off beauty & ruin
sometimes its hard to put into words what an artists body of work means to you. most of the times you read reviews and its purely methodical. there’s no heart, no past history, just what they’re hearing now. sometimes music is a puzzle, and it doesnt make sense, until you put it all together. thats how i feel about mr showalter aka strand of oaks. i have loved, deeply, all his releases, but listen to them back to back and it all begins to make a bit of sense. every record, alone, stands on its own merits or awesomeness, but as a whole… he’s not a one off kind of artist, you have to listen to everything. eh whatever… just watch these two videos.. “jm” is his tribute to jason molina, btw.
buy his stuff via amazon
me and anders parker go way back, or at least it seems. im not talking about me and anders, personally, but me and his music. like most of my most beloved purchases, i happened up varnaline’s sweet life purely by accident aka i was buzzed, walked into quaker goes deaf and blindly bought it. i was a regular, they new my tastes, and recommended it. went home that night, put it on the hi-fi and after the opener “gulf of mexico” new i had to put the whole thing on repeat. call it a gut feeling, but i probably listened to it 6/7 times that night. i had just started dating my then girlfriend/now wife, and when she came home at midnight, she joined me in the listening party, the beer flowed, the music grew more and more personal. it truly was one of those musical moments when you connect with something, and know it will always stay with you. over the next 1.5 years, that was our record, listening to it constantly. fast forward to august 26, 2000, we danced to the last track on the record “sweet life” at our wedding. fast forward 2 days after said wedding, and we brought our little boombox to the beach of gulf shores, alabama, and played “gulf of mexico” as we laid on the beach as the water rolled over us. it was magical…
in 2001, he/varnaline released songs in a northern key which if legend holds true, he locked himself in a cabin somewhere near the catskills and recorded mostly all of it by his lonesome. granted, i may be off on some of this, as there are other players on the record, but me thinks most of was recorded all by his lonesome. one thing that makes it ultra magical, is that one of the best producers on the planet, john agnello, produced/mixed/engineered this record. as i type this, my wife is sitting on the back porch, drawing and listening to songs in a northern key. the day my son mac was born, we did two things: 1. tossed around naming him anders and 2. played “still dream” in our delivery room. once we got a good look at him, he just looked like more a “mac” than an “anders.”
anders parker writes songs that stick to the bone, to the soul, to whatever you hold dear. i am merely scraping the surface of his work by talking about those two varnaline records – there are two varnaline ep’s too, if memory serves me correctly. i dont do research, i just write in a furry. much like hansel, i celebrate his entire catalogue with the passion of
he’s got a new one out entitled there’s a blue bird in my heart, and straight off the bat, like sweet life, i knew this one was something really fucking special. about 1.30 minutes into the opener “the road” is when i knew it, felt it. “well we all walk the fire and we stood in the rain but the sun will shine brighter when weve weathered everything… youre changing, and im changing too, youre changing and im changing just like you….” this sounds like my life the past few years, for better or worse, but mostly better. everything about there’s a blue bird in my heart is like taking a trip through memory lane. its not some fake nostalgia for something that was never really there, but for some reason romanticize as if it actually meant something. it brings up true feelings, real life memories, the good, the bad, the fucking ugly, and the beautiful. this may not make much sense, like most everything, i say, but if i were you, i would listen to sweet life and then there’s a blue bird on my shoulder and maybe it will? there’s a blue bird in my heart will no doubt be in my top 5 records of the year… there really is no reason it shouldnt be in yours too.
pick up the 2776 record via amazon or wherever the hell you buy records.
the first time strand of oaks’ “end in flames,” i was smitten. then there’s the rest of timothy showalter’s debut, leave ruin, to say it moved me in ways most records dont, is an understatement. it was beautiful and honest, something my life needed 5 years ago, and well it still does. the next year brought me, pope killdragon, which was definitely a darker departure, at least musically, but timothy’s cut to the bone lyrics remained, and again, i found solace in them. i dont really care to know the backstory of songs, cause i make up my own interpretations, and ill be damned if whatever timothy was going through, at that time, didnt fit whatever i was dealing with at that my own personal juncture. this cycle continues with dark shores… so i wont beat a dead horse. the past 5 years havent been particularly easy for me, ive prob drank too much, didnt pay enough attention to my family, had my anxiety rule my world, etc… granted i wasnt an asshole, but i couldve been a much better person than i was, and i suspect timothy was in the same boat. its now 2014, in case you didnt know, and my life is better, still struggling, but better, and after listening to heal for about the 100th time, i can only gather timothy is in a better place too, and we as listeners/fans can only be thankful for that. heal is nothing like any of his previous 3, its loud as hell and glorious as shit. j mascis plays the geetar on the opener, “goshen 97,” for crying out loud! lyrically, he’s just as honest, just as beautiful, and i thank the world for artists like timothy showalter. his ode to jason molina, “jm,” is probably the best tribute i have heard, btw….
there are artists/bands that come into our lives that for a brief moment fill whatever void we are needing filled for that particular moment. we’ve all had them, and thats not saying its a bad thing, but for the lazy, like me, it is what it is. then there are artists like new orlenian, caleb caudle. he recently released paint another layer on my heart, and god damn if it aint damn near perfect. i am not clairvoyant, duh, but me thinks i have a pretty grasp on talent, and mr caudle has everything that would make an artist i will still be listening to in 10+ years. shit, maybe even 20 when im 60! hopefully the musical gods look down on him and grace him with longevity, cause he more than definitely deserves it. i love everything about paint another layer on my heart, they lyrics, the musicians, the lydia loveless backing vocals, everything. if you only listen to 5 records i post about this year, make sure this is one of them. i know this album was just released, and im going to enjoy every minute of it, but again i cant help but to think about whats next for caleb?
i should mention that the “trade all the lights” video is all new orleans, and its absolutely gorgeous. i only love two cities, one being chicago, the other new orleans… and yes, thats lydia loveless backing him up on “trade all the lights” and “how’d you learn”