Biscuits, Triscuits…

Is Thanksgiving the time for Alt-country?
November 27, 2009, 6:31 pm
Filed under: music and musings

I woke up in my parents house in Maryland yesterday morning to the drawling vocals of Bonnie Raitt. Music of my childhood. Catchy, blues-y guitar riffs and heartfelt vocals seem to be the staple of my family’s childhood soundtrack. So when I come home, it picks up right where it left off with the exception of my dad’s favorite local artists. Today Trisha Yearwood and Kim Richey sweetly lulled the kitchen as we baked a bean casserole for post-thanksgiving dinner.

It’s a strange feeling, recalling and remembering every movement and element of this music that I can’t say I fully dislike but would never ever listen to on my own accord at this point in my life. It is strictly family music. Music I can feel the energy to remember the lyrics to just because I am in this environment where these artists are secondary. Sometimes there was Miles Davis or Coltrane, Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell, James Taylor or Eric Clapton, but always this element of blues-y emotion. A lot of country flavor, some Mary Chapin Carpenter and so on. I guess it’s typical mom and dad music, or maybe it’s just typical to my family. But I think that whenever I’m in a place where I here these songs, it won’t feel nearly as natural as it does blasting through the floor boards to my old room from the den.

There’s something sentimental about it, I don’t want to say I enjoy it, because standing there, singing along because the lyrics are engrained in my head feels completely cheesy. I don’t want to like it, but it just feels like I’m an eight-year-old, completely uninhibited, making up dances and singing to these songs that I know and love because I don’t know anything better. Granted it’s not the same, I do know things that are better, in my opinion. But I think home (especially thanksgiving for some reason) will always be a place of alternative country/blues rock and I’m just going to have to accept that and move on.


Volcano Choir- Unmap
November 22, 2009, 1:36 pm
Filed under: music and musings

Volcano Choir is somewhat of a supergroup formed by Bon Iver‘s Justin Vernon and members of Collections of Colonies of Bees. The two had been collaborating prior to Bon Iver’s rise to fame after touring together with Vernon’s old band, DeYarmond Edison.  On September 22 they released this nine-song collection of songs which were recorded over a weekend almost a year before. So here you go.

Volcano Choir



Justin Vernon brings his glitch-y style and bending bedroom vocals into the mix with his friends from Collections of Colonies of Bees. At first it’s hard to really tell the difference between Bon Iver and this collaboration, but the slightly more upbeat instrumentals and the experimental almost world music style bounces lightly amidst the familiarity of Vernon’s sound. The electric quality is slightly more present in Unmap and while one could barely tell the difference if they didn’t know, there is definitely an energy that is different than Bon Iver. Bringing forth a quality of play that is alive but not as intertwined, it becomes clear that this is a culmination of creativity, verses the makings of one man in his cabin. Both are beautiful and overwhelmingly captivating.

The songs that stray furthest from his own personal style are ones like “Dote,” where feedback is the first 20 seconds with echoed vocals in the background. It feels a bit eerie, very minimal with random keys that come in a little to give the song footing but ends with a high pitched note bleeping. With an Animal Collective style appeal, the members of Volcano Choir clap and wail, make strange sounds and throw in odd instrumentals, but they also have a melodic drive to their tunes. The high-pitched, layered fluidity that Vernon is so well-known for. “Mbira in the Morass” enters with acappella singing but out of tune mbira sounds that invoke the feel of a broken clock. The song is strange and off-kilter as the vocals somewhat stray, but it is very warm and feeds well into “Cool Knowledge,” which may be one of the only songs with real drums in it.

The whole album is somewhat off-kilter in that it feels so similar to Bon Iver but there are instances and moments that are so wonderfully different. Little snippets and glimpses into what Collections of Colonies of Bees contributes when they play with Justin Vernon. It’s a chillingly sweet album which somehow, through it’s instrumental and vocal journey, invokes the thoughts winter, blankets and the smell of firewood. I guess it’s fitting, as those times are almost here.

-Lauren Piper