Americana

REVIEW: Sam Evian - You, Forever

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Will Shenton

Sam Evian's new LP, You, Forever, opens with a defiant statement that seems to underpin every following track: "I don't care / I don't care anymore / Not like before." The playfully titled "IDGAF" unfolds like a resolute love song, declaring the singer's intent to reunite with a partner, past indiscretions be damned. But in a twist that goes on to contextualize the whole album, the "you" Evian wants to run back to isn't a lover—it's himself.

There's a foundation of rambling Americana throughout You, Forever that recalls the whirlwind tour that inspired the record. "Country" is probably the most on-the-nose example ("Hold on tighter to me baby / Don't let go / We've got miles and miles of country / Before we're home"), but foot-tapping standout "Now I Feel It" conjures similar vignettes ("At night I'd fly down country roads and flip the lights off under the stars").

Finding oneself on the lonesome road isn't exactly a novel theme, but it's one Evian executes with aplomb. The energy and style of You, Forever ebbs and flows in a capricious stream of consciousness, darting from wistful, dreamy folk to infectious, upbeat pop and back at the drop of a hat. The introspective longing of "IDGAF" gives way to the dancey psych-pop of "Where Did You Go?," which in turn begets the crunchy ballad "Health Machine." It's a beautiful structure that mirror's the artist's vivid internal life.

You, Forever is an excellent follow-up to 2016's Premium in every way. Evian's keen songwriting instincts have always been there, but his latest work feels like a more thoughtful and fully realized collection. And perhaps most importantly, his hooks are as subtly irresistible as ever, threading the needle between summer hit machine and contemplative odyssey and making it look easy.

VIDEO PREMIERE: André Costello and the Cool Minors - Kinda (Makes You Feel Good)

Will Shenton

Almost imperceptibly, an otherworldly shimmer hangs over the inviting roads and sprawling fields of André Costello and the Cool Minors' latest video, "Kinda (Makes You Feel Good)." Awash in Americana, from the classic car (with plenty of closeup shots of its well-loved gear stick and vintage rims) to the verdant, rural setting itself, it's an indulgently nostalgic road trip. But hovering at the margins are hints of psychedelia, promising that at any moment the scene might burst into kaleidoscopic hues and break free of the confines of memory.

Costello's songwriting on "Kinda" is characteristically smooth, channeling classic-rock grooves as his irresistible falsetto dances atop the instruments. The car meanders through the countryside, guitar solo tearing along, while the lyrics revel in the simple joys of escape and companionship. It's a relatively uncomplicated track, but a thoroughly enjoyable one that merges the comforts of the past with the promise of an unknown future.

Catch "Kinda (Makes You Feel Good)" on Costello's new LP, Resident Frequencies, out May 11 on Misra Records.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Gillian Grogan - Home for Supper

Raquel Dalarossa

Gillian Grogan defines her music as "full-bodied folk." On paper, one might wonder at that label, given the singer-songwriter often performs with just a guitar (as she did in our own Blue Room), but listening to just a few seconds of any one of her songs makes the depth and richness of her work immediately clear. Her vocals are full of life like fresh soil and thickly sweet like molasses, infusing her Appalachian Americana with both spirit and soul.

In a new song and video, "Home for Supper," those same vocals take the spotlight completely as Grogan ditches her guitar for an a cappella piece of traditional folk. Shot in New Hampshire by filmmaker Alex Morelli, the video is all muted tones and wide expanses, a perfect backdrop for the haunting song, though the melody itself would just as easily be at home in the Scottish Highlands. In the video, we watch a wistful but still whimsical Grogan, in a bright red coat like some kind of Little Red Riding Hood, recalling a lonesome walk through snowy, pitch pine forests; the whispers of a storm are the only accompaniment to her resonant voice. The song seems to slow down time just enough to allow us a moment for our own grainy memories to surface. 

VIDEO PREMIERE: Jake Klar - Over & Over

Laura Kerry

After you listen to his song “Over & Over,” it should come as no surprise that Jake Klar’s Until The Wild Fire Becomes Paradise is the product of wandering. The October album emerged out of the artist’s journals that he kept over a two-year expedition throughout the US and beyond, borrowing from his impressions from the road that he captured in poetry, stories, and images.

In Klar’s new video for “Over & Over,” he—with the help of cinematographer Jackson Glasgow and editor Aaron Brummer—reflects this itinerant spirit. With the warm-hued, scratch-filled, and teetering look of old tape shot on a handheld camera, the video follows an amble through a nondescript place. As Klar sings in his low and expressive voice, he wanders sidewalks, jumps a fence (gracefully), hangs on an old bridge with two friends, throws rocks, dances, and jumps into a dumpster (also gracefully).

Nothing particularly remarkable happens, but as the rumbling Americana guitar, folky melody, and jaunty piano rise, the music invests the scene with a sense of poignancy. Like the view of a highway out of a Greyhound bus window, it is made beautiful by the right music. Between this and the film effects and aimlessness of the action, the video feels intimate, as if it’s found footage from a home video collection or a projection streaming directly from a someone’s memory. Or, perhaps, it’s the journals coming through. Either way, it’s worth a visit.

REVIEW: Twain - Rare Feeling

Phillipe Roberts

Blessed with a honeyed voice that overpowers even the bitterest sorrows, twain singer Mt. Davidson probably gives one hell of pep talk. Rare Feeling, the latest offering from the alt-country outfit, gets under your skin with an unflinching optimism that, if it didn’t feel so hard-won or well intentioned, might come off as forced. But like a best friend poking at your ribs until you see the brighter side, or an angel on your shoulder pointing you towards the high road, Davidson and co. deliver a rambling, feel-good sermon of a record. As the seasons turn towards introspection, twain make a golden case for turning your heart outwards.

Tucked away in the middle of the record, the central thesis of Rare Feeling rings out like a glass-half-full plea for hope: “Life won’t last long / For those who hate it / For those who love it / It lingers on like a dream.” The song in question is “Freed From Doubt,” a rose-tinted reverie of a solitary smoke break given over to Zen-like brooding. It's the album’s shortest track but nevertheless serves as a kind of mission statement, pulling the overarching lyrical themes of gratitude and acceptance to the fore. Front to back, Davidson sings like a man reborn from the ashes, alternating between yearning for spiritual guidance (“Rare feeling / Visit me and set my mind at ease” on the title track) and celebrating the wondrous now (“Lay down with / The beauties of this earthly world / I think they want to lay down with you” on "Solar Pilgrim"). Combined with a voice that can smoothly shift gears from delicate cooing into commanding operatics on a dime, it's quite a potent formula.

As for arrangements, “Freed From Doubt” provides further illumination. A lovely guitar figure, reminiscent of the work of electronic folk maestro Bibio, plods along, knitting itself around Davidson’s charming melody like warm thread. Sparse but jaunty drums bumble around underneath, buoyed by a bass that snuggles up close to the guitars and doesn’t let go. The majority of the record takes a similar form. On "Black Chair," a piano occasionally creeps in to heighten the tense drama of romantic loss, while on “Good Old Friend (For Charlie)," flutes breeze by to serve the song’s majestic beauty, but overall, the band tends to hang back, happy to let Davidson lead the proceedings. When they leap out to the front on the slow-churning confessional “Rare Feelings v. 2,” the piled-on distortion achieves a stunning effect.  You can practically see the sweat dripping down Davidson’s face as the church walls melt down around him.

Wearing these gospel influences like a badge of honor, Rare Feeling finds its surest footing when submerged in the hymnal qualities that elevate its country blues to the level of soul-breaking catharsis. As the lights dim on the shuffling chant of “I’m never going down / Even if they all pass me by” on closer “Good Old Friend,” it seems like the track could and should go on forever. Davidson's voice dissipates into the ether but the chant snowballs into a defiant, angelic chorus. It's exactly the kind of moment of muted thunder that keeps you coming back for a shoulder to lean on.