Wednesday was a good day. Ridiculously good. In rapid succession, I got to hear three amazing new albums, leaving me feel deliriously lucky and frankly a little spoiled. Like Veruca Salt, only without the tantrums and the dangerous drop down a chute designed for golden eggs.
It all started when I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and saw the following post from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon:
I tend not to care if I’m the first or last person to hear about something, but the enthusiasm in Vernon’s tweet was hard to ignore. I Spotify’d Sylvan Esso’s self-titled album without delay and without reading another word about the band. Blind dates like this can be a waste of time, but this one was a resounding success. I’ve since seen people use the words “delicious” and “yum” for this record, which is a little freaky, because words like “savor” and “rapturous” were some of the first that popped to my mind. There’s something sensuous about the way Amelia Meath sings, like she’s enjoying saying each word she utters, and while I think emotion and electronics are often falsely pitted against one another, the feeling Meath conveys makes it hard not to consider the relationship between what’s human and what’s machine, like lightly touching your fingertips to cold stainless steel.
Is that weird? That sounded kind of weird. Whatever — just listen below. I think you’ll like it.
Wow. Just… wow. I was expecting to head into tonight’s record release show at the Coalition Theater not having heard the above pictured album, aside from a pair of tracks Spacebomb had posted to Soundcloud. But lo, while I was rapturously savoring Sylvan Esso, I saw a Tumblr post from Matthew E. White saying that Grandma Sparrow & His Piddletractor Orchestra was streaming in full at Spin.com. I don’t want to say too much, because I have a feeling I’ll have plenty to write about after tonight’s show, but I will say that it’s been ages since I’ve had so much fun being thoroughly confused. Part of the magic of being young is not knowing things, and this record’s colorful impenetrability makes me feel like I’m a kid again, wondering what all the adults are snickering about. It feels (and sounds) mighty good.
Side note: Grandma Sparrow’s real name is Joe Westerlund, and one of his other gigs is playing drums in my beloved Megafaun. Guess who else plays in Megafaun? Nick Sanborn — the other half of Sylvan Esso. I found this from an NPR article I read while checking out Grandma Sparrow’s album. Serendipity, man.
While I was winding my way through Grandma Sparrow’s wacky world, a coworker asked me if I’d heard Ray LaMontagne’s new album, Supernova. I hadn’t, but I gave it a go after leaving Piddletractor and was wildly impressed. And heartened.
Ray LaMontagne’s music taps into an age-old inequality between listeners and musicians: Bad events lead to good art. LaMontagne does an exceptional job of communicating sadness, and the songs of his I’ve connected with most are the ones he wrote in the wake of his divorce. They’re crushing in a cathartic way, but to ask for more songs like the ones on Till the Sun Turns Black would be asking for LaMontagne to keep being sad, which strikes me as wrong. He’s recorded sunnier music since, but I haven’t heard him express joy as effectively as on Supernova. Songs sound playful, both in terms of mood and structure. It’s good to hear, in more ways than one.