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"Seventh Song," Jess Williamson
Native State (Brutal Honest, 2014)

This song broke me while I was headed north on Lake Shore Drive one Saturday morning. It was a few weeks ago; it might have still been February. It was one of the first days it was even close to decently warm.

I remember noticing how bright blue the lake was, forgiving myself for noticing because, you know, I just moved back.

The rest of Native State is unsettled, painful at times, like Jess Williamson is trying to keep herself awake on a long drive. The record is about leaving New York for home, leaving people behind, realizing the “power of manic delusion.”

"Feel the weight, your native state," Jess Williamson sings on the title track of the record. It was a different day, same road, when I wondered again what the hell I was doing here. It was just money that brought me back. I thought about Virginia.

"Seventh Song" is a simple, shaky awakening. An acknowledgement of personal shortcomings, a tender testing of support systems. Even the guitar sounds open, hopeful.

The song still recognizes restlessness: “We’re waiting for life to begin.” “Aren’t we always more or less headed west?” but sets it next to domesticity, of noticing that your partner doesn’t sleep on Sundays because he’s worried about work, of wanting to relay snippets of conversations that seem so important.

And I guess it was the settled feeling that got to me. The hoping that “home can be home.” Hoping you don’t have to leave. I spent so long going back and forth (Ohio, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, finally Illinois) that when it all stopped, I didn’t know what to do. I still think sometimes of those long drives when I get in the car.

(Source: Spotify)

I went to a lot of shows these past few days…

First of all, I’d like to say hi to everyone who followed me after my Swans posts on One Week One Band. And thanks for following me! I don’t post as frequently as I should on this blog. I try to remember to do short posts about tracks I like, but I work full time so it doesn’t always happen. (I would like to start writing for less navel-gazey blogs someday too.)

I wanted to at least write something, so here is a list of the shows I’ve been to recently and albums I like. I can’t remember the last time I got enough sleep so I hope it all makes enough sense. Also, if you want to see some terrible concert photography (of these shows), follow my Instagram.

I’ve been listening to two new releases: VI.I.VIII by Coffinwormand Totem by White Suns. I want to write something longer about each of them. I think they complement each other well. They both approach this horrible, desolate, noisy place from different ends of the spectrum (arty Brooklyn noise rock, Indianapolis sludge). Both deal in lyrical abstraction, though Coffinworm reeks of base hate and anger, while White Suns add a touch of mysticism. Both albums hit hard, though it’s fascinating to see one band do it the metal way, and one band build a wall of sound through feedback and those absolutely brutal drums.

The last track on Totem, “Carrion,” a song from the perspective of a dying hunk of flesh, ends with what Tiny Mix Tapes called a “prayer”: “Let flowers burst from my chest/ Let roots coil in my skull/ Let them grow old and die again/ Let me give back all I ever stole.” I don’t want to say it’s a respite, but the noise fades a bit as the lines are delivered. It reminds me of that Edvard Munch quote I used to put places when I was in high school: “From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.”

I also saw a bunch of shows. Here are some vague recollections (note that there may have been more bands on the bill but I either didn’t want to mention them or didn’t catch their set):

Saturday: Night Terror and Oozing Wound at Situations
After the Zine Fest (I got mixtapes!), I went to a benefit for the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo basically just to see Oozing Wound. They are working on new material, most of which is going to appear on a new album soon. It sounded 20% doomier, but there’s a really fast-tempoed song they have been playing that I really enjoy. The band is so versatile and so much fun to watch.

Sunday: KEN mode, Helms Alee, and Russian Circles at Metro
First of all, Metro was packed, especially considering it was a Sunday night. It’s not my favorite venue because it’s not laid out well and it was hard for me to see anything going on unless I was on the third floor near people who insisted on talking through sets.

I love KEN mode a lot. Helms Alee was pretty all right. Russian Circles I found a small bit disappointing, which shouldn’t have happened. They are a tight band, they play together well, they are nailing the post-metal thing, but it was a little on the boring side. I may have been having a bad day. I will see them again (they’re local) and maybe I will like them more.

Monday: Indian at Subterranean
Very scary. A slight uneasiness settled over the crowd. Band looked like they were performing exorcisms on their instruments/their faces. Absolutely pummeling sludge. People were pummeling each other in the audience. (This was the record release show for their latest album From All Purity, which is a great complement to Coffinworm’s new record.) Honestly reminded me a bit of early Swans.

Tuesday: Priests and Ex Hex at Schuba’s; Murmur, Psalm Zero, and Pyrrhon at Cobra Lounge
Help me, I am officially insane. I went to see Ex Hex at Schuba’s because my friend Betsy from Charlottesville is the bassist for the band. Priests was a good surprise, doing heavy punk like White Lung. Ex Hex was stylistically on point and every member can play the shit out of their instrument.

Then I should have gone home, but instead I drank an iced coffee at 10:30 and went to Cobra Lounge because I had been hearing good things about Pyrrhon. And I was in the mood for some technical death metal. I liked Psalm Zero just fine (they have a slight goth tinge and a drum machine). Then Pyrrhon killed it and totally made the whole night worth it. They also officially confirmed that if you add noise to anything, I will like it. It was basically technical death metal with tempo changes and complicated riffage but played with copious amounts of feedback. At times the songs just descended into plain (heavy) noise, and then would roar back up again into their twisted, angry form.

I’ve been finding generally that metal bands are either completely fucking boring, or I’m hanging on every chord change (if they are changing) waiting to see what will happen next. Pyrrhon definitely fell into the latter category.

If anyone makes it to the bottom of this rambling post that I will probably hate in the morning, let me know if you have suggestions for what I should write about for real, or comments/thoughts/feelings/etc. about all of this.

Swans Day 5 Round-up



Major Label Experiments, or Swans Sell Out (not really)

Sacreligous bogusity”: Lydia Lunch of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks reacts to Swans’ new, quieter sound

The “Love Will Tear Us Apart” official video

"Love Will Save You" and thoughts on White Light from the Mouth of Infinity

More on Swans’ legacy. This time: Swans and Dark Folk

(Follow my music blog if you like what I wrote. Oh, and listen to my radio show streaming live on Saturday 6-9am central standard time. I may or may not be playing Swans.)

Tomorrow is for Soundtracks for the Blind, pretty much.

Swans Day 4 Round-up: Live Swans



"I have a healthy fear of breaking my bones now…" - a quote from Gira on how his onstage demeanor has changed with age

Live Swans, then and now: watching old videos of Swans performing and comparing them to the present day

A performance of “Beautiful Child” from 1987 that just rules really hard, okay?

Musings on three versions of one song, “Coward”: how Swans are able to interpret their body of work through live performances

"Oxygen" at Pitchfork Music Festival Chicago in 2013, a performance I was there for and that is very close to my heart

An hour-long 80s VHS of live performances called “A Long Slow Screw”

Up next: Swans Sell Out?

(as always, follow my music blog if you like what you read)

Swans Day 3 Round-up



Jarboe and Greed; changes to Swans’ sound

Holy Money and Children of God: everything somehow gets more complicated; how serious is Michael Gira?

a nice picture of Gira and Jarboe for your troubles

Jarboe kicking ass on "I’ll Swallow You"

"Sex, God, Sex," a sludge classic

"A Screw (Holy Money)" notable for being 1) a song I like and 2) the source of my college DJ name

The Legacy of Swans Part 2: The Body

Tomorrow: thoughts on live Swans. Expect many YouTube videos from the 80s.

Swans Day 1 Round-up



two longer pieces:

Introduction to Swans (and me)

My answer to the question, "Where Do I Start with Swans?"

and three songs that might serve as good entry points for the band:

"Song for a Warrior"

"Our Love Lies"

"You Know Nothing"

In the next few days, expect an introduction to Swans’ early work, a discussion of the Children of God era, and words about live Swans through the ages.

Follow my music blog if you like what you’ve seen so far.