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Atlas Genius

LarryKloess —  February 1, 2013 — Leave a comment

Atlas Genius

A farmer who relies on his crops for a living will plow and plant his fields in order to receive a good return at harvest time. It is not enough to have a bounty of sunshine, rich soil or adequate rainfall. He has a role to play. The real risk, however, is in the gamble with the weather. The hopeful farmer can spend toilsome hours preparing his acres and still yield nothing in a season of drought or flood. Such is the music industry. Many artists and bands enter into it with high hopes of building a fan base and traveling the world, but find that they don’t end up traveling so far from home and their only avid fans still put new socks in their stockings. Success, as in the fields, is dependent upon many variables. In the case of Atlas Genius, a four-piece band from Adelaide, South Australia, that variable was timing.

I first heard of Atlas Genius last spring when my friend, Jordan, returned from spending a few months in Australia. She played a song called ‘Trojans’ through her iPod dock and said that this band was blowing up over there. The song was contagious and attached itself to the inside of my skull. After learning a little more about them, I found out that they had almost called it quits and were going to return all of their focus to school. However, their springtime arrived just in time. Dozens of record labels began to contact them and after spending last spring in the states, themselves, they decided to sign with Warner Bros. Their debut EP, “Through the Looking Glass”, continued to receive warm welcomes from new fans worldwide.

Keith Jeffrey, Michael Jeffrey, Steven Jeffrey and Darren Sell took a different approach than most bands in the making of the album. For two years, they spent their days building their own studio that fit to their likings, and played shows at night covering songs by bands like The Police and The Beatles. “We had a lot of song ideas and it was important to us to have our own studio where we could experiment and hone in on our sound,” drummer Michael Jeffrey shared.

Just a year later, their lives have drastically transformed. They are beginning to be a common name on iTunes charts, they are selling out most of their shows, and they have recently finished their first full-length album, titled “When It Was Now”, available on February 19th, and you can pre-order your own copy now on iTunes. You can also download a free song off of their new album on their website. It’s funny to think that the guys of Atlas Genius were known mainly as a cover band for almost three years and now they’re on their way to being covered by other bands.

With a colorful groove, stirring beats and catchy melodies, it’s hard not to like them. Try them out for yourself and they might become one of your favorites, too. For some bands, it’s all in the timing. Atlas Genius stuck it out through the drought and now they are riding upon a deluge that is carrying them around the world, and picking us up along the way.

- Adam Naylor

The band will be touring the US extensively throughout 2013, with a stop in Nashville for 3rd & Lindsley’s “Nashville Sunday Night” on June 9. If the first leg of their tour is any indication, you may want to get your tickets well in advance as every show has sold out thus far. With their debut album “When It Was Now” out on February 19, we’ll be hearing quite a bit from these Aussies for years to come.

Erin Rae & The Meanwhiles

LarryKloess —  November 19, 2012 — 1 Comment

Nashville is so full of female singer/songwriters that it’s a rare day when one of them is able to come in and completely take your breath away. We first saw Erin Rae perform at the second Cause A Scene Collective show in July. She played 2 songs. We were hooked from the start. She and her band, the Meanwhiles, just released their new EP “Crazy Talk”. It’s simply beautiful. “Crazy Talk” likes somewhere between the folk/pop that has emerged from Nashville and across the pond with London’s “new folk” scene and a classic Americana sound.

Growing up, Erin Rae would listen to her parents sing and play music together after family dinners, playing folkier versions of Mississippi John Hurt, Doc Watson and John Prine. As she grew up and began playing at county fairs ‘before she got too old to be shy”, Erin Rae looked up to the legends of Joni Mitchell, Patty Griffin and Gillian Welch, and their influence can be felt on her debut. She shares Brandi Carlile’s immaculate sense of melody blended with lyrics that are both extremely personal, but make you feel right at home in the story. It’s an intimate album that makes an instant connection with the listener. When she sings, it’s as if you’re the only one in the room. It’s an album of transition, coming to terms with the truth that life isn’t exactly the way you thought it would be and coming to terms with reality, and being content with that.

In the title track, Erin Rae’s voice dances elegantly over a soft bed of strings and piano melodies. “I know that your life can feel threatened, it makes it hard to come alive,” she sings, and you immediately feel a sense of both comfort and wonder. It’s this sincere thought that instills a hopefulness that is present throughout each of the EP’s five songs.

In “I Hope You Get What You Need”, Erin Rae sings about the common story of lost love. But rather than the angry wails we’ve come to know and love from other female artists like Adele, Erin Rae swings the pendulum the other way to a melancholy conclusion that “it’s probably better than I don’t join you for this journey / I hope you have a wonderful ride.” Throughout Erin Rae and the Meanwhile’s debut EP there remains a soothing reminder that we’re all in this together and everything is going to be just fine in the end, no matter the route we take to get there. As her first step out into the Nashville music scene, it’s a joy to witness Erin Rae coming into her own voice and growing by leaps and bounds with every show. We had the pleasure of catching her album release show (video below) and can’t wait to see her next Thursday the 29th with Andrew Combs at the High Watt. If you want to catch one of Nashville’s brightest young talents, we highly recommend you be there.

- Jameson Elder & Larry Kloess

It is always a bit intimidating to be asked to write on a favorite artist, to try to bring to light to brilliance of an artist who seems to escape definition, who balances on the edge of heartbreak and hope so precariously, who is able to pen songs that seem to sprout legs and create a life all their own. But when asked to write on the criminally underrated Doug Burr, I had to hide my gleeful enthusiasm to bring such an unique talent to light.

The more I listen to Doug Burr, the more everything else around his music seems to fade to black. His songs give the sense of being tethered to this world, of having something substantial tying you down to the world spinning madly around you, of somehow bringing peace in a moment where the storm is brewing right outside your window. Simply put, his music is such that it demands your attention. It requires you to switch the shuffle button to the off position and be completely immersed in the narratives that his songs bring to life so eloquently.

I have thought a lot about the dichotomy of hope and despair and of joy and sorrow lately, in many ways spurred on by Damien Jurado’s heartbreakingly gorgeous Maraqopa, and in most ways influenced by my own personal quest to more fully understand my relationship to the world. Burr’s music straddles that line as well, allowing just enough darkness to creep in before the light answers back, offering a glimmer of hope in the midst of the unknown. I can’t help but shake the feeling that Burr isn’t just concerned about telling the stories in his songs, but that he’s also asking the listener to start asking themselves the key questions that help make sense of their own stories. Just try listening to his Trembling Lips and Pale Fingertips 7″ (released today on vinyl and as a 4-song download card via Velvet Blue Music/Spune), and not be affected. Both of these songs have the capacity to chill you to your core, but provide just enough warmth to keep you coming back for more.

The first track, an alternate version of “A Black Wave is Comin’”, the lead track from his critically-acclaimed 2010 release O Ye Devastator, sounds like a song Burr would sing if he was told he only had one song left to sing again. It is immediate, and it feels like Burr himself is sitting in the same room with you from the first few notes of the piano. The “black wave” that is comin’ in the song nearly swallows the listener whole with just Burr’s voice and the piano to provide comfort. Throughout it all, his voice disguises the bleakness of the lyrics with a reassuring, even optimistic, tone. By the time the guitar enters in halfway through the song, you’re left with the feeling that come what way, it will all turn out all right in the end. The black wave may be coming, but we will not be overcome as somewhat alluded to in his last repeated refrain of “I can’t sing, but I hear a little hymn“. Everything about this version of the song feels intimate, like Burr is telling the listener, “come in close, I am about to bear my soul to you.” It is gorgeous, and it gets better with each repeated listen.

The B-side of the 7″, “Chief of Police in Chicago”, resonates in much the same way as the first, with the piano being much more prevalent in the alternate version than the original, and its sparseness pushes Burr’s voice and lyrics to the forefront. It tells the story of a police officer in Chicago, speaking apparently to the mother of a young murderer. The instrumentation on this version balances out the dark, bleak future that is pervasive throughout the lyrics (“Oh I have seen the thing you cannot see/And my team and I are just a little shaken/We’ve discovered  the gene“). The listener has to use his or her own imagination to figure out exactly what has left the team distraught about the future, but you get the sense that the chief of police is not shying away from combatting the impending darkness.

Everything about the “Trembling Lips and Pale Fingertips 7″” is worth listening to over and over again, and these new, stripped-down versions, for me, are full of wide-eyed wonder and hope despite their gloom. I highly recommend buying or downloading the 7″, and for anyone who is just hearing about Doug Burr for the first time, I would encourage you to buy the rest of Burr’s music immediately. The purchase will be worth every penny.

We all have those songs that get stuck in our heads that we just cannot seem to release ourselves from the stranglehold of. In the same respect, we tend to have songs that get thrown into a category known simply as our “guilty pleasures”. Just in time for St. Valentine’s Day is a song that fits both criteria by the magnificent Jenny Owen Youngs with the song “Your Apartment” off her recently released An Unwavering Band of Light.

So why is this song worthy of being put into your mixtape for your significant other? First, because it is about the catchiest song to come out this year so far. And secondly, because it nearly perfectly encapsulates the feelings we all have when we are finding the delicate balance in a relationship where we aren’t sure exactly how the other person feels about us and we know full well of the feelings we have toward them. I mean, with the lyrics “why is it so hard to stay in love?/I just want to be good enough for you” it’s easy to find ourselves in that exact situation, left with the feeling that somehow this other person is going to complete us. And how about this doozy of an opening verse:

Take me back to your apartment so I’ll see if I’m correct 
About where you keep your heart, love, cause I’m starting to suspect 
That it’s chained up in your basement inside an oaken chest 
That’s padlocked up to heaven to keep out what comes next

There is such a pleading in Youngs’ lyrics that the listener is left desiring the same thing she is if they don’t already have that relationship in their life. It’s an aching, really, putting your heart on the line just hoping the other person responds in kind. On this Valentine’s Day, I hope each of you finds that love to be of the requited variety. It’s a special day for many and a nauseating one for others, but all in all it’s an excellent reminder to love the people in our lives deeply. “Your Apartment” is no exception as it celebrates that yearning for another so very eloquently.

Jenny Owen Youngs plays in Nashville at The Rutledge on Monday, March 12. If you want to see a woman put on one heck of a rock show, I recommend being there with bells on.