic, fabricated, or gimmicky. She produces atmospheric landscapes full of cold smoke, the smell of rain, and sunsets. She sings about insecurity and getting in over her head, as well as her strength and vision. From Norway, Aurora’s phrasing make the lyrics bounce and weave throughout the ambient tones. She is manifestly awesome; she is an extraordinary example of demiurgic youth. Watch the hypnotic and gorgeous video for the track below.
The White Birch – Solid Dirt
The somber beauty of Solid Dirt is self-evident. There is the looming and confident sadness that accents Nico‘s These Days, the simplicity of Nick Drake, and the baritone richness of The National. Listening to this track I am whisked away to the sundered scene of one of Wes Anderson‘s failed white aristocracies. With the release of their most recent record, the band seems have resurrected in a new form. Also from Norway, Ola Fløttum has continued with minimalist soundscapes of The White Birch. The track is contemplative and highly emotive. Every time I listen to it, I am more convinced of its meaning and artistry.