It takes chutzpah for an indie band just starting out to get rid of the acoustic guitar. But that's how it went for Minneapolis/New Orleans/Chicago's Dark Dark Dark. Choosing instead to write their earliest songs for an accordion and a banjo (insert my inevitable fandom here), founding members Nona Marie Invie and Marshall LaCount build their eclectic, eery, inviting music from the consistently unexpected. Dark Dark Dark is the musical equivalent of the dialogue Noah Baumbach writes: You're never sure what will happen next, which is how dialogue in real life feels—but paying that extra attention, and allowing yourself to be surprised, will reward you with piercing, comforting insight.
Temperatures are still in the mid 90s and the sun's still setting after eight o'clock, but we need to brace ourselves for the eventual changing of the seasons. Luckily, we've got the perfect cure for, or accompaniment to, the end-of-summer blues: Brooklyn's Katie Crutchfield, better known as Waxahatchee. Her quiet tape echo ballads seem borne of the universe found sandwiched between two sheets and covered by a well-worn duvet.
Well, we have reached the end of this series. This has been such a rich topic for me that, of course, there are many things I'd hoped to cover but didn't. For this last post, I thought I'd briefly discuss a woman whose music about the loss—or absence—of god has resonated with me personally over the past couple of months as I've thought and written on this subject.
On her 2010 release, A Heart of My Own, Canadian singer-songwriter Basia Bulat ruminates on the loss of god. Here she is singing the popular track, "The Shore":
Call me old-fashioned, but I think most of the best voices in the world come out of folk singers. Maybe that's just because you can actually HEAR the singing, instead of the beats or the effects (which both have their places in my heart, don't get me wrong). Over the last year I've immersed myself in the Pacific Northwest's stellar Celtic folk music scene, and Colleen Raney has been the clear standout on my playlists and concert-going schedule. I'ma let you finish, but her voice is the best one I've heard in years.
In May, Religion Dispatches published my first interview with former darling of the Christian contemporary music scene, lesbian singer-songwriter Jennifer Knapp. Then over the summer, I got to meet and interview Knapp in person while covering the Wild Goose Festival, an event that celebrated (predominantly Christian) spirituality, justice, and art. We talked a bit about the limitations of Christian music, feminism and sexuality on the same day she filmed the "It Gets Better" video below. I'll be critiquing some evangelical Christian music later in the series, so I'm very excited to share unpublished parts of our interview with you here today:
My name is Kristin Rawls, and, yes, I am a preacher's daughter. I'm in my early 30s, and I was raised in an unusual blend of Protestant traditions. The preacher (my dad) grew up in the Southern Baptist church, got "saved" during the Pentecostal-influenced "Jesus movement" of the 1970s and ultimately settled in a mainline (not fundamentalist) tradition. My family practiced a confusing mix of them all. The result? I became pretty cynical about the the whole thing.
This blog series is named after blueswoman Michelle Malone's song, "Preacher's Daughter" (transcript here):
Sometimes part of what makes a musician so compelling is the story behind them. Were the White Stripes married, or brother and sister? Would Sid have been the character he was without Nancy? Is the girl in the "Cry Me a River" video REALLY supposed to be Britney Spears? (I have strong feelings about this one because I was young and impressionable when Britters and Justin dated and broke up. But that's another post entirely.)
The same is true of Abigail Washburn. Her music is outstanding on its own, but the road she took to fame is too serendipitous not to share.
It's no surprise weather patterns appear so often in music. They, like music, can shape and reflect our moods at any given time. More importantly, they're good for a seemingly infinite number of metaphors. They can change from minute to minute. Just like your aching heart. They can rain on your parade. Just like, you know... rain. They can brighten up the ENTIRE PLANET! Just like EVERYTHING ELSE can, when you're having one of those days when everything is golden and drenched in sunshine and "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues" is your own personal theme song. It all starts in the sky. With that, global warming, and the constantly-changing weather of autumn all in mind, this week's BitchTapes is a big ol' shout out to Mother Nature.
Side note: It was incredibly hard for me not to put "Mr. Sun" by Raffi on this list. The things I do for hipster cred... Forgive me, Raffi. You are #1 in the playlist of my heart.